Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunday Dinner: Armenian Meal

Tim's friends from Peace Corps Armenia are coming into town next weekend, so he wanted to cook an Armenian meal for them. But he wanted to practice first, which is where we came in. This week's Sunday dinner was an Armenian feast: minted cucumber and yogurt soup, beet and walnut salad, lahmahjoon/lamejun (basically Armenian lamb pizzas), and apricot cake. We based all of the recipes off of a cookbook Andrea gave Tim for Christmas: Simply Armenian, by Barbara Ghazarian. Recipes after the jump!



The beet salad and yogurt soup were both delicious and ridiculously easy:

Beet/Walnut Salad
  • 3 medium beets, stems removed
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  1. Boil the beets until tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Peel beets once cooled, shred. Stir walnuts into shredded beets.
  3. Mash garlic and salt into a paste with a mortar and pestle.
  4. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and mix in vinegar.
  5. Add to beets, and toss to coat.
Cold Cucumber Yogurt Soup
  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced very small
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp fresh mint, minced
  • 4 TBS grated onion
  1. Mix all ingredients well
  2. Chill
  3. Serve!
The lamejun was tasty, although I think next time we may try a slightly different baking methodology to get a consistently crisp crust. I am thinking that these would be best cooked in the same manner I use for pizza: straight on the baking stone at very high heat. Using the method described in the book produced a crust that was somewhat soggy in the middle.

Lahmejun

Topping
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 TBS tomato paste
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • pinch of cayenne
  • lemon wedges (for serving)
  1. Pulse topping ingredients in the food processor until smooth
  2. Make an olive oil pizza dough, divide it, roll it into 7-inch circles
  3. Spread meat mixture over circles, almost to the edge
  4. [Here the recipe said to bake the pizzas on oiled baking sheets at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, but I think that cooking them directly on the baking stone at 475 or 500 for 8-10 minutes might work better]
  5. Serve with lemon wedges
The apricot cake was tasty, too, but the cake to filling ratio was a little off for my taste- I prefer more filling and less cake.

Apricot Cake Squares
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped dried apricots
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 lb (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, grease 9"x9" baking pan
  2. For filling, place apricots and water in medium-sized saucepan, cover loosely, simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes
  3. Remove from heat, add sugar, stir until sugar mixed in; set aside
  4. Cream butter and sugar in electric mixer
  5. Add eggs one at a time, mixing each egg for 1 minute at medium-high speed
  6. Add vanilla and mix
  7. Sift in flour and baking powder, mix until just combined
  8. Pour 3/4 of the batter into the prepared pan
  9. Spread apricot filling evenly over the top
  10. Top apricot with remaining batter
  11. Bake in center of oven for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and top is slightly brown.

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