Friday, January 25, 2019

Lentil-Potato Patties

Whenever I prepare a recipe using lentils, I think of Lent. No, it isn’t the Lenten season yet, but it will be here before you know it.

The Armenian Kitchen’s lentil recipe repertoire is becoming rather extensive – and- we have one more to add … Lentil-Potato Patties from Christine Datian. It’s easy, tasty, and can be made into a truly Lenten dish with a few changes which I  mention below.
NOTE: To easily access our lentil recipes, simply type 'lentil' in the search bar. 
Lentil-Potato Patties from Christine Datian

Lentil-Potato Patties from Christine Datian
Serves 4-6

2 cups cooked red lentils, well drained
2 cups leftover chilled mashed potatoes
1 medium onion, grated
1 cooked carrot, chilled and mashed
2 tablespoons unsalted melted butter
**2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs (or a little more)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Flour, plain bread crumbs or cornmeal for rolling

**Butter or cooking oil for frying

**Sour cream, yogurt, labneh

Garnishes: Chopped parsley, za’atar, lemon zest, sesame seeds

In a small pan, cook onions in butter or oil for a few minutes to soften; do not brown.
In a large bowl, combine and mash together the lentils and potatoes until smooth; add onions, carrots, butter, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, lemon juice, spices, and nuts, if desired, and mix thoroughly.

Form mixture into patties, roll in flour, bread crumbs or cornmeal, and chill for 30 minutes until firm.  Fry patties in butter or oil until lightly browned on both sides.  Drain on paper towels.

NOTE: To bake instead of fry patties, roll in flour, bread crumbs or corn meal.  Place patties on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes. Carefully turn patties over and bake for an additional 12 minutes or until golden.

** Serve with sour cream, yogurt or labneh.

Garnish with a sprinkle parsley, za’atar, lemon zest, or sesame seeds, and a drizzle of olive oil.

***** Recipe changes for Lent *****

A strict Lenten diet would prohibit meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, yogurt, butter).

Here are the changes you would need to make to the above recipe to make it Lent-friendly:
~ Replace 2 Tbsp. butter with 2 Tbsp. oil
~ Replace 2 eggs with about 2-3 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
~ Fry in oil rather than butter
~ Omit sour cream, yogurt, labneh. Replace that with a tahini dressing:

Tahini Dressing:
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup tahini, ¼ cup lemon juice, and salt to taste.

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

Friday, January 18, 2019

Christine Vartanian-Datian's Eggplant Vegetable Soup

Since January is designated as ‘National Soup Month’, I’m happy to share another healthy, hearty creation by Christine Datian - Eggplant Vegetable Soup.

Eggplant Vegetable Soup 

Eggplant Vegetable Soup by Christine Vartanian-Datian
Serves 4-6

1/2 medium onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 to 3 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 1/2 cups eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 cup fresh or canned tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, diced
1 cup zucchini, peeled and diced
1/2 cup yellow squash, chopped
2 stalks celery and top greens, diced
1/2 cup frozen peas, rinsed
4 cups low-sodium chicken, or vegetable, or beef broth - and - 3 cups water (to taste)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 - 15 oz. can white beans or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon each crushed dried basil and oregano (fresh basil and oregano may be used)
Kosher or sea salt and black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, paprika (to taste)
1 small head escarole (or Napa cabbage or spinach), washed and roughly chopped

Garnishing Options: Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, grated, or crumbled Feta cheese, chopped fresh basil, drizzle of olive oil

Sauté the onions and garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pan; cook until the onions are translucent. Add the eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, celery, and peas; toss and continue to cook a few more minutes. Add the broth, water, tomato paste, beans, and spices; bring to a full boil and stir a few times.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 55-60 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. 

About 15 minutes before the soup is done, add the roughly chopped escarole to the soup, stir, and continue cooking.   Adjust seasonings and add more liquid, if necessary.

