Saturday, May 30, 2020

Can't get enough of Parsley, Onions, and Eggs? You're not the only one!

I'm re-posting a story from the early days of The Armenian Kitchen. This time it's a Dikranagerdsi favorite - 'Sokhov Boghdonosov Dabag' (Parsley, Onions, and Eggs) - also known as 'Ejjeh' to those from other regions.

Besides our recipe, Onnik Dinkjian's recipe for this dish as well as my muffin-cup version are included. 






Muffin-style Parsley, Onions, and Eggs served with Basturma! 
The story and recipes

The combination of parsley and onions is familiar to most of us as the perfect complement to a multitude of dishes, but the practice of mixing them with eggs is especially popular among Armenians from Dikranagerd. My father and my mother-in-law, who both spoke and cooked in the distinctive Dikranagertsi style, called this sokhov boghdonosov dabag.
Parsley, onions and eggs -aka- sokhov boghdonosov dabag - prepared by Onnik Dinkjian. His recipe is below.(Photo credit: Anahid Dinkjian)
This might be my favorite breakfast of all time -- except, it's not just for breakfast.
Eggs are generally associated with the morning meal, but this recipe makes a very satisfying meal any time of day. It can be eaten hot, cold, or at room temperature.
And it's perfect for wrapping in fresh, soft lavash.

Our recipe for Parsley, Onions and Eggs 
Ingredients:
4 to 6 eggs
1 diced medium yellow onion (or 1 cup chopped green onion)
1 bunch parsley, chopped
olive oil
salt
pepper

Directions:
1. Beat the eggs until smooth.
2. Slowly heat a 10-inch skillet with just enough olive oil to sauté the onion until slightly soft.
3. Add the sautéed onion and the parsley to the egg and beat again until blended.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Reheat the skillet with about 1/8 inch of oil, being careful not to let the oil smoke.
6. Test by adding a few drops of egg mixture to see if the oil is ready.
7. Slowly pour in enough egg mixture to make a thin sheet slightly thicker than a crepe and about six inches across.
8. Turn once, cooking until slightly brown on each side.
9. Remove and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Onnik Dinkjian's recipe: Parsley, Onions and Eggs 
Note: Ingredient amounts are up to you!
Onion (chopped coarsely) 
Fresh Parsley (chopped fine) 
eggs 

Directions: Mix all ingredients together. 

Use CANOLA Oil, (not olive oil), Heat GENEROUS amount of Canola oil in the pan so that the mixture fluffs up and can almost float in the pan. 
(Spoon some of the egg mixture into the hot oil. Cook a few at a time until all mixture is used.)

When browned (on both sides) and eggs are cooked, serve with salt/pepper and fresh parsley sprig for garnish.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

If the spice of life remains elusive, you might just have anosmia

A little over 10 years ago, a thunderous thump on the head severed the delicate tendrils connecting my olfactory nerve to my brain.

I was left with a condition called anosmia. Simply put, I can’t smell a thing.

Most people I tell this to immediately see the bright side. I am not bothered by skunks, or bus fumes—or  human fumes for that matter. I could nap next to a garbage heap or picnic by a pig pen and be blissfully unaware of the stench.

But I’d happily trade the occasional unpleasant odor for the simple joy of sniffing the lawn after a rain, or waking up to the aroma of coffee and bacon. 

I miss the scent of fresh-cut flowers in a vase and fresh-baked bread on the table. I miss my wife’s perfume.

But what I miss most of all are the flavors of just about everything I love to eat. Think back to your last really stuffy head cold and you’ll get an idea what food tastes like to me.

Just a little background: Anosmia is a common complication of traumatic head injuries but it can also result from reactions to medication as well as infections. Recently it has been identified as a possible complication of COVID19.
  
Whatever the cause, millions of people experience anosmia. For some it’s temporary but for me and many others it’s permanent—and the consequences can be serious. Consider not being able to smell a gas leak, or smoke from a house fire. Think of all the times you cautiously sniff a piece of fish before you cook it or the milk before you pour it in your coffee.

