Saturday, December 19, 2020

Be on the Lookout for our 2021 "Kitchen" Renovation!

We're taking an extended holiday vacation this year but we're not sitting with our feet up by the fire sipping Armenian brandy. Well, OK, sure we are. But we're also working hard to renovate The Armenian Kitchen

Sometime soon we'll unveil a new design that will be easier to use and more helpful than ever. We hope it won't take long but we're certain the wait will be worthwhile. 

In the meantime, have a Merry American Christmas, a Blessed Armenian Christmas and a Healthy, Safe New Year

*The Kalajians*

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Christmas Cookies, Traditional Paklava and other sweet Treats

We all know this has been a tough year, but it’s finally coming to an end. With that in mind, let’s focus on the celebration of Christmas.

I can think of no better way to prepare, than by making an assortment of Christmas cookies, traditional paklava and other sweet treats!

Here are some of our favorites. We hope you’ll like them as much as we do!

From our Kitchen to yours, we wish you all a Very Merry Christmas – and – a Happy, Healthy, Peaceful New Year!!

Almond Pine Nut Cookies  
Almond Pine Nut Cookies

Apricot Crescent Cookies
Apricot Crescent Cookies

Apricot Logs
 
Apricot Logs

Apricot Leather 
Apricot Leather

Kourabia 
Kahke

Nazook 
Chocolate Tahini Truffles

Boorma
Cheese Kadaif

Nut-filled Kadaif
 
Nut-filled Kadaif

 
Cream filling for Kadaif

And Last but not least ...
Traditional Paklava (Recipe follows.)
Traditional Paklava - ready to serve!
TRADITIONAL PAKLAVA

Yield: 30 to 40 pieces

Fillo dough, clarified butter, simple syrup, and chopped nuts with cinnamon. 
Filling Ingredients:

2 cups walnuts, pecans or pistachio nuts, chopped

1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

Main Ingredients:

11/2 cups clarified unsalted butter, melted (*See below)

1 lb. Phyllo dough, thawed

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, combine nuts and cinnamon. Set aside.

2. Lightly brush a 9" x 13" baking pan with melted butter. (FYI: I made a smaller amount in an 8"x8" pan.)

3. Place half of the phyllo sheets (20 sheets) on the bottom of the pan, lightly brushing every (or every other) sheet with melted butter.

4. Spread with nut mixture.

Buttered bottom layers are cover with nut-cinnamon filling.
5. Layer the rest of the phyllo sheets (20 more sheets) on top, lightly brushing each sheet, including the top layer, with melted butter.

6. Place tray of unbaked paklava in refrigerator for about45 minutes to one hour before attempting to cut.

Paklava ready to bake.

7. To make diamond-shaped cuts: using a very sharp knife, cut diagonally, then make vertical cuts through phyllo dough.

8. Bake in preheated 350°- 375° F oven (depending on your oven) for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden brown.

9. As soon as the paklava comes out of the oven, spoon some of the cooled syrup over the top of each piece. Cool completely before serving.

 

*To clarify butter: Melt about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups butter or butter and margarine over low heat until foam appears. Skim foam and keep on low heat for about 15 minutes or until water has evaporated and salt and solids settle to bottom of pan. Cool about 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully pour clarified butter into container, leaving salt and solids at bottom of the pan. Discard solids.

Simple Syrup Ingredients:

2 cups sugar

1 ½ cups water

1 strip of lemon peel or a drop of lemon juice

Directions:

Bring all ingredients to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and cool.

For the Mini Paklava recipe, click here.

Mini Paklava

Friday, December 4, 2020

My Post-Thanksgiving Pumpkin Project- Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Custard, and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!

In late October, my friend Linda gifted me with two small pie pumpkins – not pumpkin pies, but pumpkins from which pies – or other pumpkin goodies - could be made. They are the same type of pumpkins she used to make her pumpkin geregoor.
My pumpkin gift from Linda

With my gift, I planned to make a couple of recipes – pumpkin-pecan bread and pumpkin custard.

In order to make either recipe, I had to first prep the pumpkins.