To serve, ladle soup into individual bowls and garnish with cheese, chopped fresh basil, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Lemon - Chicken - Spinach Soup with Mint by Christine Vartanian Datian

It’s soup season again! It's time to dig out a large pot and whip-up a soup that will warm your body and soul. 
Don’t know what to make? You’re in luck! Christine Datian has a lot of recipes from which to choose, but today’s offering is her Lemon – Chicken - Spinach Soup with Mint.

It sounded so good, I decided to make this for dinner, but discovered I didn't have the exact ingredients she mentioned. 
What did I do? I'll share my version at the end of the post.

Happy cooking!
The Armenian Kitchen's version of Christine's Lemon- Chicken- Spinach Soup with Mint

Lemon - Chicken - Spinach Soup with Mint by Christine Vartanian Datian
Serves 4-6

8 cups low sodium chicken broth or turkey broth (more to taste)
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon each paprika, lemon pepper, and ground sage
Pinch each of oregano and thyme
Juice of one large lemon and zest
2 cups wide egg noodles
1 cup fresh spinach (torn to about half-dollar size)
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups cooked, skinless chicken breast, shredded
Garnishes: Fresh chopped mint, Lemon slices
Olive oil


In a large soup pot, bring the chicken or turkey broth to a full boil; add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, fresh mint, spices, the juice of one lemon and the zest, and stir a few times until the soup boils again.  Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.

Add the egg noodles, spinach, parsley, and shredded chicken about 10-12 minutes before serving; stir now and then to prevent the noodles from sticking. Test the noodles to make sure they’re done - and - serve. 

Garnish soup with chopped fresh mint, thin slices of lemon, or a drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

The Armenian Kitchen's version:

I had to substitute a few ingredients based on what was on hand. I used frozen, chopped spinach instead of fresh; thin, short noodles instead of wide; shredded, cooked turkey instead of chicken, and dried mint instead of fresh.

For the preparation, I first sauteed the onion, carrots, celery and garlic in a little olive oil, over medium heat, until the vegetables were tender. Then, added the broth, seasonings, lemon juice, zest, and frozen chopped spinach. I brought the broth to a boil, added the noodles and cooked, stirring now and then,  for about about 7- 9 minutes until the noodles softened.
At that point I added the parsley and shredded, cooked turkey and cooked until the turkey was heated through.

My soup was garnished with thin, round lemon slices as seen in the photo above.
I'm happy to report, Doug gave it two thumb's-up, so Thank You, Christine!

*Christine’s recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee, Sunset and Cooking Light Magazines, and at  <>
*For Christine’s recipes that have been published in Sunset and Cooking Light Magazines, go to: < <>>

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Kufteh, an Armenian Favorite!

There’s been a lot of buzz about kufteh lately on several Armenian cooking Face Book sites. People are asking: What ingredients are used? Which shape is the best – meatball-shape, football-shape or flying saucer-shape? Is it better to bake, fry it, or boil kufteh? Is it best served with or without madzoon (yogurt)?

The answers will vary based on the region one’s Armenian ancestors came from.

In my family, we have two schools of thought. My mother’s family, from Musa Dagh (Musa Ler), made football shaped kufteh, with extremely thin shells, stuffed to the max with a delicious filling. My father’s side of the family, from Dikranagerd, made flying saucer shaped kuftehs – flat on the bottom, rounded on the top, with an equally tasty filling. 
This is a photo of Kibbeh from Wikepedia, but it gives you the idea of the Musa Ler football-shaped Kufteh.

Our Musa Ler kuftehs were usually brushed with olive oil and baked which produced a lovely golden color and a little crunch from the shell. The center was moist and flavorful. This was served as an entrée with a dollop of madzoon, and a side salad, or served floating in a madzoon-based soup. Sometimes we just ate them hot-out-of-the oven – without accompaniment! 
(Sadly, I never mastered making this style of kufteh. My grandmother tried in vain to teach me how to make the thin, football-shaped shell. "Your hands are too hot", she'd say in broken English. Even dipping my hands in very cold water didn't do the trick for me.)
Dikranagerdtsi-style Kufteh
Our Dikranagerdtsi kuftehs were boiled, heaped on a large serving plate and served with madzoon. The exterior was soft and the center oozed a buttery-meaty filling with every bite. We also have a heart-healthy version of the Dikranagerdtsi-style kufteh. Click here for the recipe and video.

