Friday, May 24, 2019

Bamiayov Zahd (Okra Stew) - a recipe from C.K. Garabed (aka Charles Kasbarian)

C.K. Garabed (Charles Kasbarian)
Some of you might recognize the name C.K. Garabed from ‘The Armenian Weekly’ newspaper, as he has been writing ‘Uncle Garabed’s Notebook’ for a very long time. For those of you who don’t know him, here is his ‘bio’ from Armeniapedia.org. It will give you an idea of his many skills and talents.

“C.K. Garabed (aka Charles Kasbarian) - Actor, Aphorist, Archivist, Chef, Choral Conductor, Columnist, Commentator, Composer, Critic, Editor, Essayist, Folk Dancer, Inventor, Lecturer, Lexicographer, Painter, Photographer, Playwright, Poet, Political cartoonist, Record Producer, Stand-up Comedian, Vocalist. In short, a jack of all arts, and master of none.”

C.K. the ’chef’ and I have bonded through The Armenian Kitchen. Like my father’s side of the family, C.K. is Dikranagerdtsi. We know some of the same people and share a love of some terrific Dikranagerdtsi recipes.

One of C.K.’s many projects on Armeniapedia.org is his Dikranagerdtsi Cookbook, a work in progress. He’s been sharing some of his recipes with me. We compare notes, and bounce recipe thoughts, suggestions, and ideas off one another. It’s a lot of fun – and – a learning experience for both of us.
Bamiayov Zahd (Okra Stew) served with a side of bulgur pilaf

C.K. knows I’m not a fan of okra because of its tendency to get slimy when cooked – and he also knows my husband loves okra. To help me overcome my dislike, C.K. sent me a recipe for Bamiayov Zahd, Okra Stew, which includes a unique technique for reducing or eliminating okra’s objectionable texture.

For the sake of my husband, I agreed to give C.K.’s alternate version of the recipe, which includes cooked lamb, a try. (See below for details.)

You’ll find my evaluation at the end of the recipe. Who knows, maybe this will help covert other okra-dislikers, too!

Bamiayov Zahd (Okra Stew)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
1 lb. fresh baby okra, trimmed – or - frozen baby okra, defrosted
1 cup white vinegar
1 medium sized onion, sliced
1- 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
juice of ½ lemon
olive oil (about 2 Tbsp.)
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. Aleppo red pepper
salt, pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Wash and dry okra, if using fresh. If using frozen okra, defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
This is the brand of frozen okra I purchased at my local Middle Eastern store for this recipe.
  2. Place okra in a shallow bowl and add the white vinegar. (Note: Steps 2 and 3 help to reduce or eliminate the slimy consistency often associated with cooked okra.)
Okra soaking in white vinegar
  3. After ½ hour, remove okra from the vinegar and rinse well with water.

  4. Place okra in a casserole baking dish.

  5. In a skillet, sauté onion and garlic in 2 Tbsp. olive oil until lightly browned.(Note: If using cooked lamb, add here. Lamb cooking instructions are below.)
Sautéed onion, garlic and lamb
 6. Add sautéed onions and garlic to okra. 

7. Dissolve tomato paste in diced tomatoes; add lemon juice and spices and mix.

  8. Pour tomato mixture over the okra, onions, and lamb, if using.

  9. Bake, uncovered, in 375°F oven for 30 minutes, or until okra is tender.
Bamiayov Zahd and Bulgur pilaf ready to serve!
Note: Okra stew makes an excellent side dish to complement lamb and bulghour pilaf.

C.K.’s Alternate recipe using cooked lamb:
1. Place lamb neck bones in a large saucepan making sure to cover the meat with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Remove any scum that rises to the surface. Continue to cook meat for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the meat separates from the bones. Remove meat from bones; discard any bones, cartilage, etc.
2. Add the meat to the okra, prepared as above, before baking. (See step #6)

Special Note from C.K.: Bamia is a borrowing from Turkish ‘bamya’ for okra. Zahd is a borrowing from Kurdish ‘zad’ for food.

