Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Some Traditional (and non-traditional) Armenian recipes to serve in celebration of the New Year and Armenian Christmas!

Just when you thought the excessive, festive eating and drinking was behind you, a new year (and a new decade) – plus Armenian Christmas follow right behind.

Enjoy the festivities with a few of our favorite Armenian dishes and beverages.

May the New Decade bring peace, joy, and good health to you all! 
Shnorhavor Nor Dari yev Soorp Dznount!

Anoush Abour


Dare Hats 

Lamb meatballs and other party favorites 

Armenian Sangria

Coffee with Armenian brandy
Armenian sangria and coffee with Armenian brandy 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Blessing of Pomegranates

Today, many Armenian Churches are performing a fairly new tradition - blessing pomegranates.
Our Blessed Pomegranate
When and how did this begin?

A few years ago, St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, FL (our former parish) had it’s very first Blessing of Pomegranates. Here is an excerpt from the church newsletter from late 2015 explaining this then-new tradition:

“In 2015, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, blessed pomegranates in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin for the first time and established it as an annual tradition on New Year's Eve (or day).

The Pomegranate is considered by many faith traditions to be the fruit of the tree of knowledge and a symbol of abundance and life.

The custom of blessing fruits was known among the Israelites.  The Jews offered to the Temple the first harvest, which included wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey.

In nations of the East, the pomegranate is considered to be the king of all fruits, not only because of its pleasing taste and medicinal properties, but also because the top of the pomegranate resembles a crown.  Some believe that the design of ancient royal crowns was based on the pomegranate "crown".

The pomegranate has been known in the East from the 12th to the 7th centuries BC.  Because Cartagena was known for its pomegranates, the ancient Romans called the pomegranate malum punicum 'Cartagena (Phoenician) apple' and malum granatum 'granular apple'.

As a national symbol, the pomegranate has been widely used in Armenian architecture, carpet weaving, arts and crafts and manuscripts illuminated by Gregory Khlatetsi, Toros Taronatsi, Toros Roslin, and in the Haghpat and other Gospels. 

In Christianity the pomegranate symbolizes the diversity of God's grace, the Church.  Just as the seeds of the pomegranate are separated by thin membranes yet held tightly together, in the same way the Christian Church holds all Christians around the world together in Christ's love; though they are separate, they are not divided.  Thus, the pomegranate shows unity in diversity.

The pomegranate's crown represents Jesus' crown and His sovereignty over the entire world.  The red color symbolizes His salvific Blood that was shed for all.  The popular belief is that each one contains 365 seeds corresponding to the number of days in a year, symbolizing new life in Christ and the New Year.”

Here’s a recipe forQuinoa with Pomegranate and Pistachios’ from actor Stanley Tucci, which I posted a number of years ago: 

Note: For more pomegranate recipes, scroll through the recipes lists on the right side of the screen - or - go to the search bar at the top of the page and type 'pomegranate'.
Stanley Tucci's Quinoa with Pomegranate and Pistachios (Photo from AARP magazine)
Quinoa with Pomegranate and Pistachios

(A gluten-free recipe from Stanley Tucci)
Serves 6


2 cups quinoa
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds plus 2 Tbsp. for serving
3 Tbsp. salted pistachio nuts, shelled
3 scallions, chopped
1 orange, peeled and sliced into rounds, optional
Extra virgin olive oil for the orange


1. Rinse quinoa in cold water to remove its bitterness.
2. Bring 4 cups salted water to a boil. Add quinoa, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Prepare a dressing with the 2 Tbsp. EVOO, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place quinoa in a serving bowl. Toss with the dressing; set aside to cool. 
4. Gently mix in the pomegranate seeds, pistachios and scallions. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Serve with sliced oranges drizzled with olive oil, if desired.  

Friday, December 20, 2019

A Quick and Easy Simit Recipe

Our freezer is beginning to overflow with goodies I’ve been preparing in advance for our up-coming Christmas celebrations. I’ve already made - and froze - lule kebab, mini lahmajouns (short-cut version), manti (long version), a variety of cookies, and now, simit. There’s still plenty of cooking to do, but those recipes must be prepared just before company arrives.

