Friday, October 27, 2017

Keebah, a Dikranagerdtsi Delight!

I’ve been having an e-discussion about my paternal grandmother’s keebah dish with my Aunt Zabelle (affectionately known as Zippi), the last remaining relative from my father’s immediate family. It’s important for me to tap into her memory bank in order to preserve some mighty-fine Dikranagerdtsi recipes.

My aunt, Zabelle Dabbakian-Keil

My paternal grandmother, Haiganoush Dabbakian, Aunt Zippi's and my dad's mom
Keebah: stuffed tripe
Tripe: the stomach lining of lamb, beef, or pork.

I have childhood memories of visiting Haiganoush Nanny and having a feast of Armenian dishes my father and aunts grew up on. One of those was Keebah – the real deal, meaning ground lamb, bulgur, fresh mint, and seasonings stuffed in a pouch fashioned out of tripe.
Were the kids told what the outer layer was? Nope, we just ate it and thought it was pretty darn good!

Aunt Zippi relayed the following method of Haiganoush Nanny’s Keebah recipe:

“Nanny used bulgur, meat, fresh mint, seasonings and tripe, just as you remembered. I have no measurements, just use your own judgement. Although as I recall there was more bulgur (which was the medium size) than meat. The mint was very finely chopped so you had the taste of it and not any of the pieces. The seasonings were as desired but she did add just a pinch of cayenne to give it a little "kick". She also used **Nalbandian's cleaned, white tripe "seeghoch" (sausage) and large tripe (cow's intestine) which she stuffed. (See NOTE below for information on tripe.) Then with sterilized needle and thread (!) she would sew up the tripe's opening to secure it so the stuffing wouldn't come out in the cooking. Let me add at this point, when we were kids, we just ate the tripe since it was so delicious never knowing what it was, it just tasted so fine. That was the stuffed keebah. When she made it without the tripe, which was often, she just made the mixture into meatballs and cooked it in chicken broth.  Of course, in the cooking the bulgur expanded and held the meat and seasonings in place.  When serving it, Nanny would always cut up a nice onion, or crisp green scallions placed on the plate to go along with the keebah.”

** Hagop Nalbandian, my husband's great uncle owned a grocery store in Union City, NJ which catered to the needs of the area's Armenian community. 

NOTE: According to information found in ‘The Assyrian Cookbook’, fresh lamb stomach is no longer available in our markets. By ‘fresh’, I refer to stomach that comes directly from the animal. The coating on the outside had to be scraped and cleaned before it could be prepared for stuffing.
Today, tripe is cleaned, processed, frozen, then sawed into small blocks making it hard to find pieces of tripe large enough to make keebah.”

Can’t stomach tripe? (Pun intended! J)

My departed aunt Arpie, also of Dikranagerdtsi descent, gave me her shortcut recipe called ‘Sud Keebah’, which I posted several years ago. The only difference between Aunt Arpie's and my grandmother's Sud Keebah recipe is that Arpie used dried mint; Nanny used fresh.

Here it is again, for your dining pleasure, without the tripe!  

Aunt Arpie's Sud Keebah
Sud Keebah
A recipe from my aunt, Arpie Vartanesian
Serves 4

1 lb. ground lamb, beef or turkey (Aunt Arpie always said, "For best results use lamb!")
1/3 c. #2 bulgur
Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
Handful of dried mint, crushed
A little water to moisten


1. In a small bowl, add the bulgur and 1 or 2 tablespoons of water, just so bulgur starts to absorb the water.

2. Combine the meat, bulgur, seasonings and mint, mixing well with your hands. Dip your hands in the additional water to shape meat mixture into patties, slightly rounded on the top and flat on the bottom -or - if you prefer, into meatball shapes. This makes about 12 to 14 walnut-sized pieces.

3. In a large pot, bring about 8 cups of water (or broth) to a boil; add 2 tsp. salt.

4. Place meat patties in boiling water; reduce heat to medium and cook for 35 to 45 minutes. Remove patties from water.

5. Serve in a bowl with some of the cooking liquid, and sliced raw onions. A chopped salad and fresh, plain yogurt will round out this dish nicely.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Avocado-Pistachio-Arugula Salad with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette

The wrath of Mother Nature has been felt in many parts of the world recently. Sadly, wild fires, earthquakes, hurricanes and floods have ravaged numerous areas and have affected millions of people.
A grove of fallen Florida avocado trees due to Hurricane Irma (Photo source: Terra Fresh Foods) 
Farmland and crops haven't been spared, either. The loss of precious fruits and vegetables is affecting their availability and forcing food prices to sky-rocket.