My Evaluation:
Lo-and-behold! There was absolutely no unpleasant sliminess in the okra!! This could be attributed to the vinegar-soaking, or it could be that I used the very small okra which was purchased in the freezer section of the Middle Eastern store. Or it could be both, I’m not sure.

The taste of the recipe was delicious (a lot of ground coriander is the key there), and I’m glad I added the cooked lamb. There was a slight sourness to the recipe – could have been too much lemon juice, or maybe some vinegar penetration in the okra. In any case, it was not objectionable.

I will definitely make the recipe again, but next time I won't soak the small okra in vinegar – just to see if it gets slimy or not. Worst case scenario, slime might be present in which case  Doug will get the entire recipe to himself and I’ll eat something else. (There's always lahmajoun in the freezer!)

If no slime is present without soaking in vinegar, then maybe I’ll just have to keep on buying the very small okra.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Stay cool with Chilled Yogurt-based Soups!

Outdoor temperatures are beginning to rise, so it's time to start collecting recipes for chilled soup.  

Rich, tangy,  creamy yogurt-based soups offer delectable, refreshing dining on hot days. Add some fresh herbs and these soups are out of this world!

Here are two chilled yogurt-based soup recipes with fresh herbs (mint and basil) to help you get on your way to cool, delicious dining.
Chilled Yogurt-Mint Soup (Madzoon Abour)

Chilled Yogurt-Mint Soup (Madzoon Abour)
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1/2 cup barley**
1 ½ cups plain yogurt
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 cups very cold water
1 Tbsp. crushed mint

Directions:
1. Cook barley according to package directions. Cool and set aside. **NOTE: Quick-cooking barley works well in this recipe.
2. In a mixing bowl, stir yogurt and salt until smooth.
3. Mix in the barley.
4. Add the cold water and mint; stir to combine.
5. Place in the refrigerator for an hour or two before serving.
6. To serve: stir the yogurt soup, ladle into bowls, add an ice cube, garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.



Chilled Cream of Zucchini Soup with Fresh Basil
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup sweet onion, chopped
¼ tsp. salt
3 medium zucchini, washed, ends trimmed, and sliced into ¼-inch circles
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup light cream
½ cup plain, low fat yogurt
Dash white pepper
Garnish: Basil sprigs

Directions:
1. Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and salt; sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions are transparent.
2. Add zucchini and broth; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add the basil leaves.
3. Puree the soup in a blender.
4. Place pureed soup in a large bowl. Stir in the cream, yogurt and white pepper.
5. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
6. Serve in chilled bowls, and garnish with basil sprigs.



Thursday, May 9, 2019

St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Charlotte, NC hosts its annual Food Festival May 10, 11, and 12


Come One – Come All! 
St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Charlotte, NC is hosting its annual Food Festival May 10-12.

If you happen to be in the area and are looking for family fun and delicious food, please join us!

See you there!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Introducing a NEW Armenian coffee company – SARA Coffee Company

Sos Nazaryan
Sos Nazaryan reached out to The Armenian Kitchen to announce his family’s new Los Angeles-based Armenian coffee company - SARA. He asked if we would mention its existence to our readership. In order for us to do this properly, Sos kindly sent us a bag of their medium roast product to sample.
SARA coffee from the Nazaryan family


SARA coffee - getting ready to taste-test!
Doug and I were pleased to have been asked and agreed to help, but we needed some family background information to understand the story behind the company.

Here's a bit of the Nazaryan family background as told by Sos:

“My parents, Alfred and Rita, immigrated from Soviet Armenia in 1988, one year before my brother Ara was born and four years before I was born. Both of my parents had and continue to have a strong passion for Armenian music, poetry, and culture. In 1992, my father purchased an Armenian music store in the heart of downtown Glendale, which later grew into a community hub for Armenians in Glendale. When the recession hit, we had to close the music store. Fortunately, however, in 2008 we were able to purchase the mom-and-pop Armenian grocery next door to the music store, allowing us to continue our relationship with the community and sustain our family economically. 

