Saturday, March 30, 2019

Peanut Butter Kufteh - a Unique Lenten Recipe

During Lent many take it upon themselves to take a step back and review their lives. Some choose to follow a strict  diet forgoing meat, dairy, eggs, alcohol, sweets, and the like.

If you’re one who prefers to follow a strict Lenten diet, you might want to try this recipe which offers a unique blend of flavors.
Some of St. Sarkis Women's Guild Members (L- R: Robyn, Joanne, Donna, Maro, Betty, Diane, and Noelle)
The Women’s Guild of St. Sarkis Armenian Church inCharlotte, NC reserved one day to gather in the church’s kitchen and prepare a Lenten recipe not known to many – Peanut Butter Kufteh.  Since I’d posted this recipe a while back, I was asked to ‘lead’ the project, meaning I would gather the ingredients, and share the recipe. Easily done.

Once the ladies arrived, sleeves were rolled up and work was begun. We had lots of fun while learning from each other in the process!
Peanut Butter Kufteh
Peanut Butter Kufteh (Peanut Butter filled Patties)
Yields about 24-30 kuftehs (depending on size)
Filling Ingredients:
21 oz. chunky (or smooth) peanut butter (3/4 of a 24-oz. jar)
3 cups chopped onion
1 tsp. dried mint
¼ tsp. dried basil
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp. salt
Outer Shell Ingredients:
2 ½ cups fine bulgur (#1 size)
1½ cups oatmeal
1½ cups farina (Cream of Wheat)
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried mint
¼ tsp. dried basil
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 ½ to 3 cups hot water

Peanut Butter Filling
Filling Directions:
Mix all of the filling ingredients in the order listed until well-blended. Set aside.
Shell ingredients
Outer Shell Directions:
1. Mix together the bulgur, oatmeal, farina, flour, salt, mint, basil, cayenne, and black pepper; add most of the hot water, stirring to create a dough. Knead. If mixture is too dry, add a little more hot water. If mixture becomes too wet, add a bit more flour or farina. The dough should not be too sticky.

2. Take a ball of the dough the size of a golf ball. Make an indentation in the center with your thumb and keep opening and shaping with your index and middle finger. Press down in center and sides, rotating until you get a thin shell.

3. Fill the shell with one tablespoon or more of the filling. Seal the top and smooth with wet hands. (Keep a bowl of water handy to dip your hands to ease this process.) Shape the kufteh so that it’s flat on the bottom and slightly rounded on the top. If that’s too hard to master, keep the shape round.
Shaped kuftehs before boiling
To make the shell as thin as possible, we lined a small plate with plastic wrap, took a golf ball sized piece of the 'dough', flattened it into a circle by hand, then gently lifted it off the plastic - while trying not to break it. You really do have to keep a small bowl of water to dip your hands into for this process. The water helps 'glue' the outer shell together. After placing a spoonful of filling in the center,  gently encase the filling with the outer shell. Finally, smooth the surface with wet fingers, making sure the kufteh is flat on the bottom and slightly rounded on the top.

4. Place shaped kutfehs on a waxed paper-lined tray or plate, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

5. While the kuftehs chill, boil water in a large pot with some salt.

6. Remove kuftehs from the refrigerator, and boil, in small batches, for about 10 minutes until all are cooked. Serve immediately.

If you prefer, after the kuftehs are boiled, place them on a paper towel-lined tray and pat dry. Lightly oil the tops of each kufteh. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for a few minutes or until the tops are lightly browned.

Serve with tahini sauce, if desired. (See recipe below)

To freeze the kufteh: After kufteh is boiled, cool completely. Wrap individually in plastic wrap to prevent them from sticking together, and store them in a freezer storage bag.

To defrost and reheat: Defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Boil some lightly salted water; reduce to a gentle boil. Add kufteh without crowding, and heat for about 5 minutes. Or, follow the instructions above for heating in the oven. 

Tahini Sauce

1–2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup tahini paste, well-stirred
¼ to ½  cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup cold water, more if needed

Optional Garnish: 1/4 cup freshly chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley, thick stems removed


Using a garlic press, crush the garlic cloves. Place on a plate and mash with salt create a paste.

Add the mashed garlic, tahini paste and ¼ cup of lime juice to the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Add a little bit of water and blend again. Taste to see if you need to add more lime juice. If the consistency is thicker than you’d like, add more water until you reach the desired consistency. 

NOTE: Tahini sauce will thicken as it emulsifies.

Transfer the tahini to a serving bowl, and garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if you wish. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Rubina Sevadjian's One-Pot Vegan Lenten Dish

Rubina Sevadjian
For those of you who don’t know Rubina Sevadjian, allow me to introduce her. Rubina is an author, world-traveler, gardener, cook, and a dear, albeit, long-distance friend. 

