Armenia

Armenia was the meal that didn’t want to happen!  First, I had a terrible time selecting recipes… I found a lot of Armenian recipes, and they were all pretty different.  I finally narrowed it down to a few, and we picked Wednesday as the day to cook.  Well, then we couldn’t find all the ingredients.  So we scrapped one of the recipes and decided to substitute peaches for apricots for another recipe, and we started cooking on Friday evening.  But we then saw that it was recommended to make part of the recipe a day ahead of time, and it was getting late… so the meal was once again postponed.  On Saturday, we finally saw it through and made our Armenian meal, and unfortunately it was not really worth the wait. 😦

We selected three recipes:

Kufta (Armenian meatballs): these are meatballs… stuffed with more meat.  The filling is ground beef cooked with onions and some spices.  The outside is raw ground beef mixed with bulgur and more spices.  Then the meatballs are boiled in chicken or beef stock and served over lettuce and lemon wedges.

Yalanchi Sarma (stuffed grape leaves): These are stuffed grape leaves.  There is a more common version that uses meat in the filling, but with meat stuffed meatballs, we thought the vegetarian version of this side would be a better choice!

Dzerani Dolma (stuffed apricots): These didn’t show up frequently in my research, but we saw them in an archive of Armenian recipes from an old church cookbook and were intrigued by the idea of stuffed apricots.

The kufta started with two bowls of ground beef mixtures:

kufta_outside   kufta_filling

The raw meat/bulgur mixture was stuffed with the cooked meat mixture.   Before (left) and after cooking in chicken stock:

Kufta_uncooked   kufta_cooked

While Tyler worked on the kufta, I worked on the stuffed grape leaves.  The filling was too liquidy to work with at first, but after sitting in the refrigerator overnight it became thicker.  I put 1-2 teaspoons of filling in each grape leaf, then rolled it up and placed it in a pan lined with more grape leaves.

Yalanchi_before_rolling

It took a while to roll all of the grape leaves (and we even cut the recipe in half), but it wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting.  I added water to the pan and placed a smaller glass pan on top of the rolls to keep them from floating.  They didn’t look very different after cooking, except for the uncovered ones on the edges, which were a little burnt.

Yalnchi_before_cooking   Yalnchi_finished

The third dish was the stuffed apricots.  We couldn’t find apricots, so we ended up substituting peaches.  This recipe was pretty straightforward; after cutting the peaches in half and removing their pits, mix some ground beef with rice, salt, and pepper, then stuff it in the hole left from the pit.  Drizzle with sugar water, then bake for 25 minutes.

Armenian_stuffed_apricots_uncooked   Armenian_stuffed_apricots_cooked

The finished meal was okay, but not spectacular.  The meatballs were also okay, but by themselves they were a little boring.  They also were lacking something to counterbalance all the ground beef, in my opinion.  I really enjoyed the novelty of the stuffed grape leaves–I have seen various recipes with grape leaves over the years, and I have always been curious about them.  Unfortunately, we just weren’t crazy about this recipe.  I feel like they had a lot of potential, but the tart, lemon-ey flavor was too much for me, as was the occasional tough leaf vein.  This is another one of those dishes that leaves me (no pun intended 🙂 ) wondering if I didn’t do the dish justice, or if it’s just one of those foods that I don’t enjoy.  The apricots were also just okay… they weren’t bad, but they weren’t spectacular either.  Since I was already overwhelmed by the tartness of the stuffed grape leaves, the tartness of the peaches was not a complimentary flavor.

Armenian_meal

At least my plate of food looked pretty!

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