Sunday, November 26, 2017

Post Thanksgiving Turkey Vegetable Soup

In the style of our forefathers – rather fore-mothers, we are not ones to waste any portion of an animal product.

That said, here’s what became of our Thanksgiving turkey, once carved:

Even before our Thanksgiving meal was over, Doug took it upon himself to place the turkey carcass in a large pot of water to cook. 
Chilled, gelatinous turkey broth
This resulted in a huge bowl of turkey broth, which, once chilled, became a gelatinous mass – which is a good thing. Any remaining meat left on the carcass was removed (by me) creating a fair amount of turkey tidbits – the beginning of a hearty soup. 
Bits of turkey removed from the boiled bones

Here’s how we created our ‘Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Vegetable Soup’:

Turkey Vegetable Soup
Serves 4 to 5


½ cup each of coarsely chopped celery, carrots and onions
2 Tbsp. each of butter and olive oil
5 cups gelled turkey broth
Salt, pepper, dried herbs – such as marjoram and thyme - to taste
2 bay leaves
2 tsp.  ‘Better than Bouillon’ Roasted Chicken Base, optional
** ½ cup to 1 cup uncooked pasta (egg noodles, elbows, orzo, etc.)
2 cups turkey tidbits
** Gloria-Hachigian-Ericsen adds rice, barley or beans to her version of this recipe for added protein.

Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired


In a large pot, heat the butter and olive oil. Add the chopped vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Add the gelled broth and allow to thin-out from the heat. Add the dried herbs, to taste, and bay leaves. Bring broth to a boil. Taste to determine if the bouillon needs to be added.

Add the uncooked pasta, stirring, so it won’t stick, and cook until the pasta is tender. (Refer to directions on the pasta package for cooking time.)

NOTE: You might have to add broth or water, a little at a time, since the pasta will absorb some of the liquid as it cooks.

Remove and discard bay leaves. Add 2 cups of turkey tidbits. Simmer soup for 10 minutes. 

Garnish with chopped parsley, if you wish.

Serve with a salad for a complete meal!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Three Thanksgiving recipes - so very easy!

We’re getting ready for Thanksgiving- just as millions of other Americans are doing this weekend.

Ours will be very intimate this year – just 3 of us; no hoopla, just good company, food, and loving thoughts of those who can’t join us.

Despite the size of our guest list, the menu will not be down-sized too much: roasted turkey, homemade Armenian – style stuffing, my favorite cranberry sauce recipe (see below), 2 colorful vegetable dishes (recipes follow) and a surprise dessert to be brought by our long-time friend, Linda. (I can’t wait to see what she’ll bring!)
Armenian stuffing for turkey or chicken - or - simply a side dish!
One of the veggie dishes I’m making will be Roasted Brussels sprouts with Basturma – if I can find some, otherwise suitable substitutes will be prosciutto or bacon.
UpdateDarn! Just came back from my little go-to Armenian store and they’re fresh out of basturma! Looks like prosciutto will be used instead. The recipe will be delicious, just the same.

The second veggie recipe is a really simple carrot dish I’ve made for years – it’s so simple that even my high school cooking students could whip it up in a flash! This time I’m going to jazz it up with one additional ingredient – pistachios.

 The Armenian Kitchen – and my family – wish you all a truly Happy Thanksgiving!

Orange - Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce
Yields about 3 cups

1- 12 oz. bag fresh or frozen cranberries
¾ to 1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. zest and juice of 1 orange (any kind of orange will do)
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick (1 tsp., or to taste, ground cinnamon may be substituted)
Dash of ground cloves, optional

Rinse and sort cranberries, discarding any bruised or soft ones.
Cranberries cooking with sugar, water, orange  juice, zest, cloves, and cinnamon stick.
In a **non-reactive saucepan, stir together the cranberries, sugar, orange zest and juice, water, cinnamon stick (or ground cinnamon) and cloves, if using. Cook over medium-high heat until it reaches a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally – about 10 to 15 minutes. The sauce should start to thicken and the cranberries should burst.

Place in a serving bowl, let cool, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
This can be made a day or two in advance.
** Examples of a non-reactive saucepan include glass, stainless steel, food-grade plastic, ceramic, porcelain, and hard anodized aluminum. Poor materials include cast-iron, copper, and aluminum.
My photo of Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Proscuitto (Sadly, basturma wasn't available, but this version got two thumbs-up!)
Roasted Brussels sprouts with Basturma
Serves 4

NOTE: This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled depending on the number of mouths to be fed.

3 to 4 pieces of thinly sliced basturma, cut into small strips (Note: You may substitute bacon or prosciutto for the basturma.)
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
1- lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, rinsed, ends trimmed, bruised leaves removed, and cut in half lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, minced, optional
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Note: Since basturma, prosciutto and bacon are salty, you shouldn’t need to add additional salt, but the choice is yours.


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Add 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil to an oven-proof skillet, cook the basturma until it becomes crispy. Remove from skillet. Place crispy basturma on a plate lined with a piece of paper towel; set aside.

Add the remaining olive oil to the same skillet and sauté the garlic (if using) until slightly golden. Add the Brussels sprouts and stir to combine well with the basturma. Add black pepper. Toss to coat. Roast for 15- 20 minutes.

