Monday, March 30, 2020

Olive and Walnut Salad (Shepherd’s Dinner)- a recipe from The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook

The Armenian Kitchen was one of the first to introduce 'The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook'. Since then other sources have made the public aware of this wonderful collaboration, including the Armenian Mirror-Spectator where the following recipe and background story recently appeared thanks to Christine Vartanian Datian. 
The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook (released in January 2020) is a joint project between the creator of YouTube’s Vegan Armenian Kitchen, Lena Tashjian, a writer and vegan recipe developer based in Toronto, and Siroon Parseghian, a photographer and creative director based in Los Angeles. 

They met in Armenia in 2012, and reunited in Los Angeles six years later to set the wheels in motion for this endeavor. After living in Armenia for six years, Lena is on a mission to not only veganize the Armenian dishes she grew up with, but also highlight the plant-based staples present in both Armenia and the diaspora. Siroon, with her unique vision and style, is passionately bringing the recipes, stories, and the cookbook itself to life. Lena adds, “Integral components of Armenian dining and cuisine include abundance, generosity, and a love of good food.  Our cookbook showcases that it is possible to cut down or eliminate animal product consumption while still being able to enjoy many classic Armenian dishes.”

“We are proud of our commitment to bringing awareness to the variety of Armenian foods available that are naturally free of animal products, as well as the history, stories, and folklore behind them. With a general shift towards plant-based eating on the rise, we are excited to bring some much-needed diversity to the vegan food scene,” says Lena.  While the recipes are the main component, The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook is an all-in-one resource for Armenian cooking which is intertwined with its rich culture and heritage. From food idioms and detailed explanations on dishes, names and customs, to pantry staples, menu pairing and holiday planning, this cookbook will be an invaluable tool that will serve not only to educate and fascinate readers on Armenian cuisine and history, but also to inspire them to create more plant-based and veganized dishes in their own kitchen.
Lena Tashjian's Olive and Walnut Salad
Olive and Walnut Salad or Shepherd’s Dinner is a delicious dish that hails from Musa Ler.  It is said to have been created out of utility, as it was a quick and accessible meal for those working the land.  On top of it being flavorful and unique, this festive color combination of green olives and ruby red pomegranate arils makes it a perfect addition to any holiday or special occasion menu.

Olive and Walnut Salad or Shepherd’s Dinner
1 1/2 cups green olives, pitted, either whole or sliced
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup roughly crushed walnuts
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, optional
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses or syrup
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons olive oil, to taste
1/4 cup fresh pomegranate arils, optional

Mix the olives, onion, walnuts, parsley, and pomegranate molasses or syrup together in a bowl. Add the tomato paste and olive oil, and mix well. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Top salad with fresh pomegranate arils, if using, and enjoy. Watch this recipe here.

As Lena and Siroon are self-publishing, the best way to support their work is by preordering their cookbook for your family and friends, and spreading the word. This outstanding selection of traditional, authentic, and modern plant-based and veganized Armenian recipes will be a welcomed addition to any cookbook collection.
The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook is $35.00 each.

The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook features 115+ completely plant-based recipes from Armenia and the Armenian diaspora.  The cookbook also shares food idioms, stories behind the dishes, as well as holiday planning and menu pairing.  You can order your copy via the link below.
To order, visit
Also see:

While the recipes are the main component of this venture, the Vegan Armenian Kitchen website is an all-in-one resource for Armenian cooking which is intertwined with its rich culture and heritage.  From food idioms and detailed explanations on dishes, names and customs, to pantry staples, menu pairing and holiday planning, Vegan Armenian Kitchen will be an invaluable tool that will serve not only to educate and fascinate readers on Armenian cuisine and history, but also inspire them to create the plant-based and veganized dishes in their own kitchen.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Don't throw away those vegetable scraps - they'll make a dandy broth!

In light of our current circumstances relating to food shopping and food preparation, I'm returning to a more economical method of using ingredients - especially since there is no guarantee the products we'll need will be in on the store's shelves. 
Therefore, I've decided it time to resume recycling vegetable scraps to create broth for a multitude of recipes. 

Years ago, I posted a recipe for Potato Peel Broth, which makes a pretty tasty soup base! This time around I'm without the potatoes, but the celery, carrots, onions, peppers and garlic I do have will work together just as nicely to create another tasty soup. 

The soup I made with the following broth was Pasta e Fagioli. Both recipes follow.
Pasta e Fagioli made with my homemade vegetable broth.