Being unable to administer a simple sniff test can take an emotional toll as well as physical toll, particularly for those living alone. Welcoming visitors can be daunting when you don’t know if the laundry hamper stinks, or even if you stink. 

The resulting anxiety makes it difficult for some sufferers to maintain relationships with other people. A healthy relationship to food can be equally challenging.

I knew smell played a role in taste but I had no idea how powerful it was until I lost it. Turns out, I’d been giving my tongue far too much credit all my life. 

Now it’s all I have left, and no matter what I eat my taste buds recognize only the five basics: Sweet. Tart. Bitter. Salty. Savory. As for everything else that we think of as flavor, only the nose knows.

I’m lucky to have been spared unpleasant aftertastes and phantom smells that sometimes accompany anosmia. It’s no wonder some sufferers lose their appetite. Others who find life unacceptably bland go overboard indulging in sugar and salt, with predictably damaging effects.

I’d like to say I maintain a healthy balance. I’d also like to say I still have a full head of dark hair. In truth, I have to remind myself to eat things I can't enjoy and pass up the chocolate chip ice cream. 

But don’t we all? I just need a little more reminding than most because so many normally attractive options might as well be literally off the table.

I simply can’t taste most seasonings or spices. That eliminates garlic and basil and oregano, and even assertive Middle Eastern flavorings like coriander and allspice and zaatar. Without reading the label, I can’t distinguish strawberry jelly from grape or apple. Savory is strictly one-taste-fits-all. Blindfold me and steak tastes like lamb, which tastes like chicken.

Luckily, I rarely eat blindfolded. One of my most interesting post-traumatic revelations is that taste, like all of our senses, resides in the brain. Our sensory organs, such as the nose and ears, are merely receptors. It’s up to our brains to make sense of what’s being received.

The first time we eat anything, the brain makes a profile of the experience. That includes the look, smell and texture as well as the flavor. The second time your eyes see a spoonful of the same stuff heading toward your mouth, your brain calls up the profile from memory. 

If it’s a good memory, we open wide and salivate. If it’s a bad memory, we clench our teeth and maybe even gag. This is the saving grace of being Armenian with anosmia: When it comes to food, I have great memories. Believe me, I cling to them with all my might.

With Robyn’s generous help and support, I even continue to cook the way I always did. I marinate my kebab and season it generously in the Armenian “by the eye” tradition rather than with measuring spoons. Robyn assures me I do OK, which is not as crazy as it sounds. After all, Beethoven showed us it’s possible to write a fair symphony without being able to hear the notes. (Memo to self: He was Beethoven, after all.)

I’d love to tell you that life with anosmia has become so routine that I no longer think much about it, but I do—and probably that’s for the best. We’re born with just five senses, which are our only connection to the world outside ourselves. One of mine disappeared in a flash and left another severely diminished.

So it’s best to keep the remaining receptors on high alert even if that’s sometimes uncomfortable. I find that chocolate chip ice cream helps ease the pain. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Wash your hands…PLEASE!

The following story originally posted on March 27, 2009, shortly after the introduction of The Armenian Kitchen website. 

With the Corona virus still active and states re-opening businesses in haste, proper hand washing is of the utmost importance. As a retired culinary teacher, I felt it a timely story to re-post.

Wash your hands…PLEASE!

I always started the school year teaching my culinary students about safety and sanitation - even before I would instruct them on basic cooking skills. I wanted to be sure they understood the importance of safe kitchen practices and proper sanitation concepts.

“Sanitation is not an option, it is an obligation” to the health and safety of your family, friends, you - or anyone you feed. This begins with one simple task - HAND WASHING. That’s right, washing your hands regularly, and correctly, can help reduce the spread of bacteria significantly.