Here’s what I did:


Cut and scooped-out pumpkin halves
First: I carefully cut through each pumpkin, removing the pumpkin fibers and seeds. The fibers were discarded, but the seeds were rinsed and patted dry so they could be roasted. 
Rinsed pumpkin seeds
(There’s nothing better than freshly roasted pumpkin seeds!)
Freshly roasted pumpkin seeds

Second: Working with 2 pumpkin halves at a time, I placed them, cut-side down on a microwave-safe plate and microwaved them for about 6-8 minutes on high power, or until the pumpkin halves were soft. (I tested them by piercing the skin with a paring knife. If it went in easily, they were done.)
Cooked pumpkin pulp

Third: I allowed the pumpkin pulp to cool a bit, then scooped it out. The pulp was placed in the bowl of the food processor which was fitted with the metal ‘S’ blade. After a few pulses, the pulp was smooth and ready to use or freeze for later use.
Processing the pumpkin pulp

Now that the pumpkin purée was done, I was ready to make my two pumpkin recipes.


Pumpkin purée ready to use.

Pumpkin-Pecan Bread

#1. This Pumpkin Bread recipe was originally posted in 2015 using canned pumpkin purée. This time around, I used the homemade pumpkin purée and added about ¾ cup chopped pecans to the batter. If I do say so myself, it came out pretty darn good!  


#2. Pumpkin Custard 
Serves 9
Pumpkin Custard - ready to serve!

Ingredients:
2 cups pumpkin purée
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups milk – or - 1 can evaporated milk (I used evaporated milk.)
¾ c. dark brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. allspice

Directions:

Place pumpkin purée in a large mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well to combine.

Preheat oven to 425 °F. Lightly grease an 8” x 8” casserole dish with vegetable oil. Place pumpkin mixture in the dish and spread evenly. Bake for 10 minutes.

Lower oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking until custard is set, about 30- 35 minutes more. Test the center of the custard by inserting a paring knife in the center. If it comes out clean, the custard is done.
Pumpkin custard - baked and cooling

Place casserole dish on a wire rack, allowing the custard to cool for about 30 minutes. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 

To serve: Cut custard into 9 pieces. Place individual pieces on small plates. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with a little cinnamon, if desired.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Our Thanksgiving Menu for Two

So much has gone wrong in 2020 – the dreaded virus, the wrath of Mother Nature, and the devastation in Artsakh and Armenia. 

Despite it all, we must keep our faith, count our blessings, and be thankful for what we have.

As Doug and I celebrate quietly together at home, we will pray that 2021 will bring us a brighter, healthier, more peaceful year.
We wish you and your families a Blessed Thanksgiving!

******

With all of this in mind, we're taking an easy approach to our Thanksgiving menu. Doug will prepare the entree on 'the day' while I do the sides and dessert -  a day ahead.  

(Recipes follow - except for the cranberry relish.)

·        Turkey Tenderloin with Vegetables and Pan Gravy

·        Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes

·        Green Beans with Almonds

·        Stonewall Kitchen® Cranberry Relish

·        Drop Biscuits

·        -and- Skinny Crustless Pumpkin Pie

******

Doug's Turkey Tenderloin
StovetopTurkey Tenderloin with Vegetables and Pan Gravy

Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

1 (1 ½ lb.) pkg. Butterball turkey tenderloin, cut crosswise into 2 even pieces

½ large onion, sliced

3 stalks celery, cut into 1/2” pieces

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2” pieces

8 oz. mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced 

Herbes d’Provence, to taste (You can use your preferred dried herbs to coat.)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Olive oil

Chicken broth (about 1 cup)

2-3 Tbsp. Cornstarch or flour (to thicken pan gravy)

Directions:

In a 10” inch non-stick skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Sauté the vegetables with a little salt and pepper until they begin to soften and become slightly golden. Remove from heat and set aside.

Unwrap turkey tenderloin and pat dry with paper towels. Cut it into 2 even pieces. Lightly oil each piece and season with salt, pepper, and dry herbs to taste, coating all sides.

