Thursday, February 2, 2012

Armenia: Cooking Around the World with Camilla (CATWWC)

We traveled to Armenia tonight. And while you could truthfully characterize all of my cooking as fast and loose, in regards to following recipes, tonight was particularly fast and loose. I didn't so much follow any Armenian recipes as I drew inspiration from the ingredients and spices that are typically used there. You'll see what I mean as you read what Riley and I made.

I explored for ideas, then mixed things around to create a main dish, a salad, and a dessert to our table tonight.

Whenever I hear the word 'dolma' I think of stuffed grape leaves from Greece. Apparently 'dolma' - at least in Armenian cuisine - simply refers to something stuffed. Anything stuffed. They stuff zucchini; they stuff peppers; they stuff tomatoes; they even stuff meat - with meat! The typicaly stuffing is ground meat, mixed with rice and tomato sauce, seasoned with lemon and fresh herbs.

We made cabbage dolmas because I still had a crisp head in my High Ground Organics CSA box. Inspired by nevik (swiss chard and garbanzo bean) soup , I made a stuffing out of leeks, kale, sweet potatoes, and garbanzo beans. See what I mean about 'fast and loose'? They use swiss chard; I used kale. Close enough, I say. I sauteed all of that together in a pan until the leeks were translucent, the sweet potatoes fork tender, and the greens wilted. Then I stirred in some cooked red quinoa and seasoned the stuffing with ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, salt and pepper. I spooned the stuffing into the cabbage leaf and rolled it tightly into a dolma. I placed the finished rolls in a baking dish, covered them with chicken broth, wrapped the pan in foil, and baked them in a 350 degree oven for an hour. Before serving I sprinkled the top with black sesame seeds.

When I learned to cook in Rome, one of the rule the old Italian ladies told me: always serve one cooked and one raw vegetable. Okay, so I don't always do that. I try. Since I only stuffed enough cabbage leaves for one dolma per person, two for Jake, I still had half the head. I embraced that one cooked, one raw rule and used the rest for a crisp cabbage salad. Does it still count if it's the same vegetable?!? I think so.

I made a fresh cabbage salad with sliced cabbage, lemon juice, olive oil, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and dill that is used extensively in Eastern Armenia.

The dessert was the only thing we made that I just about followed a recipe. Riley did a great job with the harisseh (semolina-yogurt cake drizzled with syrup). In hindsight, I should have used semolina flour, not grain, and a thicker yogurt. Riley had intended to make individual cakes but these fell apart when I tried to unmold them so we had to shape them back into "cakes" on the plate. Still, they tasted delicious!

The Cakes
2 C semolina (whole wheat granules, like I said, I would do this with a finer grind next time)
2 C yogurt (use European yogurt, it's thicker)
1-1/2 C organic granulated sugar
2 t baking powder
2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 C ground almonds
1/2 C sliced almonds

The Syrup
1 C organic brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 C water
1 T rosewater
In large bowl, combine semolina, yogurt, sugar, baking powder, vanilla, and almonds. Stir until thoroughly blended. Spoon into buttered baking dish. Bake at 425 until golden brown.

While the cake(s) bake, heat brown sugar and water to boiling on the stove. Allow to boil long enough to come to a thin syrup. Remove from heat. Stir in rosewater. While cake is still warm, pour syrup over top.

And for the tall Manns, we ended our Armenian feast with potent, triple-boiled coffee. Talk about a jolt...prepared in Turkish style, Armenian coffee is "black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love." Adapted from, though this particular recipe didn't mention bringing the coffee to a boil three times, all other versions I found did. But this was the only recipe that gave me proportions. This made two very dense demitasse cups of coffee.

2/3 cup water
2 T coffee, pulverized
2 t organic brown sugar

Stir sugar and coffee into water. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 seconds. Make sure coffee does not overflow by removing pot from burner from time to time. Turn off heat and let the coffee steep for 1-2 minutes. Bring the coffee to a boil a second time and simmer for 10 seconds. Let cool again. Then bring to a boil a third time. Spoon out a little coffee foam from the surface and pour a little into each demitasse cup. Serve immediately.

Enjoy my tabletop travels. Join me in whipping up a dish or two. If you do cook something from one of these countries, I'd love to hear about it. Feel free to comment on the posts themselves or email me at constantmotioncamilla at gmail dot com.

This Knight of the Global Table Adventure is signing off for now. We're off to Australia next. Wombat stew, anyone? Kidding...

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