Thursday, May 30, 2019

Celery, Avocado and Cucumber Salad - a recipe from Christine Datian

It’s time to start thinking about healthy, cool, refreshing recipes for summer.  Christine Datian’s Celery, Avocado and Cucumber Salad hits all those marks!
You can make this dish as simple or elaborate as you like. Christine offers some yummy suggestions at the end of her recipe that will really give the salad pizzazz and jazz-up any summertime meal.  
Christine Datian's Celery, Avocado and Cucumber Salad
Celery, Avocado and Cucumber Salad
by Christine Vartanian-Datian
Serves 6

6 cups sliced celery, tender leaves included, sliced on an angle
2 large avocados, cut into pieces or sliced
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, diced
2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, washed, drained
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
6-8 radishes, chopped or sliced thinly
1/2 cup each chopped flat-leaf parsley and mint
1/4 cup marinated black olives
****                ****                ****
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons (or red wine or balsamic vinegar to taste)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon sumac (or lemon zest)
Olive oil
Garnishing Options: Crumbled feta cheese, ricotta cheese or queso fresco, toasted pine nuts, pecans or walnuts, fresh lemon or lime wedges
Salad Preparation:
Combine the celery, avocado and cucumbers with the remaining vegetables and olives; toss.

Dressing Preparation:
In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, pepper and sumac (or lemon zest).

Before Serving:
Toss dressing with salad to coat. Adjust seasonings if needed, cover, and marinate for one hour in the refrigerator.

When ready to serve, transfer salad to a serving plate with a slotted spoon (leaving behind any excess liquid).
Garnish with cheese and/or toasted nuts; if desired.
Serve with fresh lemon or lime wedges.

Christine’s Suggestions: To jazz things up a bit, optional additions to this salad may include orange or grapefruit segments, diced apple, chopped dates, pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries, golden raisins, pears, marinated artichoke hearts or mushrooms, or fresh grapes.  Toss with a citrus poppy seed dressing or other dressing of your choice in place of oil and lemon juice.

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

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 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 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

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


  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

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

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

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

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.

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 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!