Friday, November 8, 2019

Vanetzi Ashkile (Spinach Soup), another treasured recipe from from the Holy Trinity Armenian Church Guild's, ‘The Armenian and Selected Favorite Recipes Cookbook’

Christine Datian shares another special recipe, Vanetzi Ashkile (Spinach Soup), from the Holy Trinity Armenian Church Guild Cookbook, ‘The Armenian and Selected Favorite Recipes Cookbook’, just in time for the cooler season ahead.
It’s hearty, healthy and delicious!
Just a reminder, if you’d like to order a copy, for yourself – or as a gift – details are below.

Vanetzi Ashkile (Spinach Soup)            Yield: 4 Servings

2 lbs. stew meat (beef or lamb)
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 small (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
3-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup dzedzadz (also known as wheat berries or whole wheat kernels)
2 large carrots, diced
1 medium bunch green onions, chopped
1 medium bunch parsley, chopped
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)
Salt, pepper, to taste
2 medium bunches fresh spinach, washed, chopped
Juice of 1 large lemon – or - 1/2 lb. rhubarb, finely chopped
4 medium eggs, optional
1/2 cube (4 Tbsp.) butter - or - 1/4 cup olive oil, to taste
Dzedzadz  kernels (wheat berries) 
Brown stew meat in a large pot in butter or olive oil, tossing, until meat is brown on all sides. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until onions are translucent.

Add just enough of the broth or water to cover the meat; bring to a gentle boil. Cover pot, and braise for about one hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomato sauce, the rest of the broth or water, dzedzadz, carrots, green onions, parsley, cilantro – if using, and seasonings, and bring to a full boil. Stir, reduce heat, and simmer for 25-35 minutes until the meat and dzedzadz are tender.

Add the spinach and lemon juice (or rhubarb). Add more broth or water, as needed, to make a stew-like consistency. Simmer for 10 minutes or until spinach (and rhubarb, if using) is/are cooked.

(Optional, crack the eggs, one at a time, into a separate bowl. Gently add each egg to the pot and steam for a few minutes until egg whites are set.)

How to order a copy of ‘The Armenian and Selected Favorite Recipes Cookbook’:
The cost to purchase a copy of the cookbook is $20.00 plus $5.00
for shipping.
To place an order, please call or contact:
Ms. Nazik Arisian
Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church
2226 Ventura St.
Fresno, CA 93721
(559) 486-1141 (office)
Make check payable to: Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Nashville, TN: Home to Country-Western Music, the Grand Ole Opry, Chef Hrant Arakelian, “Lyra” restaurant, and Chef Hrant’s recipe for Armenian Manti!

You read that correctly, folks! My husband, Doug, is a master at researching. For decades his research was related to journalism and authoring books. Now he focuses on places for us to explore in the south and area restaurants in which to dine.
 Hrant Arakelian, Chef/Owner of Lyra restaurant in Nashville, TN
That’s when he found a restaurant called Lyra, operated by chef/owner Hrant Arakelian in, of all places, Nashville, Tennessee. Upon examination of Lyra’s menu, Doug and I couldn’t get over the fact that Nashville is home to an Armenian-with Southern roots- restaurant, and that there is an Armenian community in the area as well!

Chef Hrant’s background is quite fascinating, too. Please click here to learn more about him. 

When I reached out to the chef due to professional curiosity, I mentioned The Armenian Kitchen website and asked if I could share one of his recipes with my readers. 
Much to my surprise, he responded swiftly and wrote that, in fact, he already knew about the website and that he had referred to it many times in researching recipes for the restaurant. So, he felt it would only be fair to give one back.
Well, if that didn’t make me blush!!

More importantly, he would be happy to share his Manti recipe.

How they selected the name Lyra for their restaurant:
I asked how he and his wife, Liz, selected the name ‘Lyra’ (pronounced ‘LIE-rah’) for their restaurant.

