Sunday, May 9, 2010

Complicatedly Armenian

These recipes originated in Simply Armenian, a cookbook I found at the public library.  There are actually a ton of vegan or veganizable recipes in traditional Armenian cuisine due to the many fast days when, traditionally, animal products are not consumed.  I'm not too psyched about the cookbook; it suffers from the same issue as macrobiotic cookbooks: yes, I love simple food, but do I really need a recipe for steamed broccoli?  But I'm going to work through some of the slightly more complicated recipes, starting with those below.

Some notes about this food:
* behold the fusion of Little Armenia!  Serrano chilis worked just fine in the bean salad, just as cilantro hovers from my Indian to my Chinese to my Mexican dishes.
* I'm failing at the economy project.  It's just so much more convenient to have a ton of staples on hand.  I am, however, trying to cycle through some of these staples: if I set out to make a legume or a grain, I ask myself which is the one I've had for the longest, and then make that.  Which explains the pasta salad below.

As the author, Barbara Ghazarian, notes, pasta salad is almost necessarily a fusion-type thing (although my postcolonial theory background makes me skeptical of any dish's claim to authenticity); the fact that I made it with a really random assortment of whole wheat penne and TJs harvest "grains" (mostly Israeli couscous, which is not a grain) makes it even odder.  Anyway, if you haven't had Za'atar (or Zahtar, or Zatar, etc.), you should!  It's a mixture of thyme (or something like it), sumac, sesame seeds, salt, and other herbs, and it is so tasty, especially with olive oil and bread.

Za'atar (Zahtar)-Spiced Pasta Salad
(adapted from Simply Armenian)
4+ servings pasta
2-3 TB extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons za'atar
1 1/2 tsp dried mint
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped

1. Cook pasta, drain, rinse, set aside, cool.
2. Combine remaining ingredients.  Mix with pasta.  Serves about 4.


The following salad is refreshing and easy to prepare, if anticlimactic.  The original recipe called for white kidney beans and far less parsley, but I liked it this way.  Make sure to chop onions, peppers, and herbs very, very finely!

Chickpea Salad
(adapted from Simply Armenian)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/8 c finely chopped onion or scallion
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4-1/2 c parsley, minced
1/8 c olive oil
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
1/2 serrano chili, finely minced (or cayenne pepper to taste)
juice of 1 lemon

1. Combine chickpeas and vegetables.
2. Combine remaining ingredients and then pour over vegetables.  Toss until blended.  Allow to sit before serving.  Serves about 4.


I've been meaning to make baklava forever, and my friend Devon finally talked me into a joint endeavor when she was over for dinner this evening.  Yum!  This was so good, and though phyllo's a bit of a pain, it's pretty hard to mess up.  Using Earth Balance instead of butter seemed to work just fine, and the phyllo I got from the supermarket is vegan/pareve, even if it does have some preservatives in it.  :(  I wonder where one can get phyllo without strange chemicals in it?  It seems as though it would be excruciatingly difficult to make one's own dough without some sort of a machine.  Anyway, preservatives or no, this dish tasted amazing--I doubled the lemon, which made it really zingy, and the recipe doesn't call for all that much sugar, considering how much it makes.  Nevertheless, this was a really satisfying dessert--not something you can keep snacking on--simultaneously fluffy, crispy, and caramelly.

Baklava (Paklava)
(adapted from Simply Armenian)

1/2 c + 1 TB sugar
1/2 c water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/4 c walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 TB sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 to 1 c melted earth balance
1/2 pkg phyllo dough

1. Combine sugar and water in saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes until sugar syrup thickens.  Allow to sit.
2. Combine walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon.  Set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 350*.
4. Melt earth balance.
5. Brush the bottom of a baking dish with melted earth balance.  Place 1/2 sheet phyllo dough in dish, and brush with melted earth balance.  Repeat until you have 10 half-layers of dough.  Brush top with earth balance as well.
6. Spread walnut filling atop dough layers.  Then do 10 more half-layers of dough.
7. Cut everything into small triangles with a very sharp knife.
8. Bake 30 minutes or more, until golden brown.
9. Remove from oven and pour syrup over the top.  Allow to sit and cool before serving.  Serves MANY.


George said...

I found your site by doing a vegan blog search on Google, a real find with wonderful recipes. If its okay with you I am going to put a link back to your site from my site.
Thanks again

Julia said...

Definitely okay! Thanks for the comment! :)