The Florida avocado is one such crop. It'll be in limited supply for a while, but thankfully, other avocado-producing countries not affected by the weather, will help fill the demand – at a higher price, of course.

Despite it all, I will share an avocado-based recipe that I hope you’ll find worthwhile no matter the price of this Heavenly fruit!
Avocado-Pistachio-Arugula Salad
Avocado – Pistachio - Arugula Salad
Serves about 4


1 small, ripe avocado, such as Hass
1 bag baby arugula (5–6 oz.), rinsed and spun-dry (Fresh baby spinach may be substituted)
Arugula rinsed and dried
1/3 cup good quality feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
Garnish:  1/4 cup shelled pistachios, roasted and finely chopped

Dressing: ¼ cup homemade Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette (Recipe Below)

Salad Directions:
Cubed avocado and chopped pistachios

Peel avocado; remove seed. Cut avocado into small cubes. 

Place arugula in salad bowl. Top with remaining ingredients – except dressing and pistachios. 

Pour 1/4 cup dressing over salad; toss to coat. 

Garnish with chopped pistachios. Serve immediately.

Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette
Yields about ¾ cup

1/2 cup good quality olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel, optional
1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey, optional
NOTE: If you're a fan of fresh cilantro, add 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves to the dressing.

Whisk all ingredients in bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper. (NOTE: Dressing may be made 1 day in advance. Refrigerate. Bring to room temperature, and whisk just before adding to salad.)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Red Pepper, White Bean, and Feta Soup - an accidental recipe

Sometimes recipes happen by accident. Such is the case of this Red Pepper, White Bean, and Feta Soup.

Doug and I were invited to our friend's home for dinner, so I offered to bring an appetizer dip. I searched my refrigerator and pantry to make use of what I had on hand - plain yogurt and crumbled feta in the refrigerator; a jar of roasted red peppers, a ton of canned white beans (hurricane provisions, you see) in the pantry. I figured if I swirled these together in the food processor with some spices, I’d have a dandy dip.

I got to work immediately because I wanted to make this early enough for the flavors to combine.
Red Pepper, White Bean, and Feta Dip
Here's what I did:
Red Pepper, White Bean, and Feta Dip
1 - 15-oz can roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed
1 medium clove garlic, mashed
1 - 15-oz can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup plain Greek-style yogurt
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

I placed all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and processed until well-combined.

After I did this, I tasted it, placed the mixture a serving bowl, covered it, and set it in the frig for a few hours. I checked the flavors again and decided it was okay, but not good enough to share with our friends. 

Not one to discard perfectly good food, I decided to turn the dip into a soup. 
Red Pepper, White Bean, and Feta Soup
To do this, I added 3 cups of chicken broth (Note: Use more broth if you prefer a thinner soup, and vegetable broth may be substituted), 1 tsp. lower-sodium Better Than Bouillon (chicken based), and a dash of Aleppo pepper. I used an immersion blender to combine the ingredients, then gently heated it through. 
I sprinkled some crushed pita chips to garnish.

I'm happy to say, this dip recipe was much better as soup! Next time I'll omit the Feta as part of the soup base, but would use it as garnish.

What appetizer did I end up making?

Well, I actually made 2 - and - our hosts were pleased with both!
 Mexican-Inspired Cheese Dip with Tortilla chips (L);  Artichoke-Olive Tapenade with Pita chips (R)
#1. Mexican-Inspired Cheese Dip

4 oz. shredded Monterey Jack/Colby cheese combo.
4 oz. cream cheese
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
¼ cup finely chopped onion
Olive oil
½ tsp. Kosher salt
3 Tbsp. water mixed with 1/2 tsp. chicken ‘Better Than Broth’
a few splashes of Cholula (chipotle) Hot Sauce, optional

Sauté tomato, jalapeño, and onion in olive oil until onion and pepper are soft. Add water mixture; bring to boil.
Reduce heat; add cheeses, stirring constantly until melted. Stir in chipotle hot sauce, if using, just before serving.
Place in a serving bowl and serve immediately with tortilla chips.

NOTE: I had to refrigerate the cheese dip in a microwave-safe bowl until it was time to leave. Once we got to our friend’s house, I microwaved the cheese dip for 1 ½ minutes at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds. It worked out great!

#2. Artichoke and Olive Tapenade
More pantry items were found for this. 
1 can black pitted olives (drained), 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts (drained), a few pitted Kalamata olives (for good measure), a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil.

I whirled it in the food processor and placed it in a serving bowl. Served this with pita chips.