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

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