Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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The Armenian Kitchen – A Worthy Click

July 2nd, 2009 · 4 Comments

Robyn Kalajian

Robyn Kalajian

One of my new favorite food web sites is The Armenian Kitchen, written by Robyn Kalajian and her spouse, Doug. Robyn is a retired high school cooking teacher; Doug and I were colleagues at The Palm Beach Post. That was a huge family with many good cooks; Doug was among them.

The Kalajians are Armenian and have incredibly wonderful stories about their cuisine. Not only have I learned a lot – through their videos and recipes – I’ve got a true sense of what family means to them through their foods. That connection is the reason I write about food and Florida and the South, so I appreciate their passion for their traditions.

Here’s a little about the site:

Fans of Armenian food — meaning, just about anyone who has ever tasted Armenian food — will delight in discovering TheArmenianKitchen.com, a Web site and blog devoted to the age-old but still evolving cuisine.

The site features recipes Robyn has gathered from friends and family over the years, many of them written down for the first time. Preserving these recipes and the techniques involved in preparing them is a work of love for Robyn and her husband Douglas, a retired journalist who shares her passion for cooking and for their shared ethnic heritage.

“Food is portable culture,” Douglas said. “Armenians scattered across the world by tragedy brought their prayers, their songs and their pots. Keeping these recipes alive is our way of preserving that culture.”

Robyn’s interest in Armenian cooking began as a child, helping her grandmother pick grape leaves from their yard in Clifton, N.J.

“Armenian food is as richly diverse as the Armenian people,” she said. She noted that Armenian dishes share many ingredients with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, with an emphasis on fresh vegetables and whole grains.

In addition to recipes, TheArmenianKitchen.com features how-to videos as well as tips on nutrition, kitchen tools and food safety.

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I asked Robyn to share one of her favorite recipes with my readers. This is a typical one, she writes, that’s a great comfort food.

Tass Kebab

(Lamb cubes made in a pot)

Serves 5 to 6

  • 3 pounds stewing lamb (see note), trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground coriander seed
  • Salt, pepper, paprika to taste
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • Dash sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter

Place lamb cubes in a large bowl and season meat with coriander, salt pepper, and paprika.

In a large, non-stick skillet, sear the lamb, in small batches. After searing the last batch of meat, add the onions to the skillet and cook until soft and slightly caramelized.

Place meat and onion in a large pot.

Dilute the tomato paste in 2 cups of water. Pour over the meat. If it looks too thick, stir in more water, a little at a time. Continue to add more water, if needed, during cooking. Stir in the bouillon cube and sugar.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook, with the pot lid slightly tilted, for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender.

Just before serving, stir in the butter to mellow the tomato sauce.

Note: If stewing lamb is not available, stewing beef or veal can be substituted.

Serve with rice or bulgur pilaf, or wide egg noodles, and a green vegetable or tossed salad.

Tags: Food People · Jan's Favorite Things

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 James M. Caprio // Oct 13, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Looks good, I have to try this dish.

  • 2 Charles // May 1, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Our family does it slightly differently …
    1- no corriander, instead we use fenugreek and mint
    2- no papriks, we use curry powder and perhaps some turmeric
    3- no sugar, we use dried prunes and perhaps some appricot (the latter is very Armenian!)
    4- no butter, we let the natural fat from the meet to be relaeased, with the addition of wter, to stop it sticking.
    As usual we polish the meal off, some little while later with our favourite’high tea blend’ tea from our normal supplier The Tea and Coffee Emporium.

  • 3 Jan Norris // May 1, 2011 at 10:51 am

    So we see the melting pot of cuisines with Charles’ variations. What is your cultural background, Charles?

  • 4 Charles // May 20, 2011 at 1:38 am

    Armenina from Iran.
    Many friends and family in Glendale and wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy beyond.

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