He said they wanted a name which was appropriate for Nashville, a progressive, musical, southern city. Another factor was their son’s appreciation for astronomy. One evening, while on a camping trip, they found the constellation Lyra which represents the lyre and music.

They felt the name Lyra was a good fit between Nashville’s love of music - and - astronomy, something their family enjoys. Plus, Chef Hrant says, it’s easy for people to say and to spell when they look it up.
Without further ado …

Chef Hrant's Manti as served at his restaurant, Lyra, in Nashville, Tennessee. Traditional Armenian Manti has a 'canoe' shape. Chef Hrant chose to make 'star' shaped Manti to reflect the constellation 'Lyra'.
Chef Hrant Arakelian’s Armenian Manti Recipe
Yield: about 150 to 180 pieces
The Chef explained: We usually break down the Manti recipe in to three parts - dough, filling, and assembly.

Part 1 the Dough:
   The dough we make is very similar to a pasta dough, I have tried all the different recipes out there and found this one was the easiest and yielded the best result.
3 cups of A/P Flour
2 whole large eggs
½ cup of warm water (it’s important that the water is warm 100 degrees is good)  
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
Put the flour in a mound on the counter and make a well in the middle, crack the egg in a separate bowl (just in case any shell breaks in) then add it to the middle of the flour  add the oil, water and salt.
Use a fork whisk the liquids while slowly incorporating the flour from the sides. 
Once the flour is mostly incorporated use your hands to knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, you want a dough that forms a nice ball and springs back when you press your finger on the surface. If the dough is super sticky you can dust it with more flour as you knead. It’s always better to start off with a slightly wetter dough as you can easily add more flour but it’s very hard to add more water once you start to knead the dough. 
Once you have a nice dough ball wrap it with plastic wrap or place it in a zip top bag and let it rest on the counter for 30 min to an hour. This step is important to allow the starches in the flour to hydrate properly and to give you a smooth and slightly stretchy dough. 
If you want to make the dough a day ahead wrap it after you knead it and put it in the fridge for up to 2 days, anything more and the dough can pick up strange flavors. 
When you are ready to roll, place the dough on the counter for an hour to come to room temp.

Part 2: The Filling:

¾ lb. ground very lean beef (this is important)
1 small red onion minced finely
¼ bunch flat leaf parsley minced finely
1 teaspoon baharat spice (this is our house spice blend, but a 7-spice blend - sold in Middle Eastern stores - works perfect as well)
1 teaspoon salt

Try to find the leanest beef you can. Better yet, if you have access to it, grind your own from the top round cut. Too much fat in the meat will make the Manti soggy and fall apart when you cook them. Combine everything in a bowl and mix to incorporate, don’t over mix.

Part 3: The Assembly:
  Divide the dough in to 5 equal parts and proceed to roll it out.
  Two options to roll the dough are by hand (roll with a lightly floured rolling pin to about 1/8-inch thickness) which is a great work out – or - by using a pasta machine. If you use a machine follow the directions for your machine and take it down to the third to last setting on the machine, on an atlas brand roller it’s the number 7 setting. You should be able to barely see light though the dough.

  Once the dough is rolled use a pastry cutter or pizza wheel and a ruler to cut the dough in to 1 ¼- inch (for canoe-shaped Manti) to 1 ¾-inch squares (for star-shaped Manti).

   Put a large chickpea size ball of the meat in the center of the dough square and bring up two opposite sides and pinch them leaving the center where the meat is open. It should look like a little canoe, with the meat ball nestled in the middle. (Note: This is the more traditionally Armenian shape, but at the restaurant we do a shape that more resembles a star by bringing two adjacent corners together on the top of the meat ball then following with the other sides, this forms a little pyramid shape that slightly resembles a star.)

  Note: When you are forming the dough and sticking the edges together, resist the temptation to wet the edges this just makes the dough super soft and hard to work with. I also find that dusting the fingers I am using to pinch the dough in a little flour helps the dough from sticking to me.