All hands were on deck at the grocery store. My dad orchestrated the show, while my mother, brother, and I supported in any way we could. It was tough, but the silver lining was that we spent a lot of time together. While there was always an endless list of errands waiting to be finished at the grocery, a cup of "soorj" gave us an opportunity to take a short break together. It was around this time that my parents began to test out different coffees and blends, simply to find a coffee for our family that we thoroughly enjoyed; we hadn't even begun thinking of any type of coffee company yet! 

Well, eventually, I relocated to Santa Barbara for college and my brother moved to Seattle for a great job opportunity. My parents, however, continued their pursuit to find this perfect coffee blend and even began sharing this ever-evolving blend with the community. People seemed to really enjoy it, and shortly thereafter, people came to the store asking for more of it. It was at this point that we began entertaining the idea of a coffee company. 
I slowly started to work on the design, while my parents continued to refine the taste. 

Fast forward a couple of years and we have Sara Coffee Co. and the Original Blend. 

Armenian coffee is tricky because, in addition to great taste, the beans need to also be able to produce a nice, thick and creamy layer of froth or crema on top. The Original Blend features medium-roast beans from South America and Africa, resulting in a cup of coffee that is rich in taste, has a velvety body, and produces an excellent layer of crema. 
We launched the company in February of this year and have been overwhelmed by the support we've received. This coffee is something that I am truly proud to share. 

Any time we all four of us (my parents, my brother, and myself) are back together, a cup of coffee together is the first order of business. So when I tell people it's from our family to yours, I truly mean that. In the same way that you and Doug are trying to keep our culture alive by sharing recipes, our family is trying to do the same by bringing generations of Armenians together to enjoy a cup of coffee together and share stories about our culture.”

What a wonderful family project, and such passion!

To do our taste-test properly, Doug and I gathered a few friends in our home and put their coffee to the test. Naturally, we had to serve ‘nibbles’ to go along with the brew – choreg, string cheese, fruit, cookies.

Doug prepares pot #1 of SARA coffee for our tasting
 Doug, as always, was the coffee maker. Our friends watched as Doug prepared 3 pots of coffee – 2 of the SARA brand, brewed in 2 strengths, and one from a canned brand that’s often used.
Doug pours coffee for our guests
Our SARA coffee-tasting party in full-swing
After our careful sipping and sampling of each cup, here are the comments and final result of our SARA coffee experiment:

Guest's unbiased comments:

SARA coffee transports you to the old world with a rich, robust flavor. It’s smooth yet robust.

The stronger serving was very rich, with a full taste - a premium coffee.

   Grandma (Mayrig) would approve! Reminiscent of family     gatherings around the living room coffee table.

Delicious, with a deep-roast taste.

Subtle flavor with a slightly smoky undertone. You get a burst of flavor with every sip. 

    By the way, if you’re into reading fortunes in the coffee grounds, SARA’s grounds make an interesting story! This is the image Doug’s cup produced. Don’t know what you see, but we all agreed it resembled the Three Wise Men!

Group Analysis:
A Unanimous Decision: The SARA coffee made with the heaping scoop rather than the level scoop was the standout. 

On the other hand, the coffee made using the canned product was a total let-down.

As a way of introducing you to SARA Coffee, Sos provides a Promo (Coupon) Code for a 15% savings. So, if you go to https://saracoffeeco.com/ include the promo code ARMKITCHEN15 to receive the discount on your order. 

Just so you know, Sos informed me that plans for both a dark roast and a decaf version are in the works. 
Also,they don't have a storefront (yet). Customers living in/or visiting the LA area can find SARA products in Armenian grocery stores and bakeries throughout Glendale, including Lord and Villa Bakery on Pacific Ave. in Glendale.


We wish the Nazaryan family and their SARA Coffee Company much success!

Happy sipping!





Friday, April 26, 2019

Gluten-Free Sheet-Pan Lahmajoun – and - Simit

Doug (L) and Aram hug as they meet in Yerevan, April 23, 2015
My husband, Doug, and Aram Aslanian have been close friends for slightly over 60 years. That’s right – 60+ years! You might even consider them brothers.