Heat 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil in a 12” non-stick pan on medium-high heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add the tenderloin pieces and sear for about 3 minutes on each side – without burning! Once browned all over, add about 1 cup of chicken broth. Cover the pan and cook gently over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. Turn the tenderloin pieces and add the sautéed vegetables. Cover, and continue cooking for another 15 or so minutes.

Using a meat thermometer, check the turkey’s internal temperature. It’s done when it reaches 165°F. Remove the turkey from the pan, place on a platter and cover with foil so it rests and stays warm.

Meantime, dissolve 2 to 3 Tbsp. cornstarch in cold water until dissolved. Stir mixture into the skillet with broth and vegetables until it thickens.

Cut the tenderloin into slices; arrange on a serving platter with the vegetables and pan gravy on the side.

 

Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes             

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 ½” inch chunks

1 sweet onion, cut into 8 wedges

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

salt and ground black pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

Garnish: Pomegranate arils and or chopped pecans, optional

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix sweet potatoes, onion wedges, salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil. Toss to coat. Spread in a lightly oiled shallow roasting pan.

Roast mixture in preheated oven, turning now and then, until the vegetables are soft and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Garnish with pomegranate arils and/or chopped pecans, if you wish, before serving.

 

Green Beans with Almonds (Photo credit: Whole Foods)

Green Beans with Almonds                  Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 (16 oz.) package frozen green beans (whole, French cut or regular cut)

1/2 cup slivered almonds, pan-toasted

3 to 4 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp. lemon zest, optional

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a small skillet over low heat, toast almonds until lightly golden, but not too brown. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Place beans in a large saucepan and cook according to package directions until tender-crisp; drain and place in a bowl.

Stir in butter pieces, lemon juice, zest, if using, and salt and pepper, to taste. Top with toasted almonds just before serving.

 

Drop Biscuits (photo credit: Craig Lee for The New York Times)

Drop Biscuits (recipe by Samantha Seneviratne for New York Times)
Yield: 8 biscuits

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

¾ cup whole milk, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons, if needed

Preparation:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is the texture of coarse meal with some pea-size pieces.

Using a fork, stir in the milk until just evenly moistened, adding up to 2 more tablespoons, if necessary, but stopping before the dough gets too wet. Scoop the dough into 8 rough mounds (about 1/3-cup each) and place them on the prepared sheets. Bake the biscuits until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

‘Skinny’ Crustless Pumpkin Pie (adapted from a recipe from Skinnytaste.com)

Serves 8

Ingredients:

15 oz. canned pumpkin puree

2 Tbsp. butter, melted

1/2 cup light brown sugar (unpacked)

1/2 cup fat free milk

2 large eggs

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. allspice

1 / 4 tsp. cloves

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Add melted butter and mix well.

Using an electric mixer or wire whisk, mix in brown sugar, milk, eggs, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla. Beat until mixture is completely smooth.

Using vegetable spray, lightly coat the bottom of an 8"x8" baking dish; evenly pour filling into it.

Bake about 45 to 50 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Serve with whipped cream if you wish.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Pumpkin Geragoor, a Pumpkin Casserole recipe

With Halloween behind us and Thanksgiving just a few days away, you’ve most-likely eaten your fill of pumpkin dishes already.

Before I share today’s Pumpkin Geragoor recipe, here’s some background information on Pie Pumpkins versus Carving Pumpkins.

Two small pie pumpkins

Pie pumpkins are relatively small, round, have a sweeter pulp, and are good for cooking.  They can be difficult to cut, so be careful! These are usually found in grocery stores and at farm stands.

Carving pumpkins have a thinner shell, less flesh with stringier pulp, and contain more water than pie pumpkins, but they are easier to cut.

Today’s recipe, Pumpkin Geragoor (or Pumpkin Casserole), comes from my friend Linda K. She and her husband Andy invited Doug and me to their home last week for a pre-Thanksgiving, socially-distanced meal.

Linda, who enjoys cooking from scratch, created this dish using two small, pie pumpkins. She served this with Jajuk and a loaf of homemade bread which tasted like chorag!