There’s no getting around the fact that preparing kufteh is very time consuming. If you love this dish, but don’t have the time, or an army of helpers, don’t despair. I will share two other ways to get the kufteh taste without the traditional shape or hard work.

#1. Kufteh Deconstructed (This is REALLY easy!)
Serves 4 to 6

Prepare your favorite bulgur pilaf recipe, or, use oursWhile it’s cooking make the filling.
Kufteh Meechoog (Filling)
Kufteh Meechoog (Filling)
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 lb. ground lamb, beef, or turkey
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, washed and finely chopped
ground coriander, allspice, black pepper, paprika to taste
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup pine nuts
1. In a skillet, melt the butter, then add olive oil to heat. Add chopped onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft - about 10 to 15 minutes.
2. In a separate skillet, cook the ground meat until it is no longer pink. Drain any excess fat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add meat to the skillet with the onions. Stir in the remaining seasonings, parsley, and pine nuts. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.
To serve: Place bulgur pilaf in the center of the plate (or bowl), top with meechoog, and a dollop of madzoon, if desired. A tomato-cucumber salad makes a perfect accompaniment.

Sini Kufteh

#2. Sini Kufteh (Oven-baked kufteh)
Yield: 8+/- pieces - depending on size

Shell Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups fine (#1) bulgur
1 cup lukewarm water (or just enough to cover bulgur)
2 lb. finely ground beef (or lamb, turkey) - not too lean
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Aleppo red pepper
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions for the shell:                                                   
1. Place the bulgur in a large bowl and cover with warm water. Allow bulgur to absorb the water to soften. Drain excess water, if necessary.
2. Place meat in a large bowl.  Add the bulgur and seasonings to the meat, mixing with your hands until well-combined. If the mixture seems a bit dry, add a little warm water, and mix it in with your hands until you reach your desired the consistency.
3. Divide the mixture into two equal parts. Set aside until ready to use.

Filling (Meechoog) Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef, lamb or turkey – not too lean
3 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. Aleppo red pepper
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ to 1/3 cup pine nuts
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions for the filling:
1. In a large skillet, cook the meat over medium heat until it is no longer pink. Drain any excess fat. Remove meat from pan.
2. Using the same skillet, melt the butter and add the olive oil. Add onions and cook until onions become soft. Add the seasonings, parsley and cooked meat; cook another 2 minutes; remove from heat and allow filling to cool. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Stir in pine nuts. Set filling aside until ready to use.
Assembling the sini kufteh
Side view of sini kufteh layers

Assembling and baking the Sini Kufteh:
1. Use a 13”x9” baking pan, or a large (10”) round pan or pie pan. Lightly grease the bottom of the pan.
2. Press one portion of the shell mixture into the bottom of the pan, flattening it evenly to fit the shape of the pan.
3. Evenly spread all of the filling over the bottom layer of the shell mixture.
4. NOTE: Keep a bowl of warm water on hand for this step. Using a large piece of parchment paper or waxed paper, flatten the remaining portion of the shell mixture with your hands or a rolling pin so that it will fit the shape of the pan. Lift the paper with flattened topping and carefully invert it over the filling in the baking pan; gently peel the paper away and lightly press down the top layer. If the top layer cracks or separates, dip your fingers in the bowl of warm water and press the topping back together. Tuck in the edges.
5. Using a knife that’s been dipped in water, score the top layer into squares or diamond- shaped portions. Brush surface with a little olive oil or melted butter.
6. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 35-40 minutes, or until top is golden brown.
Serve with plain yogurt, and a refreshing chopped salad.