  Once all the dough is formed arrange it on a large skillet in one flat layer with a little space between each dumpling. Bake in a hot oven 400 until the edges of the dough start to brown slightly, about 6 to 8 minutes. You want a nice golden brown color on the dough to give it the distinct flavor that makes Armenian Manti better than any other.

  Once they are baked, remove it from the oven and pour on some stock just enough to come to the top edge of the Manti. Put it back in the oven for a minute or so to cook the dough and meat and to allow the liquid to absorb.

Special Note: Since Manti freezes well, you can let the baked Manti cool completely, place in freezer bags, and freeze until ready to serve.
  From this point you can serve it with any kind of sauce you choose. We like to do Yogurt Sauce.

Yogurt Sauce - with spiced butter (see below):
Ingredients for yogurt sauce:
1 quart of labneh yogurt or thick Greek plain yogurt (see Note)
3 cups of good chicken stock
2-4 cloves of garlic minced
1 lemon, zested
2 egg yolks
Salt to taste

Heat the stock in a pan to a good simmer (185 degrees). While that is heating up whisk the yogurt with the egg yolk, garlic, lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Once the stock come to temperature slowly temper it into the yogurt mixture stirring to incorporate everything well. Pour the tempered yogurt mixture back into the stock pot and with a spoon or spatula stir the mixture in the same direction over medium heat until the mixture reaches 185 degrees. It’s very important that it doesn’t boil because this will curdle the yogurt and if that happens its lost. Also keep stirring so no spot gets too hot and curdles. Strain it through a fine mesh strainer and either hold it in a pan on a warm spot of your range or better keep it in an insulated thermos.   
Note: If you can’t find good labneh, Greek yogurt works well but the resulting sauce can be kind of thin so we would add 1 to 2 teaspoons of corn starch when we whisk the eggs into the yogurt.
Chef Hrant’s Special Note: "My mother told me that when she learned the recipe from my grandmother, her advice was to always stir the yogurt in the same direction. My grandmother's reasoning for it was that it kept yogurt from curdling. I have never found this to be true, but I still always stir in the same direction just in case it is. Also, my mother didn’t speak a lick of Armenian and my grandmother didn’t speak a bit of English so maybe something was lost in translation."

Spiced butter:
½ cup butter (beef or lamb tallow is also fantastic)
1 teaspoon dry mint
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or chili pepper
1 teaspoon sumac

Melt the butter slowly in a pan, don’t let it scorch or the milk solids burn. Add the spices and let it sit to meld the flavors.
We assemble the Manti by pouring the yogurt in to a warm bowl, topping with the Manti, drained of any excess cooking liquid, and topped with a drizzle of the spiced butter.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Pink Pearl Apple Crisp - a perfect autumn recipe from Chef Serge Madikians

One of my favorite restaurants is Serevan in Amenia, NY. Chef-owner Serge Madikians can transform locally sourced ingredients into works of art for the eyes, palette, and soul.
For my birthday last August, my husband, daughter and son-in-law treated me to a memorable dinner at Serevan. It was a meal to behold!

When I came across Chef Serge’s apple crisp recipe recently, I contacted him to ask if I might share it with all of you, after all, it is apple season. He graciously said ‘yes’.
Thank you, Chef!
Pink Pearl Apple Crisp by Chef Serge Madkians
Pink Pearl Apple Crisp
Chef/Owner Serge Madikians, Serevan


For the apples:
8 medium to large Pink Pearl apples (peeled, cored and sliced in sixths) Note: If Pink Pearl apples are unavailable, substitute with any apple with a sweet-tart flavor, such as Honey Crisp.)
8 Medjool dates (pitted and sliced in sixths)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter (melted)
1/4 cup Calvados or other apple brandy
1/2 teaspoon cardamom, ground
1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash Cayenne pepper
1 lemon (juice and zest)
1/2 orange (juice and zest) (optional)

For the crisp:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup dark brown sugar (packed well)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup walnuts or pistachios, chopped
20 tablespoons (2 ½ sticks) chilled butter, cut into thin sheets

For the apples:
Toss the apples with all the ingredients except the melted butter. Make sure each slice of the apple is coated evenly.
Add the butter and toss well to combine.
Place in the prepared crisp containers and refrigerate for 15 minutes while you make the crisp batter.
For the crisp:
Preheat oven to 325°F.

