Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Armenia - Come on a my house
Do you remember the song recorded by Rosemary Clooney called Come on a my house ? The first line goes, Come on – a my house, my house, I’m gonna give you candy… It was composed by two Armenian Americans, Ross Bagdasarian (who later created the children’s favorite Alvin and the Chipmunks) and his cousin William Saroyan. They’re not the only famous Armenians, there’s also Andre Agassi, Cher, Jack Kevorkian, and the children’s song writer Raffi. I even read that Princess Diana was 1/64th Armenian!
The Republic of Armenia, is a land locked mountainous country that is bordered by Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. The former Republic of the Soviet Union is now a unitary, multiparty, democratic nation-state. Armenia is one of the oldest countries in the world and it prides itself on being the first nation to formally adopt Christianity in the early 4th century. In fact, the country once included Mount Ararat, which is the mountain that Noah’s Ark rested on after the flood.
For our Armenian dinner we had Lulu Kebobs, Armenian baked fish, roasted eggplant, hummus, and Shakarishee – Armenian sugar cookies. I had a hard time finding some of the meat for my recipes such as the ground lamb and the whole fish. After going to several stores I finally found whole fish at our butchery in downtown Oakville. I wanted a whole Tilapia or haddock but they didn’t have that. Instead they had red snapper or sea bream. I went with the sea bream. It ended up being an excellent choice. It has a mild, white meat and a bit oily. I mentioned to the fish vendor that it is hard to find whole fish and he said, “It’s hard to sell it.” I think it’s a shame. Fish tastes so much better when cooked whole with the bones (but I do realize it's a pain to eat that way). The Armenian baked fish was excellent covered in tomatoes, onion, parsley and mint.
The Lulu kebobs were also good. They were like little hamburgers on a stick. The meat was a mixture of ground sirloin and ground lamb mixed with vegetables and red wine. The roasted eggplant was a different story. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again – even though I love eggplant. After roasting the eggplant I removed the skins and processed it and then mixed with onions, parsley and olive oil. When I read the recipe I thought it sounded good.
Lastly, Julia and I cooked the Armenian sugar cookies (shakarishee). It was very easy to make and had a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
1 lb ground sirloin
1 lb ground lamb
2 med. Yellow or red onions
1/4 cup green bell pepper –chopped
1/2 cup red wine
8 oz. Tomato sauce
1/4 cup parsley
1 tsp fresh basil
salt and pepper
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp cumin
Combine the above ingredients and then chill to firm up. Press onto wooded skewers, make into oblong patties, or treat just as you would hamburger patties. Barbeque.
AMENIAN BAKED FISH
2 lbs fish – whole or fillet
3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup water
Brush fish with oil on both sides and broil on high in oven for 3 minutes on each side. Lay fish in the bottom of the baking pan and spread remaining ingredients on top. Pour olive oil and water over all. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
On a barbeque place the whole eggplants on the grill and roast – turning occasionally – until the skins are blackened. Remove from the grill and let cool until they can be handled for peeling off the blackened skin. Process in a food processor or blender. Mix with chopped onions and parsley mixed with olive oil and vinegar for a chilled salad.
SHAKARISHEE (Armenian sugar cookies)
2 1/4 cups flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup soften unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, egg yolk and sugar until smooth and almost white in color. Add flour and blend well. If you are using the nuts, add them in as well. Shape into small rectangles. Bake in a 250 degree oven on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 35 – 45 minutes.