Saturday, May 26, 2018

Memorial Day… a day of Thanks and Reflection

As you light up your grills this Memorial Day, please be mindful of the reason we celebrate this day – to honor and thank the men and women who have given their lives to ensure America’s freedom.

With that in mind, here are a few of The Armenian Kitchen’s favorite Armenian-American side dishes to celebrate this, or any summertime occasion, without heating up the kitchen.

And don’t forget the watermelon!

Armenian potato salad (Photo courtesy of Sonia Tashjian)

White bean, roasted red pepper, and tomato plaki

Maque Choux

Watermelon and string cheese, no recipe required!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What do Anthony Bourdain and The Armenian Kitchen have in common? Read on!

The Armenian community is all a-buzz with the knowledge that Chef Anthony Bourdain’s next 'Parts Unknown', which airs on Sunday, May 20th at 9 PM (ET/PT) on CNN, will feature Armenia! (Check your local listings for the exact time.)

I, too, am excited, because in early April, I was contacted by a member of, the website associated with Bourdain's TV show. I was asked if I’d be interested in having my lahmajoun recipe appear in their companion online publication, but I'd have to decide quickly as it was a time-sensitive offer.

The Armenian Kitchen's Lahmajoun

Would I be interested?? Were they serious? OF COURSE I would. (Disclosure, I received a modest payment for this.)

My reaction went from shock, to elation, to sheer humility. 

Before sharing my recipe which includes making dough from scratch, I thought it wise to make it – in my new kitchen – to make sure the measurements and technique were correct and easy to understand. Once I was sure the final product was just right, Bourdain’s editorial staff examined the wording of the directions, making suggestions to improve my explanation.

I guess the recipe was approved, because it appeared on the Exploration Parts Unknown website! (See my recipe below.)

If time is of the essence, make lahmajoun using the short-cut method.

I’ll bet you’re asking what Bourdain and The Armenian Kitchen have in common. Well, we’ve never met, but he – and we - have been to Armenia! And perhaps someday he’ll try my lahmajoun recipe.

Enjoy the program, and while you're at it, enjoy 
some lahmajoun, too!

Lahmajoun – from


(Makes 12 pies)

For the dough:

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 package (¼ ounce or 2 ¼ teaspoon) dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water (105 to 110 F)
¼ cup oil (vegetable or olive)

For the topping:
1 medium onion
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
½ medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 small bunch of parsley, washed well and patted dry, thick stems removed
One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 pound lean ground lamb or beef or a combination of the two. (Note: ground turkey may be substituted)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried mint, crushed
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional)
2 tablespoons flour
¼ sweet onion, thinly sliced, for garnish
1 lemon, for garnish

For the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the lukewarm water. Stir well.
Add the liquid mixture to the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon or electric hand mixer. You can also use a stand mixer with the dough-hook attachment.
Add a little more warm water if necessary.

On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth and elastic. (Note: If using a stand mixer with a dough hook, this step isn’t necessary.)

Lightly oil a clean large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and lightly oil the surface of the dough. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and cover with a towel large enough to surround the bowl. Place the bowl in a draft-free location and allow dough to rise for 2 hours.

After the dough has risen, pat the dough, then divide it into 12 small, evenly sized balls.

Lightly flour the work surface and a rolling pin. Keep additional flour handy for the rolling process.

Working with one ball of dough at a time, roll each ball into a thin 7-inch disc. Keep the rolled discs covered with plastic wrap while assembling to keep them from drying out.

For the topping:
If preparing the vegetables by hand, be sure to finely chop the onion, peppers, and parsley. Leave some parsley aside to chop for garnish. To save time, cut onion and peppers into chunks, then put them with the parsley and diced tomatoes in a food processor, using the metal S blade. DO NOT over process. Vegetables should still be a bit chunky, not pureed.
Using a sieve or strainer, squeeze out any excess liquid. (Note: Too much liquid in the topping will make the dough soggy.)

In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, tomato paste, seasonings, flour, and processed vegetables. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Assembly and baking:

Heat oven to 425° F. 

Place 3 rolled discs of dough on a parchment-lined or lightly oiled baking sheet. Make sure the discs don’t overlap.

Add topping in a thin, even layer, spreading it almost to the edge. (Note: An easy way to spread the topping evenly—and keep your hands clean—is to place about ¼ cup of the filling in the center of the rolled dough and spread it with the back of a spoon.)

Bake on the lower rack of the oven for about 6 minutes. 

Move it to the upper rack and bake for another 6 minutes or until the meat topping has browned and the bottom and edges of the dough are golden.

Serve immediately, topped with thin slices of sweet onion, chopped parsley, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Then fold and eat!

After baking, cool the lahmajouns completely on wire racks. Once cooled, stack the lahmajouns, separating them with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Place in plastic freezer bags, label, and seal tightly. They should keep nicely for about 1 month.

Heat oven to 350 F. (Note: There is no need to defrost the frozen lahmajouns.)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Carefully separate the lahmajouns and remove any plastic or paper wrapping.
Stack the lahmajouns in pairs, meat sides facing each other, and place on prepared baking sheet.
Bake for about 5 to 7 minutes or until heated through.

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Mother's Day Recipe: Apricot Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Lemon Glaze by Christine Datian

Christian Datian’s Apricot Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Lemon Glaze will delight anyone. But since this Sunday is Mother’s Day, show her how much she is loved with this tantalizing cake.