Using a low-speed setting, combine all the ingredients except the nuts and the butter in a bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment.

Add the chilled butter slices and mix until the crisp becomes crumbly, then add the finely chopped nuts and mix just until it combines evenly.

Place an ample amount of the crisp batter (we like ours with a lot of crisp) on top of each apple mixture and bake in the oven for at least 30 minutes, or until the apples begin to bubble a bit.

Raise the temperature to 375°F and bake for another 5 to 8 minutes, or until the crisp has taken on a light brown color.

Serve hot with whipped cream or ice cream

Monday, October 21, 2019

Dried Fruit Compote - a Quick and Easy Dessert!

Looking for a dessert that can be prepared in a jiffy? Try this quick and easy Dried Fruit Compote.
The culinary definition of compote states that it is "served as a chilled dish made up of fresh or dried fruit that’s been slowly cooked in a sugar syrup - and - could contain liquor or liqueur and sometimes spices."

You might be wondering why I'm sharing this recipe in October if a compote is to be served chilled. Answer: because there are no fixed rules. The good news is that a compote can also be served hot or at room temperature during cooler months to ward-off the chill and warm your heart!

This simple version uses dried fruit, is cooked in a microwave oven, and is sweetened with a bit of local honey rather than sugar syrup. There is no alcohol, but the flavor is enhanced with cinnamon bark, whole cloves and lemon peel.

Dried Fruit Compote topped with plain Greek yogurt, ground cinnamon, and chopped pistachios.
Quick and Easy Dried Fruit Compote
Serves 6

1 cup pitted dried prunes (cut in half)
1 cup dried apricots, cut into bite-sized pieces 
1 cup raisins
1 to 2 Tbsp. good quality local honey
¼ stick cinnamon
4-5 strips lemon peel
2 whole cloves
Enough cold water to cover the ingredients
Garnishes: ½ cup to 1 cup chopped nuts of your choice (pistachio nuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans work well) – and/or – plain or vanilla yogurt and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon

Spices & Cheesecloth
Place the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, and cloves in a piece of cheesecloth (cut into about a 6-inch square) and tie shut with kitchen twine. 
(*Note: If cooking this on the stovetop, the spices can be placed in a tea strainer with a screw-on lid. See directions below.)
Left - tea strainer; Right - spices wrapped in cheesecloth and tied
In a large microwave-safe bowl, mix the dried fruit along with the honey and tied spices/lemon peel. Add enough water to cover the ingredients.

Cook on high power for 4 to 5 minutes until the ingredients reach a boil. Remove and discard the spices. Stir compote.

Compote - cooked and ready to serve - or -refrigerate until serving time.
Serve hot or at room temperature - or - cover bowl and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, place compote in individual bowls. Garnish with a dollop of plain or vanilla yogurt and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon and chopped nuts.

**Stovetop Directions:
Using a large enough pot to hold the ingredients, combine dried fruit, honey or 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar, and spices that are in a tea strainer or wrapped in cheesecloth. Add enough water to cover ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes or until fruit is tender. Remove and discard spices. Serve hot or at room temperature -or- cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish as mentioned above, if desired.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Pumpkin-Yogurt Fluff - and - other Pumpkin recipes re-visited!

It’s October and pumpkin decorations are everywhere. I love a good Jack-o'-Lantern, but, personally, I’d rather eat pumpkin than decorate with it.
That’s why this post will revisit some of The Armenian Kitchen’s pumpkin recipes as well as share a new favorite dessert, Pumpkin-Yogurt Fluff. It's easy to prepare, tasty and is sure to please. Think of this as a lighter, fluffier version of pumpkin pie without the crust!  

