Friday, April 26, 2019

Gluten-Free Sheet-Pan Lahmajoun – and - Simit

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.

Doug (L) and Aram hug as they meet in Yerevan, April 23, 2015

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

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

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
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

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
1 cup unsalted butter
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. ground cardamom
3 ½ cups sifted fine chick-pea flour
  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!

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!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Chickpea-Tahini and Brown Rice Pie

If you’re looking for a hearty, nourishing meal that satisfies a Lenten, vegetarian, and/or vegan diet, this just might be the one!
The hearty crust and creamy, slightly crunchy chickpea-tahini-nut filling provides a variety of textures to please your palate.

Chickpea-Tahini and Brown Rice Pie (Photo credit: Diana Herrington. Photos below are from

Chickpea-Tahini and Brown Rice Pie
Serves 4 to 6
 (Recipe adapted from Diana Herrington,
Filling Ingredients:
1 onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 -15 oz. can chickpeas, drained, and rinsed
¼ cup tahini (sesame seed paste), well-stirred
1/4 cup nuts, chopped (walnuts or pecans work well)           
Salt and pepper to taste

Filling Directions:
Chickpea-tahini-nut filling
1. SautÄ— onion in a little olive oil until onions begin to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, parsley, cumin and coriander, and cook 1 more minute.

2. Add chickpeas and tahini.  Mix together, adding a little water, if necessary, to achieve a creamy, sauce-like consistency. Stir and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Add chopped nuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings, if necessary. Set aside.

Pie Shell Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
1 cup cooked short grain brown rice** (prepared according to package directions)
2 Tbsp. fine chickpea flour                                
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

(** I used Uncle Ben's parboiled long-grain brown rice, and it worked well.)

Shell Directions:
Sesame seeds coat the bottom of the pie pan
1. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on the bottom of a pie pan that has been lightly coated with vegetable cooking spray.  Set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, place cooked brown rice and chickpea flour. Add water, a little at a time. Gently mash with a fork to create a sticky dough-like mixture. (NOTE: Do not add water all at once!)
Brown rice crust
3. Place rice mixture in pie pan. With wet fingers, press rice mixture to create a ‘crust’.
Ready to bake!

4. Spoon chickpea filling into the crust spreading evenly.

5. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 450°F oven for 25 - 35 minutes. Allow pie to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Serve with a tossed salad.