Homemade Vegetable Broth:
Step 1: Place a variety of on-hand vegetable scraps in a large pot. Cover with water; season with salt, pepper, bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for about an hour. Add more water, if necessary.
Step 2: Strain solids from liquid; discard solids. 
Step 3: Allow broth to cool a bit. Cover container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Pasta e Fagioli
Serves 5-6
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup each of diced onions, bell peppers, celery, carrots
6 cups homemade vegetable broth
1-15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1-15 oz can Northern beans, undrained
1/4 cup (more-or-less) small pasta - I used orzo
1 tsp. Italian seasoning blend (or use a combination of dried oregano, dried basil)
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add all of the diced vegetables and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add vegetable broth, diced tomatoes with its juice, and tomato paste. Stir to blend in the paste. Add seasonings.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium. Add pasta and stir. Cook for about 8 minutes,stirring now and then, making sure pasta doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.

When the pasta is tender, add undrained beans. Cook an additional 5 minutes.

Serve with a sprinkling of shredded Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

“A Hundred Years and Still Cooking” - a cookbook from the First Armenian Presbyterian Church of Fresno, CA - and - Four Recipes

I love a good cookbook, especially those created by church organizations, and if it’s an Armenian church cookbook, even better!

When Christine Datian informed me about another Armenian Church cookbook she’d discovered, I was eager to learn more. What she found was a cookbook from the First Armenian Presbyterian Church of Fresno, CA called “A Hundred Years and Still Cooking”.

In addition, Christine passed along the following review- and- some recipes from this impressive cookbook.

A bit of background:
Food writer Barbara Hansen, a James Beard Award winner, reviewed the volume in the January 14, 1998 edition of The Los Angeles Times under the headline, “Leaves from Fresno.”  This prized cookbook is a unique compendium of Armenian heritage recipes, Scriptural truths, Old World culinary precepts, and Central California ethnic history.  

To read Barbara Hansen’s original review, please click here.

Four recipes found in the cookbook:

#1. Esther Bagdasarian’s Grape Leaves (Yalanchi Sarmas)

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced, plus 1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup long-grain or converted rice
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
Juice of 4 lemons
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cayenne pepper
1 16-oz. jar grape leaves

Heat olive oil and vegetable oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onions and cook until golden and limp, about 10 minutes.  Add rice, tomato sauce, lemon juice, parsley, dill, salt and cayenne and paprika to taste.  Add water to cover if liquid in pan does not cover onions and herbs.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all juices are absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.

Put 1 grape leaf on plate.  Place about 1 tablespoon filling at bottom of leaf.  Fold in sides and roll up.  Repeat with remaining leaves and filling.

Line baking pan, such as roaster with lid, with grape leaves.  Arrange filled leaves in 3 or 4 layers in pan, alternating direction of each layer to promote even cooking. Cover with additional grape leaves and weight down with heat-proof plate.  Add water to cover.  Cover with pan lid and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.

Cool completely, then refrigerate at least 1-2 hours before serving.

Yields about 50 stuffed leaves.

Each stuffed leaf: 75 calories; 52 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.09 gram fiber.

#2. Menzmyrek’s Luleh Kebab

2 pounds ground lamb
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 bunches parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons allspice
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
6 to 8 green onions, chopped

Combine lamb, beef, tomato sauce, 1 bunch chopped parsley, allspice, paprika and salt in large bowl and knead with hands until well blended. Form mixture into 4x1 1/2-inch sausages.

Grill over hot coals, turning once, until medium rare to medium, about 10 minutes. Do not overcook; kebabs should be juicy.

Arrange on serving platter. Sprinkle kebabs with some of green onions and some of remaining parsley. Serve remaining green onions and parsley on the side.

6 to 8 servings.

Each of 8 servings: 197 calories; 1,001 mg sodium; 81 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 27 grams protein; 0.70 gram fiber.

#3. Sesame Sticks (Simit)

1 cup flour
1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
4 to 5 tablespoons milk
1 to 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into bowl.  Cut in shortening until finely crumbled.  Gradually add 3 to 4 tablespoons milk to make dough softer than pie dough, stirring first with spoon, then mixing with hands.

Roll out dough onto lightly floured surface.  Fold over and roll again.  Repeat 3 or 4 times.  Finally roll out into oblong about 4 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick.  Slice into 4 x1/4-inch strips.  Hold each strip by ends and twist in opposite directions.

Place on lightly greased baking sheet.  Brush tops with 1 1/2 teaspoons milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Brush lightly with remaining milk using patting motion to help stick sesame seeds.  Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes longer.

Makes about 30 sesame sticks. 

Each stick: 32 calories; 25 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.02 gram fiber.

#4. Armenian Bulgur Raisin Pudding

1 cup bulgur
3 cups water
1 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins

Bring bulgur and 2 cups water to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until water is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.