Think about what you do with your hands, the things you touch. When you cough or sneeze into your hands, or blow your nose, do you wash them immediately? What do you do if you’re using a public rest facility where soap and hot water aren’t readily available?

Hand washing helps prevent cross-contamination, that is, the spread of germs or bacteria from your hands to another person, food, utensils, equipment and/or work surfaces.

Personal hygiene is very important when working with food, too.

Here’s a perfect example of how poor personal hygiene affected food preparation and customer safety:

Years ago, a Fort Lauderdale, FL restaurant, The Ancient Mariner actually went out of business because of one employee who didn’t wash his hands thoroughly. He caused hundreds of guests to become ill over a period of a few months. How?

Here's how. He worked on the salad station, preparing salad dressing, tasting the recipe with his fingers. The unsuspecting guests who ate salad with the dressing he made ended up ill - many were hospitalized. The Board of Health investigated & found this one employee to be the culprit. Not only did he have hepatitis, but they discovered feces under his fingernails! (Remember that part where he tasted the dressings with his fingers? Need I say more?)

How Culinary Professionals Wash Their Hands - and you should, too!:

People think they know how to wash their hands. Turn water on, rub a little soap on their palms, swish, rinse & done.

Here’s how food professionals are trained to wash their hands:

~Use water as hot as your hands can comfortably stand.

~Wet hands & apply soap (antibacterial preferred).

~Scrub between fingers & under the nails (keep nails trimmed short).

~Rub hands together vigorously for 20 seconds (hum “Happy Birthday”)

~Rinse hands thoroughly.

~Turn off faucet with a single-use disposable towel or your elbow.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Apple-Spice Granola Bars


After examining the contents of the pantry, I realized there were enough ingredients to make homemade granola. It’s not exactly healthy, but I’d like to think it’s at least healthy-ish.

Doug liked it - especially served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!


Feel free to add your favorite spices, nuts, or dried fruit to the mix to jazz things up!

Homemade Apple-Spice Granola Bars
Apple-Spice Granola Bars

Yields 16-18 pieces              

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ to 1/3 cup loosely packed light brown sugar

2 to 3 Tbsp. maple syrup, honey, agave syrup, or brown rice syrup

2 medium apples, washed, cored, unpeeled and grated – excess moisture squeezed out

2 cups instant oats (4 to 5 pouches)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ tsp. ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

Optional additions: 2 to 3 Tbsp. of chopped nuts, seeds, or dried fruit for a different flavor.


Directions:

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°- 375° F, depending on your oven. 


Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, making sure there is excess paper hanging over the 2 long sides; set aside.


In a small saucepan melt the butter with the sugar, and syrup (or honey) over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat. 
Shredded apples 
Place the grated apples and oats in a large bowl. Stir in the spices, salt, and nuts, seeds, or dried fruit, if using. Stir to incorporate. Pour the sweetened butter mixture over the apple mixture. Stir until apples and oats are completely coated.
Granola mixture
Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, spread and evenly press the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake until the edges begin to turn golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Granola done baking
Remove pan from oven and allow granola to cool in the baking dish for 15 minutes. Remove the granola slab from the pan by grasping the excess parchment and lifting it out. Place on a cutting board and cut into 16- 18 bars.

To store: The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. They can also be tightly individually wrapped in plastic wrap.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Lena Tashjian's Toorshi (Pickled Vegetables) Recipe - and - video!

Christine Datian contributed the following piece to The Armenian Mirror-Spectator last April, and has offered to share it with The Armenian Kitchen. Thank you, Christine!
***
Armenians and Middle Easterners have been pickling vegetables (toorshi, tourshi, or torshi) for thousands of years. Some say this method has been a most- effective way of preserving them.  
Lena Tashjian's Toorshi.
Not only are homemade assorted pickles simple to make, they can easily be customized. Pickled vegetables can be added to salads, and they make a delicious addition to vegetable platters or served as a lunch or dinner appetizer, says Lena Tashjian, writer, vegan recipe developer, and author of The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook.   
Tashjian is based in Toronto, and Siroon Parseghian, the photographer and creative director, is based in Los Angeles. 