At the start of Lent Rubina sent me a message asking for vegan recipe ideas because her intention was to follow a strict Lenten diet. I was happy to oblige.

I'm not sure if Rubina made any of my suggested recipes, but she sent me one she created herself. It doesn’t have a formal name, there are no specific amounts, but it sounds great – especially if you like pasta, veggies, chili flakes and a LOT of garlic.
Read on and give it a try!

Rubina’s One-Pot Vegan Lenten Dish


NOTERubina says: “Any ratio of each ingredient would work depending on how hungry one is. But lots of garlic is a must!” 

Edamame beans
broccoli florets
Maltagliatti pasta (any pasta would work)
olive oil
garlic, minced (lots)
two types of chili flakes—chipotle and Bird’s eye (to taste)

In a large pot bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add edamame & pasta first; cook for a few minutes; add broccoli and continue to cook until edamame, pasta and broccoli are tender, but not mushy. Drain in a colander.
Using the same pot lightly fry the garlic & 2 types of chili flakes in olive oil. Return all to the pot and mix well, sprinkle with sea salt! 


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Happy 10th Birthday (or is it Anniversary?) to!

For the past ten years The Armenian Kitchen has spanned the globe as we've shared and gathered Armenian recipes while making new friends and re-connecting with family.

We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for helping to make this continuing journey possible!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Stovetop Green Beans with Potatoes

My grandmother, Yeranuhe Genjian-Vartanesian, - as well as all of my grandparents - came from humble beginnings. Yeranuhe Nanny came from the mountains of Musa Dagh, Syria. She was one of the fortunate Armenians who found her way to America in 1921 where, upon arrival to Ellis Island, she married my grandfather, Oskan Vartanesian. (Sadly, how and when he arrived in America is not exactly known.)

Nanny could take ordinary ingredients, put them together in such a way that would make you beg for more. When she cooked, everything was made from scratch, down to making her own red pepper paste. Luckily, today we can take some shortcuts with results that are just as pleasing.
Yeranuhe Nanny's Stovetop Green Beans and Potatoes
Here is a modern take on one of Nanny’s humble dishes -Stovetop Green Beans with Potatoes:

Stovetop Green Beans with Potatoes 
Serves 4 to 5
Ingredients for Stovetop Green Beans with Potatoes
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium-sized sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. ground sumac
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried mint, crushed
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes with its liquid
3 Tbsp. red pepper paste mixed into 1 cup of water (Note: tomato paste with a tsp. of paprika may be substituted for the red pepper paste)
1 to 1 ½ lbs. fresh French (thin) green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half (FYI: Frozen green beans are a good substitute!)
4 to 6 small red skinned potatoes, washed, unpeeled, cut into quarters (If larger potatoes are used, cut them into smaller chunks.)
lemon juice, optional
Garnish: chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley (thick stems removed); lemon wedges or slices – pits removed

In a large pot, heat 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and a dash of salt; cook, stirring now and then, until onions begin to soften (about 5 mins). Add the garlic, allspice, cumin, sumac, oregano and mint. Cook - and - stir a few more minutes.
Green beans and potatoes simmering away!
Add tomatoes with liquid, pepper paste diluted in water, green beans, and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine ingredients.
Increase the heat until mixture starts to boil gently.  

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and cook about 20 minutes, or until green beans and potatoes are fork-tender; stir occasionally.

Important tip: About 10 minutes into the cooking process, check to see if more water needs to be added. Add a small amount at a time, if necessary, and stir.
Before serving, adjust seasonings, if desired.

Transfer green beans and potatoes to a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon wedges or slices.

Serve with your favorite crusty bread.

Click here to read about Hatz Baboog (literal translation: Bread Grandfather) who delivered our favorite bread right to our home!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Lentil - Olive - Mushroom Patties

One of my go-to Lenten recipes is Lentil - Olive - Mushroom Patties. It’s easy, tasty and satisfying. If you prefer a heartier version, a variation of this is listed below. 
Lentil-Olive-Mushroom Patties
Lentil - Olive - Mushroom Patties   
Yield: 5 patties

        1 Tbsp. olive oil
        1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
        1/2 pound white button mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
        2 cloves garlic, minced
        Freshly ground black pepper
        1/2 tsp. dried oregano
        ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
        1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives (Note: If olives are too salty, rinse before adding.)
        1-1/4 cups cooked lentils, (canned or dried, cooked lentils can be used)
        1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs, plus more for coating
        1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
        Additional olive oil for pan-frying

1. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Sautė the onions for about 3 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms, garlic, black pepper, oregano, and parsley; sautė for 7 to 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are cooked. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

2. Place cooled onion-mushroom mixture into the food processor along with the olives, lentils, ½ cup breadcrumbs, and lemon juice. Pulse until almost smooth, leaving some of the ingredients chunky for added texture. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and thoroughly combine. 

