Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Lamb Shish Kebab marinated in Ararat Brandy - NOT your average kebab!

Last summer, my husband Doug and I gifted our shish kebab machine to our daughter Mandy and son-in-law Ron on the occasion of their wedding. A year has passed, and we're back in the Catskill Mts. of NY visiting the happy couple in their lovely mountain-top home.

To celebrate their first anniversary, the kebab machine was tuned-up and turned-on in order to dine on lamb shish kebab. The first order of business was to find American lamb for the dinner. Last year we purchased it from Heather Ridge Farm in a nearby burg, but orders must be made well in advance.

Since time was of the essence, we turned our sights to Todaro's Salumeria, a local grocer-butcher shop in downtown Windham, NY, where new owner Robert Lani fulfilled our request in lightning-fast time.
Aram Aslanian standing in front of Todaro's Salumeria holding our prized leg-of-lamb!

Doug trimming the leg of lamb
A day after the order was placed, an 11-lb. leg of lamb arrived - just in time for Doug to masterfully trim, cube, and marinate the lean, tender meat.  
The marinating mixture for the lamb.
Aram Aslanian, our best man, and Mandy's Godfather, drove down from Maine as a surprise bringing with him a bottle of Ararat brandy for a celebratory toast. When Aram wasn't looking, Doug took it upon himself to douse the lamb cubes with a hefty amount of the brandy creating an incredible marinade.

Once the bones were removed and the meat was cubed, we estimate there was about 8 lbs. of meat. Some pieces were too small for kebab so they were put aside for another recipe. (See below)

Here's how Doug made the marinade: 
Ready to refrigerate
He placed the meat in a large bowl.
Poured about 1 cup of Ararat brandy over the meat and tossed. Added 2 coarsely chopped tomatoes, 1 coarsely chopped onion, 3 cloves chopped garlic, 2 Tbsp. freshly ground coriander seeds, 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Tossed to coat. Covered and refrigerated overnight for flavors to blend.
Skewered lamb, ready to grill
The next day, just before skewering the meat, Doug adjusted the seasonings and added some salt at the last minute. 

NOTE: If salt is added to the original marinade, too much of the meat's natural juice is extracted causing the kebab to become dried out.  

While the coals were heating up, I made a large pot of rice pilaf, grilled sweet onions along with red, yellow and orange bell peppers, and put together a salad. 
Ready to serve!!
It didn't take long for the kebab to cook, and that was a good thing, for the scent of the kebab was absolutely hypnotic! We ate in silence, savoring every morsel of the brandy-infused lamb. It was one of those O-M-G meals and the BEST kebab experience - EVER!!

In case you were wondering, those smaller lamb pieces were used to make fassoulia (green beans) and lamb.
Lamb pieces too small for kebab were cooked, then added to the green bean recipe. 
Fassoulia made with the cooked lamb bits was served over rice.
 I cooked the lamb bones to make broth which was used as the base of the dish. This yielded about 6 cups of broth which was strained and chilled overnight. (Three cups were used in the recipe; the other 3 cups are in the freezer for another time.) The fat, which rose to the surface and solidified, was removed. 

  • To prepare the dish, I sauteed 1 medium onion and 2 small cloves of crushed garlic in a small amount of olive oil. 
  • Next I added the 3 cups of lamb broth,1- 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes with the juice, 2 Tbsp. red pepper paste, salt, pepper, allspice, ground coriander, dried oregano - amounts as desired.
  • A 1-lb. bag of frozen cut green beans and the lamb bits were added last. This cooked, with pot cover tilted, over a medium-low heat for about 1 hour, or until the beans were very soft. (Be sure to stir now and then.)
  • When done, I let it cool a while, then placed the fassoulia in a container, covered it and refrigerated it overnight. 

It tastes better the next day, believe me!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Anahid Krichian's Grill and Bistro - a gem in Paterson, NJ

Over the years, I’ve heard many stories about the delicious food Anahid Krichian catered to Armenian functions in north Jersey. Not only does Anahid cater, she has a very popular restaurant as well.

My sister would tell me how she and her husband Ara would meet our cousin Vivian and her husband John at Anahid’s Grill and Bistro  Paterson, NJ for a relaxing and satisfying Armenian meal - and they’d bring their own bottle of wine – a practice that’s unheard of in our south Florida establishments.

As Doug and I were preparing for our trip to the northeast, Dawn arranged a luncheon date for the four us at Anahid’s along with friends Rose and John Kardashian (no relation to Kim). Upon entering the restaurant, we bumped into a table of long-time friends from St. Leon Armenian Church. It was like old-home week!
Some of the appetizers at Anahid's - manti with yogurt for dipping, and the remaining cheese boreg
The main event was meeting Anahid in the flesh, and dining on her wonderfully comforting food. The six of us shared an assortment of mezzes – babaganoush, Armenian shepherd’s salad with a tangy lemon dressing, cheese boregs, and manti with a yogurt dip. 
The filet mignon kebab platter.

Five of us ordered the filet mignon kebab and ‘wheat-lentil’ side dish – aka mujudara (spelling varies!). Doug had the chicken kebab. Everything was spot-on.

Did we save room for dessert? You bet!
The ice cream dessert Doug and I shared - yum!
One third portion of Anahid's kadaif dessert! 
Most shared the generous kadaif dessert, while Doug and I shared the creamy ice cream topped with ground pistachio nuts and rose jam – delicious! Armenian coffee topped-off the meal.

When we said our good-byes and thanks to Anahid, Dawn, Ara and I continued on to nearby Nouri’s Middle Eastern store to stock-up. Doug went home with the Kardashians because John promised to drive him back to my sister’s house in his CORVETTE. Boys will be boys!

If time and scheduling allows, we’ll most-certainly re-visit Anahid’s before heading back home.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Our Pot-luck Feast!

It’s time for us to leave hot, steamy Florida, for cooler surroundings in the Catskill Mountains.

In order to prepare for our get-away, we started consuming frozen and refrigerated foods, and pantry items weeks ago. Down to our last must-eat morsels, we invited friends to share our pot-luck feast.
Muhammara (left) and easy Midia Dolma (right)

Frozen mussels were transformed into midia dolma, finishing up the rice, pine nuts and currants.
The last ½ cup of commercially prepared red pepper paste turned out a nice bowl of muhammara. (Yes, you can make muhammara with red pepper paste!)

Our pot-luck feast! Clock-wise from top-right: phyllo-cheese spiral, fassoulia with ground meat, bulgur pilaf, and salad.

The frozen lamb broth, green beans, and ground meat, became a tasty fassoulia main dish accompanied with bulgur pilaf.

And because I had one in the freezer, I popped a 5- cheese phyllo spiral from Trader Joe's into the oven to serve along with the main course. A salad, dressed with olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lime, rounded out the meal.

Our guests brought champagne to toast our families, and long-time friendship, and homemade lemon bars to top-off a perfectly lovely evening.

Don’t worry; we’ll resume posting when settle into our ‘mountain kitchen’. Until then, stay cool!