Christine Datian's Apricot Walnut Cake with Lemon Cinnamon Glaze

Christine makes it easy by using a cake mix. The addition of some unexpected ingredients turns it into something extraordinary!

Warning: Young bakers will need a helping hand!


Apricot Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Lemon Glaze
by Christine Vartanian Datian

1 (18.25 oz.) yellow or lemon cake mix
1 (16 oz.) can apricots, drained (reserve syrup)
2 tablespoons apricot brandy or brandy of choice, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped golden raisins or dates


Note: Use apricots and syrup to replace the water in this recipe.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or Bundt pan and set aside.

Drain and dice apricots, reserve syrup in a bowl, and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, prepare cake mix (using all ingredients except water) according to the directions on box. Add the apricots, syrup, brandy, vanilla, cinnamon, zest, and allspice to the bowl, and beat for 3-4 minutes at medium speed. Fold in the walnuts and raisins or dates and toss to combine.

Sprinkle some walnuts on the bottom of the pan, pour the batter into the pan, and bake according to the directions on the cake box. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool it completely on wire rack.

Drizzle with Cinnamon Lemon Glaze (see recipe below) and garnish with walnuts or diced dried or fresh chopped apricots. Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Cinnamon Lemon Glaze

Sift 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a bowl. Add one tablespoon milk or cream, one teaspoon vanilla, and one teaspoon lemon juice, and mix until smooth. Add a few more drops of milk or cream if ingredients are too stiff. Drizzle glaze on top and over sides of cake and let dry before serving.

*Christine’s recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee newspaper, Sunset magazine, Cooking Light magazine, and at

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Are you in the market for sturgeon meat or caviar? If you live in the Carolinas, you’re in luck. If you don’t live in the Carolinas, you’re in luck, too.

In February, just before Doug and I moved to the Carolinas, I received an email from Lianne Won, whose family owns  Marshallberg Farm, in N.C. They have two facilities – one in Lenoir, NC (near Boone) and another in Smyrna, NC (near Beaufort). They raise Russian sturgeon for its meat and caviar. Their website states (in Russian) that they are ‘The largest producer of Russian Sturgeon in the USA’. 

Lianne mentioned that they receive a lot of calls from Armenians in NC (particularly in Charlotte), who are excited to order some fresh sturgeon meat. She asked if I could somehow let the Armenian-Russian community know about their products.

Since Lianne’s first email, I learned that her company’s sturgeon is now available at Super G Mart, a gigantic international market, on the east side of Charlotte, as well as online. 
Sturgeon kebab from the Ararat 17 Restaurant in Indian Trail, NC
I’d never eaten sturgeon before, but noticed that it’s on the menu at the Ararat 17 restaurant. As it turns out, Marshallberg Farm provides the sturgeon served at this restaurant. 

I made a point of ordering the sturgeon kebab on our last visit.
Our server warned me that the taste might be strong. Despite this warning, I ordered it anyway. I can happily report that the flavor was rather mild. Some might object to the texture, however, as it is firm – not flaky - and a bit chewy, but that might have been the result of its preparation.

To be fair, I contacted Lianne to ask about the texture of cooked sturgeon. 
Lianne noted that the sturgeon's texture is indeed dictated by  it's preparation. When she prepares sturgeon, Lianne  bakes the fish slowly at 350 degrees F in a covered pan for about 20 minutes. Then she grills it quickly to get the grill marks and a charcoal taste. Lianne states that sturgeon meat comes out better when it is not cooked over direct heat.  

My sturgeon kebab was attractively presented with the two side dishes I selected (fluffy rice and a very tasty hummus). 
A small cup of pomegranate molasses accompanied the dish. The owner, Vardan, happened to stop by our table, so I asked why the pomegranate molasses was on the plate. He said they serve the sturgeon that way because many of their Armenian customers from Baku prefer it. 
I'm not one to argue, so I dipped a piece of the kebab into the sweet, tangy, pomegranate molasses, and decided I liked it better plain.

I didn’t ask Vardan for their sturgeon kebab recipe, but Lianne’s site offers some impressive ways to prepare sturgeon, including one for kebab. 

With Lianne's permission, here is the Sturgeon Kebab recipe from Marshallberg Farm.
Marshallberg Farm's Sturgeon Kebab
Sturgeon Kebab
 Kebab Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds sturgeon fillet
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 onions (small, sweet if available)
10 button mushrooms (large)

Marinade Ingredients:
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (chopped)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil

For serving: 2 lemons (cut into wedges)

Cut all the fish and veggies into similar-sized pieces; this helps everything lay flat when it is on the grill.
Marinate the fish and vegetables: To make the marinade, purée the chopped onion, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil while puréeing, continue to purée until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Coat the fish and veggies in the marinade. Set in the fridge for at least an hour and up to overnight.
Thread onto skewers: When skewering the fish and vegetables, pierce the fish against the grain, and select pieces of veggies that are close to the same size as your fish. This is important, because if the pieces are different widths, some things will be charred and others undercooked.
Grill on high, direct heat: Prepare the grill for high, direct heat. Clean the grates and wipe them down with a paper towel that has been dipped in vegetable oil. Lay the skewers on the grill.
Don’t move them until the fish pieces are well browned on one side, about 3-6 minutes.
Then using tongs, carefully turn the skewers over and cook them until they are seared on the other side.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Drizzle with lemon juice or serve with lemon wedges.