I’ve posted several simit recipes in the past but decided to try Deegeen (Mrs.) Makrouhi’s version. Hers is simple, doesn’t take very long to make (no yeast involved), and has a very nice texture. Doug said it reminded him of a smaller version of his mother’s choreg. I took that as a huge compliment.
First tray of Simit - more to make!
I added my own touch to the simit recipe – meaning that I incorporated my usual choreg spices into the dough. (See recipe below).

When it’s time to serve, I’ll have a plate of string cheese, olives, and basterma to round it out!

Simit (adapted from Deegeen Makrouhi’s recipe)
Yields about 40 (1-oz.) pieces

1 cup corn oil
1 cup milk (I used fat free)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. freshly ground mahlab
1 tsp. ground fennel seed
1 tsp. ground anise seed
6 cups flour
Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten
Garnish: toasted sesame seeds and/or black sesame seeds, optional

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together (except for egg wash and garnishing options) to form a workable, non-sticky dough.

NOTE: If you have a food scale, pinch off some dough and weigh 1-ounce pieces, rolling them into balls. If you don’t have a food scale, pinch off pieces about the size of a golf ball.

On an un-floured work surface, roll each ball by hand into a nine-inch rope. Twist each rope into a simple braid and place it on an ungreased baking sheet. These don’t spread, so you can place them fairly close together.

Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and/or black sesame seeds, if desired. 
Bake at 375 °F for about 20-25 minutes (depending on your oven) or until golden brown.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Manti – My Christmas Gift to my Daughter

Doug and I are thrilled that our daughter, Mandy, and son-in-law, Ron will be spending Christmas with us.

When I asked Mandy what special dishes she’d like me to prepare, she listed some of her favorites: tass kebab, sarma, midia dolma, banerov hatz, to name a few. All Ron asked for are cookies!

What I know she’d REALLY love to have is Manti. However, she knows that, in the past, my effort to make manti was less than stellar, therefore it wasn't mentioned.

Since I want this Christmas to be extra memorable, I decided to roll up my sleeves and give manti-making another try. This time, no shortcuts.
The final product: Baked Manti
Not long ago, I featured a post about Chef Hrant Arakelian and his Manti recipe. I decided to follow his recipe for making the dough. The meat filling recipe I used is a pretty standard one. What I was truly hesitant about was making this on my own; it is a daunting task, otherwise.

Fortunately, an Armenian friend of mine, Linda K., offered to assist me, so without hesitation, I accepted. Before Linda arrived, I’d made Chef Hrant’s dough (very easy to prepare as it turned out), and a meat filling.
Even with help, it took the two of us 3 hours to roll, cut, stuff, pinch, and bake approximately 180 pieces of Manti!

Here’s how we did it:

Chef Hrant’s Dough Recipe
3 cups of all-purpose Flour
2 whole large eggs
½ cup of warm water (it’s important that the water is warm- about 100 degrees F)  
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
Dough-making as per Chef Hrant
Put the flour in a mound on the counter and make a well in the middle, crack the eggs in a separate bowl (just in case any shell breaks in) then add them to the middle of the flour  add the oil, water and salt.

Use a fork to whisk the liquids while slowly incorporating the flour from the sides.
Manti dough done
Once the flour is mostly incorporated use your hands to knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, you want a dough that forms a nice ball and springs back when you press your finger on the surface. If the dough is super sticky you can dust it with more flour as you knead. It’s always better to start off with a slightly wetter dough as you can easily add more flour but it’s very hard to add more water once you start to knead the dough.
Dough- wrapped and resting
Once you have a nice dough ball wrap it with plastic wrap or place it in a zip top bag and let it rest on the counter for 30 min to an hour. This step is important to allow the starches in the flour to hydrate properly and to give you a smooth and slightly stretchy dough.

If you want to make the dough a day ahead wrap it after you knead it and put it in the fridge for up to 2 days, anything more and the dough can pick up strange flavors.
When you are ready to roll, place the dough on the counter for an hour to come to room temp.