  • No additional salt is added to this recipe since the olives are rather salty.
  • VARIATION: For a heartier final product, add about 1/2 cup of pre-cooked brown rice, bulgur, or quinoa to the mixture in this step.
3 Using a ½ cup measure, divide the mixture into 5 equal patties.  Slightly flatten them and coat each side in a little more of the bread crumbs. (This will create a nice crust on the surface when cooked.)

4. Place the shaped, coated patties on a plate lined with plastic wrap; cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, or until ready to cook.

5. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the patties for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until lightly golden brown and heated through.

NOTE:  The patties can also be baked in a preheated 350°F oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray. Spray a little cooking spray on the top of each patty to keep them for getting too dry; bake for 15 minutes. Turn them over and bake for an additional 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Eggplant-Chickpea Casserole: Perfect for Lent!

Preparing meals during Lent shouldn't be a challenge, if you know the guidelines.

According to information from the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, “The oldest Armenian Lenten traditions hardly allowed for the consumption of any food at all. Indeed, the Armenian Church sometimes refers to Lent as Aghouhatzk, meaning “salt and bread,” because at one time these elements were the only permitted foods. Over time, Lenten rules have changed to allow any food – except for those which derive from animals (meat and milk, e.g.). Alcoholic beverages were also forbidden. These rules were based on the Biblical principle that many human vices proceed from eating and drinking.”

Some choose to follow a completely vegan diet during Lent, which means they will only consume vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes and will avoid animal products, such as meat, dairy, and even honey.
How strictly one follows a Lenten diet is entirely up to the individual.

To get you started, here is a Lenten-appropriate recipe for Eggplant-Chickpea Casserole.
Eggplant-Chickpea Casserole
Eggplant-Chickpea Casserole
Serves 4 as a main dish**; serves 6 as a side dish

1 eggplant, (approx. 1 to 1 ½ lbs.) cut into cubes
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 bell pepper (any color), diced
1 carrot, pared and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried mint
1/2 tsp. ground sumac
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Salt, to taste
2 medium zucchinis, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 -15-oz can diced tomatoes (with liquid)
1 to 2 - 15-oz can(s) chickpeas (with liquid) **NOTE: If serving this as a main dish, add 2 cans of chick peas for a heartier meal.
Garnish: Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Place a colander in the sink; place cubed eggplant in colander; sprinkle with salt. Allow eggplant to release any bitterness for about 20 minutes. Rinse with water and pat dry on paper towels.
Sauteed Vegetables

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil on a medium-high temperature until oil shimmers. Add onions, peppers, and chopped carrot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, bay leaves, dried herbs and spices, and salt to taste. Cook another minute, stirring until fragrant.
Add eggplant, zucchini, diced tomatoes with liquid, chickpeas with liquid. Stir to combine.

Bring to a boil and cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring often. Remove and discard bay leaves.

Remove skillet from stove top. Transfer ingredients to a lightly greased, oven-safe casserole dish or baking pan with 2-inch sides.
Ready to Bake

Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, or until eggplant and zucchini are tender. (About half-way through baking, check to see if more liquid is needed. If so, carefully remove casserole from oven and stir in enough water to moisten without making it soupy.)

When vegetables are tender, remove casserole from oven and drizzle top with a little olive oil; garnish with fresh parsley.

This dish can be served hot or at room temperature. For a main dish, serve with a side salad and lavash.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Sonia Tashjian's Comfort Soup - NUNIK ABUR or SHELL SOUP

Years ago, I posted several recipes for a soup called Noonoog (spelling varies). This soup is made with chickpeas, mint, lemon, pasta – elbows or shell-shaped work well, and sometimes meat. 

My version of Noonoog made with chicken broth, chick peas, mint, and elbow macaroni, etc.
NOTE: To make these Noonoog recipes Lenten friendly, do not use meat, and use water or vegetable broth instead of beef or chicken broth.

Sonia Tashjian's Nunik Abour recipes
Sonia Tashjian recently sent me her ancestral recipe for Nunik Abour, or Shell Soup, along with a bit of its history.

NUNIK ABUR or SHELL SOUP (from Musaler)
According to Sonia, the original name of this soup is TERYI SHURBU. It is called this due to the homemade pasta. There are two versions of the soup: one is with tomato paste & the second one is with paste + matsun (plain yogurt), which gives the soup a very delicious, unique taste.
Sonia said, "In Musaler, in the days of our ancestors, pasta was prepared like this."
Sonia’s Nunik Abour
1.- cook the shell pasta in salty water, add 1 - 2 garlic gloves while cooking.
2.- add tomato - pepper paste, sour cream (or boiled matsun), already cooked chickpea, butter or cooked meat (if desired); continue to cook.
3.- season it with red & black pepper, mint.
4.- you can add lemon juice in the 1-st version (without matsun).