Try their updated recipe to have a delicious jar full of crunchy goodness on hand any season of the year, and feel free to get creative.  Make your own pickled vegetables with just a few minutes of preparation.  Lena says that the outcome of this recipe depends on the quantity of vegetables and the size of the jar you use, so use enough vegetables to completely fill up the jar of your choice.

Lena Tashjian's Toorshi Recipe
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup or 1 handful of dried chickpeas
  • A few large cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
  • Other optional seasonings: sprigs of parsley, dill, oregano, tarragon, thyme, etc.
  • Celery stalks, cut into wedges
  • Cauliflower, with florets separated, cut into chunks
  • Carrots, cut in half length-wise, then cut into 3 or 4-inch pieces
  • Kirby (pickling) cucumbers, sliced
  • Jalapenos or chili peppers, sliced (remove seeds if you find it too spicy)
  • Cabbage, cored, cut into small chunks
  • Green peppers (Italian frying peppers preferred, seeds removed, cut into chunks)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • Sliced lemon (peel or remove some of the rind to avoid a bitter flavor), optional
Also add: turnips, small eggplants, green tomatoes, whole green beans, and jicama to this recipe. To give vegetables a beautiful color, add a small amount of beetroot, peeled and sliced into discs.  Beetroot is often added to Armenian pickles for color, which is similar to how they are made in the Middle East.  Beetroot gradually turns everything a deep pink. Toorshi should keep for several months unopened.

Brine:
3 cups of boiled water that has returned to room temperature
1 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons pickling salt
1/2 teaspoon citric acid
3/4 teaspoon sugar


Preparation:
Sterilize the jar and lid. Add chickpeas to the jar first, and then toss in the peeled garlic cloves.

Wash, slice or chop all vegetables and put them in a large bowl. Mix vegetables together in the bowl with your hands and transfer them into your jar.
In the same bowl, pour in the 3 cups of water. 

In a separate bowl or cup, mix vinegar and salt until the salt completely dissolves. Add this to your water and stir. Add in the citric acid and sugar and stir.  
Taste the brine to ensure the vinegar/salt ratio is ideal. 

Pour brine into the jar of vegetables and use a spoon or thin plastic spatula to release air bubbles by pushing down the sides all around the jar.  If more brine is needed, make another batch.

Use leftover cabbage leaves or celery tops to keep the vegetables under the brine. Seal the jar.

Label the jar and set it aside at room temperature for at least 1-2 weeks (or longer), then transfer the jar to the refrigerator.
Shake jar a few times for the first couple of days to distribute spices. 

Storage: Pickled vegetables should keep in the refrigerator for about 2 months. Towards the end, the water is a lot more cloudy, but the vegetables are still crisp though not quite as good as at the beginning. 

Watch Lena's Toorshi Video:

***
'The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook' highlights the authentic plant-based cuisine of Armenia and the diaspora, and also includes some veganized classics. “We are proud of our commitment to bringing awareness to the wide 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.  “We are also happy to be donating a portion of the proceeds of every cookbook sold to Centaur Animal-Assisted Therapy & Rescue Center, an NGO located in Armenia.” 

'The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook' is just $35 each.  To order your copy, click here

See:
https://veganarmeniankitchen.com/product/vegan-armenian-kitchen-cookbook/
https://www.instagram.com/veganarmeniankitchen/.
http://voyagela.com/interview/meet-vegan-armenian-kitchen-cookbook-glendale/.
https://www.thearmeniankitchen.com/2020/03/olive-and-walnut-salad-shepherds-dinner.html
https://www.thearmeniankitchen.com/search?q=Vegan+Armenian


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Lamb Hash (and Video!)

Leftovers can be dreary if all you do is heat and eat. But if you enjoy cooking, you probably enjoy the creative challenge of transforming a bit of this and a portion of that into something entirely different.