Despite living in different states, we manage to see each other as often as possible spending quality time while sharing homemade Armenian food and wonderful Armenian beverages (tahn, coffee, cognac, etc.).

Much to Aram’s dismay, he learned that he must follow a gluten free diet. So, when he and his wife Tricia visited us recently, he put me to the test. Aram’s wish was to learn how to make a gluten-free lahmajoun base, and possibly gluten-free choreg.

I didn’t accomplish the choreg request but managed to prepare the gluten-free lahmajoun, and, about 1 dozen simit using left-over dough from the lahmajoun.
Gluten-free Simit using left-over lahmajoun dough. After shaping dough, I brushed tops with beaten egg, sprinkled on sesame seeds, baked for 15-20 minutes at 350°F.

The dough recipe I used, which follows, was made by adapting a gluten-free dough recipe (for pizza) by katie.horgan.75
The meat topping recipe is at the bottom of the post.
Gluten-Free Sheet -Pan  Lahmajoun

Gluten-free Pizza (or Lahmajoun) Dough
Yield for Katie: 1-1/2 crusts, enough for 2 small-medium pizzas, or 1 large and 1 personal pan.
Yield for me: dough for one sheet pan crust and enough left-over dough to make simit

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water, divided
3 cups gluten free flour (which contains xanthan gum - check the ingredient list on the flour bag)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar, divided
1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, combine yeast and 3/4 cup warm water (105° to 110°F). NOTE: Water that is hotter than that will kill the yeast. Cold water won’t properly activate the yeast. Let it rest for 5 minutes to activate. Stir in 1 Tbsp of the sugar after a few minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine gluten free flour, salt, baking powder and remaining 2 Tbsp sugar. Whisk until well combined.
Preparing the dough
Make a well in the dry mixture and add the yeast mixture. Add the olive oil and additional 1/2 cup warm water before stirring. Stir it all together until well combined, using a wooden spoon. (I used my stand mixer fitted with the dough hook to complete the task.) 
Dough pressed into the lightly greased sheet pan
Lightly coat a baking sheet with one-inch sides with non-stick spray. With your fingers press dough into the pan spreading it evenly. Ideally, the dough should be less than ¼” thick. It’s best to work from the center and push to flatten the dough out to the edge of the pan. 

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your fingers, dip them in some extra gluten-free flour.
Put the pan in the oven to pre-bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the dough begins to look dry. Cracks may appear, but that's typical.

Aram and I are getting ready to pop the tray of lahmajoun into the oven to complete baking. He's VERY excited!
Remove partially baked dough from oven and spread the lahmajoun topping evenly covering the dough’s surface. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the crust edge looks golden brown and the lahmajoun topping is completely cooked through. Once baked, allow lahmajoun to rest a few minutes before cutting.

To Serve: Cut into squares and serve with fresh parsley, sliced onions, lemon wedges and for good measure, a chopped salad.
Ready to serve

Wrap and refrigerate any leftovers. Leftover pieces can be reheated the next day,  preferably in the oven rather than in the microwave.

Aram’s Evaluation: He thought the lahmajoun and simit were amazing! I know the meat topping was good, as it was my tried-and-true recipe. Those of us not on a gluten-free diet weren’t as enthusiastic about the crust or simit as Aram was. It wasn’t so much the taste that was disagreeable, but the texture.

Next time Aram visits, we'll make lahmajoun using gluten-free tortillas. It’ll be a huge time-saver! 


Meat topping recipe for Lahmajoun
Lahmajoun topping
Ingredients:
1 lb. ground lamb or beef (or a combination of the two) Note: Ground turkey may be substituted
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1/2 small green pepper, chopped
½ bunch parsley, washed well, stems removed, chopped
1 - 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained well
2 Tbsp. tomato paste or red pepper paste
1 to 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. dried mint
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. sweet paprika
dash cayenne pepper

Directions:
1. To save time, process the onion, peppers, and parsley in a food processor, using the metal “S” blade. Squeeze out any excess liquid - this is VERY important! Be careful not to over-process. Vegetables should still be a bit chunky, not pureed. Note: If chopping by hand, be sure to finely chop the vegetables.