Combine bulgur, remaining 1 cup water, evaporated milk, sugar, mace, walnuts and raisins.  Place in 1 1/2-quart baking dish, cover and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.  Uncover, stir and bake until set in center, about 15 minutes longer.  Serve warm or cold.

6 to 8 servings. 

Each of 8 servings: 214 calories; 38 mg sodium; 9 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 34 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.79 gram fiber.

The cookbooks are still available for purchase. Here’s how to order:

If you’re in the area, you can pick up a copy of the cookbook at the church. The cost is $30.00. 

Otherwise, you can order a copy by sending a check or money order for $35.00 to:

First Armenian Presbyterian Church

430 S. First St.

Fresno, CA 93702

Attention: Marine 


 Phone: (559) 237-6638

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Shut in but not shut off, we persevere in the Armenian way

Like everyone, Robyn and I are in a bit of a tizzy as we adjust to what we all hope are the temporary cautions and inconveniences of life during a pandemic.

Who imagined that we’d ever see aisles of empty shelves in our grocery stores? Crazier still, who imagined we’d have to worry about walking into a grocery store without masks over our noses and disinfectant wipes in our hands?

At least we all had some warning. The experts advised everyone to prepare for the siege by stocking up on hearty staples such as beans, chickpeas, lentils and rice.

In other words, welcome to a typical Armenian pantry!

So with a few minor adjustments, cooking goes on as usual here in The Armenian Kitchen. We both find it an excellent distraction from the day’s less pleasant news. Robyn baked several trays of simit just this morning, and I have been happily eating my way through them all afternoon.
Robyn's Simit
That will allow her further distraction by baking something else tomorrow. It is the least I can do in this time of crisis.

Of course, none of this vanquishes the anxiety we’re all experiencing at what is usually a joyous time of renewal. For us, Easter Sunday always means church followed by dinner with family and friends. This year will be different in many ways.

We will do our best to stay positive as well as healthy, certain that there is light in the world even when we can’t see it.

Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wild Nettle Imam Bayaldi

If you've been following The Armenian Kitchen website, you might be familiar with the recipe called Imam Bayeldi (spelling varies) which was posted way back in 2010. 

The following story and recipe for Wild Nettle Imam Bayaldi appeared in Smithsonian Magazine on September 27, 2018, and more recently in TheArmenian Mirror-Spectator.

I was asked by Christine Datian to share this with my readers, so please sit back, relax, and read on. 
Hopefully, you'll be inspired to try, not only this recipe, but others on The 1000 Leaf Project site. 

The Article:
Launched in 2016, The 1000 Leaf Project is a citizen-driven website that allows anyone in Armenia to register a wild plant, providing details on where they found it, how to harvest it and what recipes to try. It focuses on empowering people for an end result that promotes and protects the rich biodiversity found in Armenia. (You’ll find the text on this site in both Armenian and English.)

Contributed by Serda Ozbenian, the Executive Director of the Earth Island Institute’s Armenian Environmental Network (AEN),, this recipe calls for using wild stinging nettle. Stinging nettle is on the list of Armenia’s more than 3,600 wild plant species—a list that includes hundreds of edible varieties ranging from wild asparagus, mint and oregano to tart sea buckthorn and sweet mallow, an herb that formed the original basis for marshmallows. Ozbenian, Armine Sargsyan, AEN’s former In-Country Director, and Lena Tachdjian (Tashjian), an environmental writer, collaborated with colleagues at the American University of Armenia‘s Acopian Center for the Environment (AUA), a group that promotes environmental conservation through research, to catalogue these edible species with help from the community. Ozbenian incorporates stinging nettle in her imam bayildi recipe. “Typically, you fill eggplant with onions and tomatoes, but I made this version with nettle,” she said. “Sharing this recipe is another way The1000 Leaf Project hopes to encourage users to interact with Armenia’s varied environment,” she added.

The Recipe:
Wild Nettle Imam Bayaldi, image from 1000 Leaf Project
Wild Nettle Imam Bayaldi*

This recipe calls for Armenia’s wild stinging nettle, but Ozbenian says substituting American wild nettle will work as well in a pinch.
Note from Christine: If nettles are totally unavailable, spinach may be substituted.

2 large eggplants, long and skinny kind
4 cups stinging nettle, stems removed, chopped 
2 medium tomatoes, chopped and sliced
2 small onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt, to taste
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil


First, cut off the ends of the eggplant, peel them in strips (one white strip, one purple). Cut them in half lengthwise and then in half again. Scoop out some of the insides to make a boat (set aside). Soak eggplant pieces in a bowl of salted water (this softens them and reduces bitterness), and set them aside while you prepare the other ingredients. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Chop onions and one tomato and press the garlic. Heat a 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil in a pot and add ingredients to the pot. Sauté for 2 minutes on medium heat. Chop the nettle roughly and add it to the pot along with the sugar, salt and the eggplant insides you set aside. Stir well, cover, and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes.