Linda's Pumpkin Geragoor (Sorry, this is what was left; we ate the rest!)
Pumpkin Geragoor

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 small pie pumpkins   

½ lb. ground beef, uncooked

½ medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 cup fine (#1) bulgur, uncooked

2 cups water (beef broth may be substituted)

Ground cinnamon, salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup chopped pecans (walnuts may be substituted)

Drizzle of honey, optional

2 to 3 Tbsp. Butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Carefully cut pumpkins in half.  Place 2 pumpkin halves on a microwave-safe plate and cook on high power for 8 minutes, or until soft-enough to work with. You will have to do this in 2 batches. Allow pumpkin to cool.

Remove the seeds and stringy innards. (Note: you can save the seeds to roast later.) 

Scoop out the pumpkin pulp and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients – except for the butter. Mix until combined.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9”x13” casserole dish.

Place the pumpkin mixture evenly in the casserole dish. Dot the top with little pieces of butter. Cover with foil.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Armenia needs help and support more than ever

The war in Artsakh has ended badly for Armenians. 

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed an agreement that cedes territory to Azerbaijan in exchange for the presence of Russian troops to enforce a ceasefire. 

The agreement has a five-year term. Armenia will certainly be pressured to make more concessions before it expires. Meanwhile, it must resettle thousands of refugees while helping to rebuild what remains of the Republic of Artsakh. 

Shock and anger in Armenia have touched off waves of protests and a political crisis that threatens to topple Pashinyan’s two-year-old reform government. 

Whatever you think of the protests and politics, Armenia clearly needs help and support. 

A contribution to any Armenian charitable or humanitarian organization, such as Armenia Fund, would be an important step.

I have a few other thoughts to share about this critical time for Armenia on my own blog. Please keep Armenia in your thoughts and prayers.  

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Koolunja, Koolenja, or Kooroonja: No Matter Which Name You Use, it's Still an Easy, 'Old-Fashioned' Choreg Recipe!

In the early days of The Armenian Kitchen, I received an email from a gentleman in MA asking if I had a recipe for Koolunja, a Kharpertsi variation of choreg. He went on to say that unlike the braided, softer choreg, koolunja has a drier texture that is cut into squares, triangles, or diamond-shapes. I searched but came up empty-handed.

Since I couldn’t oblige, I posted a request to readers of Kharpertsi descent asking for their help. I received only one response and passed along the recipe. He appreciated my help, but it wasn't exactly what he was looking for.

Present day:

Just a week or so ago, I received another inquiry about Koolunja – this time from a woman in Fresno, CA. As I searched through my Armenian cookbooks and other resources, I found 3 variations of this ‘Old-Fashioned Choreg. I promptly sent along one of recipes, much to her delight.

Koolenja (Koolunja, Kooroonja) - ready to serve with Sun-Ni Armenian String Cheese!
The recipe I’ve prepared for this post, is my adaptation of a ‘Koolenja’ recipe found in the cookbook, ‘Armenian Cuisine-Preserving Our Heritage’ from St. John Armenian Church in Michigan. 

(Note: As stated in the past, many recipes have different spellings and/or ingredient variations based on geographic locations.)

I made minor adjustments to the cookbook's recipe by incorporating some freshly ground spices that I love in choreg - mahlab, fennel seed, and anise seed.

If you prefer the taste of old-fashioned choreg, feel free to omit those spices.

I hope you’ll try – and – like this version!


Koolenja (or Koolunja - or- Kooroonja!)

Yields about 30 pieces, depending on the shape - and - how large or small the dough is cut.

Ingredients:

½ lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted and cooled

1 cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. sugar (Note: If you prefer a sweeter product, you can increase the sugar to ½ cup, but then you might not want to add the optional seasonings listed below.)

Optional seasonings: 1 Tbsp. freshly ground mahlab, 1 tsp. ground fennel seed, ½ tsp. ground anise seed

1 pkg. (or 2 ½ tsp.) active dry yeast

½ cup warm water + ½ tsp. sugar

6 cups flour (Note: I used 5 ½ cups)

Egg Wash: 1 egg and 1 Tbsp. water, beaten  

Garnish: Sesame seeds and/or Nigella seeds


Directions:

1. In a large bowl thoroughly combine melted butter, milk, beaten eggs, salt, sugar, and optional seasonings, if using.

Step 1.