Manti Filling Ingredients:
1 lb. lean ground beef (lean ground lamb or turkey can be substituted)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1or 2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, black pepper, freshly ground coriander, Aleppo red pepper, and allspice to taste
½ cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped

Filling Directions:
In a non-stick skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic, stirring frequently, until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, add ground beef, salt, pepper, ground coriander, Aleppo red pepper, allspice to taste, cooled onion mixture, and chopped parsley. Combine until ingredients are well-blended.
Manti ready to bake
The Assembly:
Divide the dough in to 5 equal parts and proceed to roll it out.

Roll the dough with a lightly floured rolling pin to about 1/8-inch thickness. You should be able to barely see light though the dough.
Dough was divided into 5 balls, rolled with a rolling pin, cut with multi-wheeled cutter & pizza wheel into 1 1/2-in squares. 
Once the dough is rolled, use a pastry cutter or pizza wheel and a ruler to cut the dough in to 1 1/2- inch for canoe-shaped Manti. (Note: I purchased a multi-wheel dough cutter for this task. It didn’t cut through completely in all areas, but did a good job of marking the dough. The pizza wheel completed the task.)
The first shaped manti
Put a large chickpea size ball of the meat in the center of the dough square and bring up two opposite sides and pinch them leaving the center where the meat is open. It should look like a little canoe, with the meat ball nestled in the middle.

Chef Hrant’s Note: When you are forming the dough and sticking the edges together, resist the temptation to wet the edges; this just makes the dough super soft and hard to work with. I also find that dusting the fingers I am using to pinch the dough in a little flour helps the dough from sticking to me.
The second pan of Manti
Before arranging the shaped manti in the baking pan, I melted 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter and spread it evenly in the bottom of the large, round baking pan. (I ended up using a second, rectangular pan as well.) They were baked in a hot 375°F oven for about 25 to 30 minutes - until the edges of the dough started to brown slightly.

Chef’s Note: If serving immediately: Remove pan of baked manti from the oven and pour on some chicken stock - just enough to come to the top edge of the Manti. Put it back in the oven for a minute or so to cook the manti to allow the liquid to absorb.

Since I’m not serving the manti until Mandy is here, I completely cooled the baked manti, placed them in freezer bags and froze them.

When it’s time to serve, I will defrost the manti in the refrigerator overnight. To heat, I’ll place defrosted manti in a lightly buttered baking pan, bake at 350°F for about 10 minutes or until heated through.

While the Manti bakes, I’ll heat 2 cups (or more) of chicken broth in a saucepan, enhanced with a tablespoon of ‘Better than Bouillon’ (or bouillon cubes) for extra flavor.

To serve: Place broth into individual serving bowls, add the amount of Manti desired. Top it with a dollop of plain (or garlic) yogurt and sprinkle with ground sumac, if desired.

Friday, December 6, 2019

A Chorag Recipe from the Holy Trinity Armenian Church Cookbook

Over the past few months, I’ve posted several recipes from the “Armenian and Selected Favorite Recipes” cookbook published by Fresno’s Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church Trinity Guild Ladies.

Christine Datian, whose family attends that church, asked if I’d share their chorag recipe with you. 
How could I refuse?
After all, who can resist chorag?
Chorag shaped into loaves
Makes 2-3 dozen pieces, depending on size - OR - shape into loaves as pictured

2 sticks (or 1 cup) butter and 1 cup shortening, melted together
1 small (8 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 small ( 8 oz.) can water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 yeast cakes - or 2 (1/4 oz.) packets of active dry yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup of warm water
5 eggs
8 kernels whole mahleb seeds, crushed (sold in Middle Eastern stores)
8 cups sifted flour

1 beaten egg for egg wash
Garnish with sesame seeds

In a large bowl, mix together the melted butter and shortening, milk, water, sugar, salt, yeast, and eggs. Add the crushed mahleb. Gradually add sifted flour and mix to form a soft dough.

Cover and let rise for two hours or until double in size. Roll out and cut to desired shapes,or twist into braids, or large loaves. 

Place on ungreased baking sheets, spacing them to allow for expansion. Let rise again on the sheets for about one hour.

Brush tops with egg wash; garnish each top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. 

Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until golden brown.