If skillet is not ovenproof, transfer Brussels sprouts to a roasting pan and follow the same roasting time. Serve immediately.
Carrots with Parsley and Pistachios
Carrots with Parsley and Pistachios
Serves 4

1 lb. carrots, peeled and rinsed
2 – 3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley (leaves only), washed, and coarsely chopped
Salt, to taste
Garnish: ¼ cup coarsely chopped unsalted pistachios

Cut carrots on the diagonal about ¼” thick.
Place cut carrots in a microwave-safe bowl; add 3 Tbsp. water. Cover bowl and microwave at full power for about 5 or 6 minutes. Carrots should be tender-crisp, and not too soft. Drain excess water.
Stir in butter and parsley. The heat of the carrots will melt the butter. Toss gently.
Place in a serving bowl and garnish with the chopped pistachios. Serve immediately.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Layered Middle Eastern Mazza (Salad) by Christine Datian

When it comes to cooking, Christine Datian has a way of creating recipes that pleases one’s senses.

It’s been said that one ‘eats with their eyes’, meaning that if food is appealing to the eye, one is more likely to eat and enjoy it.

One of my oldest friends once told me she loves to eat ‘pretty food’. I knew exactly what she meant!

Christine has visually out-done herself with her Layered Middle Eastern Mazza. The variety of color, textures and flavors will have guests begging for more. 
I think you’ll agree!

Christine's Eye-Appealing Layered Middle Eastern Mazza (Salad)

Layered Middle Eastern Mazza (or Salad)
by Christine Vartanian Datian
Serves 6-8


In a deep, round, clear bowl, layer the following ingredients according to your taste:
 2 cups tabbouleh (homemade or store bought)
1 1/2 cups hummus (homemade or store bought)
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes, seeded, drained, chopped
1 1/2 cups Romaine lettuce or baby spinach, chopped
1 cup white or green onions, chopped
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled or diced
1 (15-20 oz.) can garbanzo or white beans, washed, drained
1 cup red or green bell pepper, seeded, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup each chopped black or Kalamata olives and thinly sliced red onions

2-3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional as topping)
Lemon juice, olive oil, paprika, dried or fresh mint, Aleppo pepper, sea salt and black pepper (to taste)

Once assembled, drizzle layered mazza with choice of lemon juice, olive oil, and spices.  Cover, chill and refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight before serving.
Serve with fresh pita chips, bagel chips or Armenian cracker bread, and assorted cheeses, olives, and pickles, if desired.
 *Christine’s recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee, Sunset magazine, Cooking Light magazine and at

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Lesson in Mahlab (Mahleb)

Many don’t know what MAHLAB is, so I’ll clue you in.
Mahlab is an aromatic spice which comes from the stones or kernels from black cherries. The kernels are cracked open, the seeds removed and dried. These little gems are sold whole (which I prefer), or in powdered form. Mahlab is used mainly as a flavoring in baked goods –such as choreg, cookies, and cakes. It’s sold in Middle Eastern stores, or can be purchased online.
Jar of Mahlab purchased in a Middle Eastern store.

From Left to Right: Whole mahlab  kernels, finely ground mahlab; less-fine particles of ground mahlab in sifter.
Powdered mahlab will lose its flavorful punch rather quickly, so it’s best to buy it in small quantities, and store it in a cool, dry place. Whole mahlab seeds store well in the freezer for a very long time. Grind it just before using for best results.

Mahlab has a very distinctive flavor. Some say its taste is a cross between a bitter almond, cherry, with a hint of rose. You’ll have to try it and decide for yourself. Once baked in a recipe, the scent is alluring, and the taste is subtle. 

The chorag recipe my family made always included mahlab – along with ground anise, ground fennel, and ground ginger- a unique combination of flavors that work very well together.

The only time I ever use mahlab is in chorag, so I decided to incorporate some into our family’s recipe for Armenian Walnut Cake, tweaking it here and there. 

NOTE: Since I was baking for two, I cut the ingredients of the recipe below in half, and baked the cake in an 8”x 8” pan. This yielded 9 generous square pieces. By the way, the cake tastes remarkably like sweet chorag, but with a more cake-like texture.
Mahlab Cake ready to serve with coffee or tea.
Mahlab Cake

1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup warm milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground mahlab
1 tsp. baking powder
Sesame seeds, optional

Use a pastry blender (seen here) or two knives or forks to 'cut' the butter into the sugar. 
In a large mixing bowl, cut the butter into the sugar using a pastry blender or two knives or forks. 
Sugar and butter cut together to resemble small peas.
The mixture should resemble small peas. Mix them together until blended. Beat in eggs until just combined. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, mahlab, and baking powder.

The Batter.
Alternately add the flour mixture and warm milk to the butter mixture to create a batter.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour the bottom of a 9”x13” baking pan. (Shake out any excess flour.)
The batter is evenly spread in a lightly buttered and floured pan.
Pour batter into pan, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle the batter with toasted sesame seeds, if desired.

Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Cut into squares and serve with coffee or tea.