2. In a liquid measuring cup, combine yeast with 1/2 cup warm water and ½ tsp. sugar; cover and allow to proof.

Proofed yeast
3. Add the proofed yeast mixture and some of the flour to the ingredients in the large bowl. Add enough flour to create a workable dough. Knead dough until smooth.

Kneaded dough

4.  Place dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size, approximately 1 hour.

Risen dough

5. Remove dough and place on a clean work surface. Pat down dough with your hands to create a rectangular shape that’s about ¾” thick. 

Dough patted by hand to 3/4 -inch thickness
Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut dough into squares, triangles, or diamond shapes of a uniform size for even baking.

Dough cut into triangles using a pizza cutter
6. Preheat oven to 375°F.

7. Place cut pieces of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet with enough room between them as the dough will expand while it bakes. Brush koolenja tops with egg wash, sprinkle with sesame and/or Nigella seeds. 

Ready to bake.

8. Bake one tray at a time on the center rack for about 15 - 25 minutes (depending on the size of the pieces) or until golden brown.

Baked and cooling on wire racks.




Friday, November 6, 2020

Kadin Boudi, a Meat and Rice Croquette Recipe from Charles Kasbarian

Not long ago, I posted a recipe for Khatoon Boodhi from Araksi Dinkjian. 

Araksi Dinkjian's Khatoon Boodhi

In that same post I mentioned Charles Kasbarian’s recipe of the same name, but with a slightly different spelling. Charles is in the process of putting together an online Dikranagerdsi cookbook, and this is one of his main dish recipes.

He kindly shared his recipe with me and gave me permission to share it with you!

 

My preparation of Charles Kasbarian's Kadin Boudi

Kadin Boudi (Meat and Rice Croquettes) from Charles Kasbarian

Yields 8 croquettes

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground lamb (I used locally sourced lamb from FoxTrot Farm)

½ cup plain rice, cooked and cooled

1 medium-sized onion, chopped

½ cup string cheese (tel banir), chopped (I used Sun-Ni Armenian string cheese)

¼ cup parsley leaves

1 tsp. dill weed

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. ground coriander (kinz)

½ tsp. black pepper (dakhdigh), freshly ground

2 large eggs (one for the croquette mixture; one used as a coating before cooking)

plain flour for coating

olive oil for shallow frying

Ground lamb from Fox Trot Farm; Sun-Ni Armenian string cheese


The ingredients: from rear-left, chopped parsley and seasoning mixture, ground lamb, chopped onions, chopped string cheese, cooked rice, and in center, egg.
 Directions:

1. Combine meat, rice, onions and cheese, then pass through a grinder or food processor until ground to a reduced consistency.

2. Add salt, pepper, spices, and 1 lightly beaten egg.

3. Mix and knead thoroughly.

4. Divide the mixture into eight equal portions.

I shaped these as burgers rather than in the cylindrical shape mentioned.
5. Take each portion, one at a time, and roll into a cylindrical shape, uniform in circumference, and place in a large shallow plate.

6. Beat second egg and pour over the croquettes, turning them until fully coated.

Ready to dip and coat
7. Transfer the croquettes to another large shallow plate containing flour, turning them until fully coated.

Cook without crowding them in the skillet.
8. Shallow fry the croquettes, turning them until well browned.

Kadin Boudi served with lavash, broccoli, and fresh tomato slices.

Charles' Suggestions:

Serve with shepherd (choban) salad, and with tan (madzoon & water).

Option: For a more robust flavor, ½ tsp. allspice (bahar) may be substituted for the 1 tsp. coriander.

Charles’ Note:

Kadin Boudi is Dikranagerdtsi dialect for Kadin Budu, meaning Lady’s Thigh, which the croquette is supposed to resemble. Also known as Khanum Boudi and Khatoun Boudi.  Khanum is ‘lady’ in Persian and ‘Khatoun’ is lady in Arabic. The difference is: Khanum is a lady of superior rank, and Khatoun is a lady of inferior rank.