2. In a large bowl, combine all of the topping ingredients, mixing well.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Gluten-free Chickpea-Cardamom-Tahini ‘Pie’: An Accidental Recipe

Aram, our recent house guest, is on a gluten-free diet. While he and his wife Tricia were here, Aram and I experimented making a gluten-free crust for lahmajoun and gluten free simit. (Coming soon in a separate post.)


After Aram and Tricia left for home, I purchased the Sadaf brand of chickpea flour with the idea of making the gluten-free cookie recipe on the back of the product’s bag and sharing the recipe with Aram.

The company’s recipe is as follows:
Chickpea Cookies
Yield: 36 pieces
Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. ground cardamom
3 ½ cups sifted fine chick-pea flour
Directions:
  1. Melt butter over low heat. 
  2. Combine powdered sugar and cardamom in a large bowl. Mix melted butter into the sugar-spice mixture until creamy. 
  3. Add chickpea flour, stirring constantly, to produce dough. 
    Chickpea dough
    Knead well for 10 minutes. Cover and set aside for 2 hours; do not refrigerate.
  4. Preheat oven to 300°F. Roll dough to ¼ inch thickness on a large plate. Cut out cookies with tiny cookie cutters.
  5. Place the cookies 1-inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden.
  6. Remove from oven, cool and carefully put on a serving plate.

I followed the recipe to a “T” through step #3. Once the two hours were up, I tried to lift the ball of dough out of the bowl, but it crumbled into a heap! 
Crumbled chickpea dough

There was NO way I would be able to roll the dough as suggested in step #4.

What to do? I scooped up the crumbles and put them into a mixing bowl. Put about 1+ Tbsp. water and 2 Tbsp. of well-stirred tahini into the dry, crumbly mass. I gently mixed it together with my hands, making sure all was combined. The consistency was similar to a thick brownie batter.


Using an 8-inch glass pie pan which I lightly greased, I pressed the mixture into the pan. I used the back of a fork to create a pattern on the surface and added a few pistachio nuts as a garnish.
Chickpea 'pie' - before baking
The dessert baked for about 25 minutes at 350°F. 
Baked Chickpea-Cardamom-Tahini 'Pie'
The dessert had to cool completely before serving. Note: The longer it sat, the easier it was to slice and serve.
Candy-coated chickpeas
How did it taste? If you’ve ever eaten candy-coated chick peas, that should give you an idea. It was sweet, without being too sweet, with a hint of cardamom and tahini. 
It was actually pretty good, especially with a cup of coffee!


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Happy Easter!

We, at The Armenian Kitchen, wish you and your families a very Happy Easter!


Monday, April 15, 2019

Wondering what to prepare for Easter? Look no further!

I don’t know about you, but we’re all about tradition when it comes to Easter. Here’s a recap of some our Easter favorites.
Dying Easter eggs with onion skins
If you haven’t already gathered onion skins to color eggs for Easter, you’ll have to scurry to do so. If that isn’t an option, there are other ways to color hard-cooked eggs naturally. Click here to learn how.
Chorag (choreg) - perfect for Easter or Anytime!
Zadigi Kahke - Easter Cookies

As far as baking goes, chorag takes center-stage at Easter, as do Easter Cookies (Zadigi Kahke).
Easter egg salad with chorag
Just a suggestion: We sometimes have Easter Egg Salad to go with the chorag. It's a nice way to jazz-up otherwise boring hard-cooked eggs.
Roasted Leg of Lamb
Shish Kebab
The main meal? Lamb, of course! Roasted Leg of Lamb  or Lamb shish kebab.
For side dishes, just scroll through our two recipe lists and select what strikes you. (Our go-to side dishes include rice or bulgur pilaf, and fassoulia without the meat.)
Bulgur Pilaf
Another side dish option, Easter Spinach Salad, comes from Rose Baboian's "Armenian- American" cookbook.
Mini Paklava!
There’s absolutely NO question what dessert will be … Paklava (or mini Paklava), of course!