While the nettle mixture is cooking, remove the eggplant pieces from the water, squeeze out any excess water and place them on an oven safe pan. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Add 1/4 cup water to bottom of the pan. Cover the pan with foil and place it in the oven for 20 minutes (the eggplant should be soft but not cooked thoroughly).

Fill each eggplant with nettle mixture, cover again, and put back in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove the foil, add thin slices of tomato to each eggplant boat, and sprinkle with a touch of salt and sugar. Place back in the oven uncovered until the water has evaporated and the eggplant is cooked thoroughly, about 10 minutes.

*This recipe appeared in Smithsonian on September 27, 2018, go to: For information and recipes: To contribute: The AEN is a project of Earth Island Institute, based in Berkeley, California. AEN’s mission is to facilitate tangible contributions to Armenia’s sustainable development by increasing awareness of and supporting solutions to environmental issues in Armenia.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Roasted Eggplant with Raisins and Pine Nuts by Christine Vartanian Datian

Vegetable dishes are abundant during the Lenten season. Christine Datian shares one of her go-to recipes which is perfect during Lent, or anytime.

Christine’s Roasted Eggplant with Raisins and Pine Nuts dish recently appeared in The Armenian Mirror Spectator. What is truly special about this recipe is that it’s both savory and sweet, thanks to the addition of sweet potatoes and raisins.

Roasted Eggplant with Raisins and Pine Nuts by Christine Vartanian Datian

Serves 4
Christine Datian's Roasted Eggplant with Raisins and Pine Nuts


Note: (Vegetables will shrink while baking, so do not cut them too small.)

1 lb. eggplant (you can fit up to 2 lbs. eggplant per baking sheet if you want to double the recipe), peeled or unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium zucchinis, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 each medium green and red pepper bell pepper, cored, cut into chunks or strips
1 large red onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon each paprika and cumin
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup golden raisins
2-3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Garnishes: Lemon zest and/or chopped parsley, optional


Salt the eggplant. Place the eggplant in a colander or salad spinner and sprinkle with salt. Toss to combine, then let the eggplant sit for 30 minutes. If you’re using a colander, you’ll want to place it in a sink or bowl, as the eggplant will let off a bit of water. Rinse the eggplant under cool water and then dry thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper sprayed lightly with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, toss the eggplant and vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. Spread mixture in a single layer on prepared baking pan. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, tossing occasionally with a metal spatula. Remove from the oven.

Place roasted vegetables in a serving bowl and toss with lemon juice, raisins and pine nuts. Garnish with lemon zest and parsley, if desired.

*Christine’s recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee newspaper, Sunset Magazine, Cooking Light Magazine, the New York Times, and at

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Eech, a perfect Lenten recipe

Once a week, during the Lenten season, Armenian Churches have an evening service, followed by a potluck dinner of Lenten dishes provided by attendees, and, finally, an appropriately themed program.

My recipe contribution for an up-coming Lenten evening is Eech, which is similar to, but not quite the same as  Tabbouleh. 
A bowl of eech with a light drizzle of olive oil, topped with finely chopped parsley and onions.

Yield: About 3+ cups or 10 (1/3 cup) servings.


1 large onion, chopped (Cook ¾ of the onion in oil and save the other 1/4 to mix with parsley for topping.)

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped (Red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers may be used instead of the green.)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, washed and finely chopped (Use 3/4 of the parsley in the mixture and save 1/4 of it to mix with onion for topping.)

1 - 8 oz. can tomato sauce

3/4 cup water

1 Tbsp. red pepper paste, optional

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried mint

1/2 teaspoon crushed dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup fine (#1) bulgur


1. In a medium-sized saucepan, sauté onion and pepper in olive oil until soft. Add tomato sauce, water, red pepper paste, if using, lemon juice and seasonings. Stir well; bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Add bulgur, stirring well. Stir in 3/4 of the chopped parsley. Set aside to cool.

3. When cool enough to handle, scoop the eech into a 1/3 cup dry measure for a uniform shape when it is inverted onto a platter. Sprinkle the tops with the reserved mixture of onions and parsley. 
In case you're wondering, the eech holds together nicely.

10- 1/3 cup portions of eech
If you prefer, serve eech in a serving bowl, drizzled with olive oil and garnished with the chopped parsley and onion as shown above.