Pumpkin-Yogurt Fluff topped with chopped pistachios and Maple Guild Syrup

Pumpkin - Yogurt Fluff
Serves 4 -5

Main Ingredients:
1 (15-oz.) can pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
4 Tbsp. low-fat cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. good quality maple syrup (such as Maple Guild brand) plus more for garnish
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
GARNISHES: Chopped nuts (pecans or pistachios work well) -or- top with crumbled graham crackers for a modified Pumpkin Pie! 

Ingredients used for the recipe
Place the canned pumpkin, Greek yogurt and the rest of the main ingredients, in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric hand mixer, vigorously whip until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Pumpkin mixture whipped and ready to chill.
Taste the mixture and adjust flavorings/sweetness, if needed. Mix again to combine.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight - until ready to serve.

To serve: Place desired amount of pumpkin mixture in individual bowls. Drizzle with a bit more syrup, if you wish.
Garnish with chopped nuts or crushed graham crackers.

Here’s a list of previously-posted pumpkin recipes on The Armenian Kitchen(Click on the name to view the recipe.)

GHAPAMA - Photo credit: Pam Aghababian,

Friday, September 27, 2019

Chicken Shawarma with Tahini-Yogurt Sauce or Toum

I love a good shawarma. I also love fenugreek, a pleasantly bitter, slightly sweet seed which – in ground form – is used in curry powders, spice blends, and teas. After searching for a chicken shawarma recipe using fenugreek in the spice mixture, I finally found one on Veronica's Cornucopia.
This version is for a sandwich, but I felt it would work just as well as a dinner entrée.

Chicken Shawarma with rice pilaf, salad and lavash.
Chicken Shawarma with Tahini-Yogurt Sauce or Toum
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded until thin
Ingredients used in the seasoning blend
Seasoning Blend Ingredients:
2 tsp. fenugreek                                       1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. allspice                                           1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon                                       1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ginger                                             1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground cloves                             1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. lemon juice                                 
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 Tbsp. minced garlic

Tahini Sauce
1/2 cup plain yogurt                        1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice                         2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. sugar
The night before serving, combine the seasoning blend spices in a gallon-size plastic bag and shake to combine. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and garlic, and massage the bag to combine, creating a thick-ish paste. Add chicken pieces, seal tightly, and massage the marinade into the chicken until all the pieces are coated.

Refrigerate overnight.

Note: Prepare the tahini-yogurt sauce the night before by whisking all the ingredients together and storing in the refrigerator until it’s time to serve.

Grill (outside) or pan-grill (stovetop) the chicken breasts on both sides until no longer pink in the center. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut chicken into thin strips.

Can be served as an entrée with rice, salad, and a vegetable of your choice, or as a sandwich: fill pita bread with lettuce, chicken strips, tomato, cucumber, and onion, and top with tahini sauce or toum.

Recipe for Toum is from Liz Della Croce, the creator and author of The Lemon Bowl®, a healthy food, travel and lifestyle blog.

1 cup garlic cloves peeled (roughly 3 heads of garlic)
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups canola oil you may not need all of this
1/4 cup lemon juice (about one lemon)
Place the garlic cloves and salt in a large food processor and puree until smooth. It's a good idea to scrape down the sides two or three times to ensure that all of the garlic is finely processed.

Turn the machine back on and slowly drizzle in the oil through the lid starting with 1/2 cup. After the first 1/2 cup has been added, pour in a teaspoon of the lemon juice.

Continue alternating between 1/2 cup of the canola oil and a teaspoon of the lemon juice until you've added all of the oil and lemon juice. Alternating between the two is the key to proper emulsification which creates the light and fluffy garlic sauce.

You know it's done when the sauce is white and thick with a similar consistency of mayonnaise. It usually takes about 10-15 minutes.

Recipe Notes:
Do not replace canola oil with olive oil, it will ruin the end result.
You can use vegetable or corn oil.
If the mixture breaks while processing, stop adding additional oil and lemon juice and continue pulsing until it comes together again.
Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.