We’ve always had fun this way but saving scraps has suddenly become a serious concern as the pandemic has made it necessary to cut back or even eliminate trips to the store. As a result, we never open the fridge without surveying every covered, labeled plate and container.


I was taking a turn at this the other day when I spotted two leftover lamb loin chops, not really enough even for lunch after trimming the meat away from the bones. 

The original lamb loin dinner served with bulgur and salad.
Then I spotted a carton of eggs and came up with an idea I thought would be fun as well as delicious.

I quickly rounded up a few very simple ingredients to make an Armenian-style lamb hash. You’ll recognize that it’s Armenian style from the ingredients: onion (of course!), red pepper, parsley and some boiled potato. I seasoned all of it with freshly ground coriander seed, allspice, salt and pepper.


And those eggs? I fried two, over-medium, and placed one atop each portion. (Hash of any kind just isn’t right unless it is bathed in egg yolk.) Each dish also got a generous portion of village-style lavash.


And now, the Video:

When I was satisfied it worked, I called out to Robyn. “Honey, how would you like breakfast for lunch?”


I had reason to believe Robyn would agree: She introduced me to the concept of lunch for breakfast many years ago when the only thing in the fridge was a cold but delicious half pizza. “There are no rules about what time you can eat something if you really want it,” she explained.
Luckily, it turned out she hadn’t changed her mind in the last 40 or so years.


Lamb Hash!
The Recipe:
Lamb Hash (serves two)
Ingredients:
Two or three leftover lamb loin chops
½ tsp. Ground coriander
½ tsp. Allspice
Salt
Pepper
Paprika (optional)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
½ large red pepper (or one small one), coarsely chopped
2 small boiled potatoes, peeled and diced
2 to 3 Tbsp. parsley, rinsed and patted dry. Remove and discard thick stems.
2 Tbsp. olive oil


Directions:
Remove the lamb from the bones and trim away any fat. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces, or smaller if you like. Place lamb pieces in a mixing bowl. Season with the ground coriander, allspice, salt and pepper to taste; mix well. Set aside.


Chop the onion and pepper so the pieces are roughly the size as the lamb.
Cut potatoes into large dice, keeping them separate from onions and peppers. Dust with paprika, if desired.


Using a large enough skillet, sauté the peppers and onions together in olive oil over medium-high heat until the onions start to softened and brown. Then add the potato pieces and cook until they start to get crisp.


Add the lamb and parsley. Continue cooking two or three minutes to let the flavors blend. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.


Top each serving of hash with a fried egg.
Serve with soft lavash or pita bread.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Updated Version: Teaching Our Children to Cook - A Brief Lesson on 'How to make Dolma' by 7-year-old Raffi

Update: I was supposed to include a brief video in this post but couldn't figure out how to do it. 
Thanks to my husband, Doug, the video is now inserted for everyone to see.

Please scroll down to view. Enjoy!
*******************
Since we've been in 'lock-down' mode for quite a while, I've been spending a LOT of time in the kitchen as I'm sure you have been, too. All I can say is, thank goodness for grocery delivery services!

Having been a High School Culinary instructor for over 30 years, it warms my heart to know that parents are teaching their children to cook as part of their home schooling routine - a brilliant and necessary idea!
Our great-nephew, Raffi and great-niece, Lena: Future Chefs!

Our nephew Kirk, and his wife Nairi are believers in this philosophy as well. They taught their 7-year-old son Raffi the art of preparing dolma in addition to other recipes. 

Better yet, they sent us a video.




I was thrilled to see how enthusiastically he participated in the dolma-project! 

I'm confident Raffi - and younger sister Lena - will continue to prepare amazing dishes under the careful supervision of their parents.
Raffi carefully rolls a stuffed grape leaf.
Click here for The Armenian Kitchen's recipe for Stuffed Grape Leaves.