Monday Meal Review: Armenia

This is meal #8 in my personal challenge to eat one meal from every country in the world.

Before I get into the Algerian review, I want to mention a few words about hosting dinner parties.

Hosting dinner parties is a lot of work if you don’t have much experience.

In terms of food you have to:

- Go shopping
- Cook the food
- Serve the food at the right temperature

But, I find, far more stress is spent on cleaning than on food:

- Clean the inevitable disaster areas around the house
- Clean the kitchen that you just destroyed before guests arrive (including mopping up crumbs and spills scattered on the floor). If you don’t do this someone will definitely walk into the kitchen. It’s Murphy’s Law.
- Empty the dishwasher so that, when the party is over, you actually have somewhere to put all the dirty dishes.
- Set the table, being sure to remember appropriate items for each course
- Get those nasty dishwasher spots off your glassware

With each Global Table Dinner I get closer to accomplishing each item on these checklists. And, when we sit down to eat, I am less flustered and red-faced. I’m learning how important it is to pick dishes that can be made a little in advance, making my life a heck of a lot easier. In fact, because this Armenian feast is a Meza buffet (cold buffet), 95% of the food preparation can be done ahead. That’s what I’m talking about! Three cheers for sanity!

Even if your meals cannot be made too far ahead, you can still do a lot of the cleaning the day before. In fact, we’ve been known to set the table a day in advance. Hey, why not? I’m all for making life easier!

Like I said, we’re getting better at this whole dinner party thing. Well, we’ve taken it up a notch, and its all my husband’s doing. I couldn’t help grinning from ear to ear when I saw that he took it upon himself to go online and learn a napkin fold.

A napkin fold!!

I love my husband.

You, too, can do napkin folds if you give yourself enough time. And don’t worry about the details so much. I mean, now that I think about it, I am pretty sure he put them on the wrong side of the plate (did he?). Hey, it takes time and practice to get all these things right. One dinner party a year isn’t going to cut it!

Ok. Onto Armenia. This week I purchased some middle eastern flatbread from Whole Foods because I was already making 6 dishes. The bread was wonderful and very large :)

That’s my shy husband showing off the bread. He wouldn’t let me use the one with his face. Anyway, we all just tore off pieces of the giant bread and scooped up our food with it. One of our friends actually made big burritos with his. I love meals like this, where everyone can just eat how they want and not worry about what they’re “supposed to do.”

Here’s my plate. Everything on here got scooped up into that yummy flatbread, except the grape leaves.

Oh, and our dear friends brought some pomegranate wine to share since Armenians love pomegranates! Yum. What a nice treat. The wine reminded me of a sherry.

***

Spiced Feta [Recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

The salty feta cheese goes well with fresh herbs, particularly the basil and mint. I also enjoyed how the paprika made the oil vivid red. Without the flatbread I might not have been able to eat as much of the feta though.

What I like least about this dish:

In America we hear “spiced” we think hot. In other parts of the world “spiced” just means seasoned. However, I would consider a variation with cayenne to give it a spicy hot kick.

Jajik (Cucumber Yogurt Dip) [Recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

Cool and refreshing, this dip is great to break up the flavors of the meal. The Greek yogurt makes the dip nice and thick. I would even use this as a sandwich topper, instead of mayonnaise.

What I like least about this dish:

The dip is easy to make but a little mild in flavor. I think lemon juice would be a great addition, but I tried to remain true to the Armenian recipe I used.

Yalanchi Sarma (Stuffed Grape Leaves) [Recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

This dish was fun to make. I felt all-powerful being able to make my own stuffed grape leaves! I loved the unexpected combination of cinnamon, allspice, and currants with rice which reminds me of Indian food. I actually prefer these to grape leaves soaked in vinegar brine. Also, this recipe happens to be vegan. Be sure to check out this recipe for step-by-step photos on how to roll grape leaves.

What I like least about this dish:

I had a difficult time finding something to weigh down my grape leaves in the last stage of cooking. I figured it was no big deal, so I did not use anything. Well, unless the stuffed grape leaves are tightly packed in the water, they start to unroll. I found that keeping the water barely simmering helped prevent this.

Lupia Plaki (Stewed White Beans) [Recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

These vegan beans would be refreshing on a hot day in a wrap. The flavor is mild and the dish is very healthy.

What I like least about this dish:

I had trouble shaking the notion that I was eating cold bean soup unless this dish was wrapped up in my flatbread.

Itch (Bulgur Pilaf Salad) [Recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

I think this dish is perfect to bring to a potluck or a barbecue. The recipe makes a large bowl and the orange/red color of the grains stained by the tomato puree is very festive.

What I like least about this dish:

I really enjoy onions, but if you don’t, beware of Itch. This recipe has white onion, red onion, AND green onion in it!

Revani (Hazelnut Cake in Honey Syrup) [Recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

I love honey and hazelnuts.

What I like least about this dish:

This dense, muffin-like dessert is very filling. I suggest washing the cake down with hot tea or coffee.

Ava’s Corner

Baby Ava tried three things during this week’s Global Table. She tried the stuffed grape leaf filling, a little bit of the stewed white beans, and the flatbread. She liked gumming on the bean (I mashed it a little for her to make it easier to eat) because the flavor was mild, I think. She had a little more trouble with the rice filling. Although it was cooked very soft, the texture of “rice grains” was new to her. She ate it but looked like she was “thinking hard” about the experience each time I gave her a little. Finally, she had the most fun with the flatbread. She spent a good while pulling it apart into little pieces, but also managed to eat a little bit.

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Comments

  1. Grammie Sue aka Mom aka susan says:

    oooo those little hands are sooooo cute….

    Great menu…I’m into Vegan lately and would have loved to have been there……

  2. What a lovely meal!

    First of all, something for your next meal. I don’t know where to put it so I will put it here. Sometime in the 1990s, a new Australian cuisine emerged. Famous food writer R. W. Apple wrote this: “The Australians have developed a new style of cooking — fresh, unstructured, exuberant, not Mediterranean but Mediterranean influenced, not Asian but Asian influenced.” Here is the full article:
    http://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/21/dining/a-new-cuisine-from-a-land-called-oz.html

    It’s true what you say about spicy meaning seasoned. If you go to a restaurant with food from, say, Thailand, and ask for “not spicy” they will omit all seasonings and just cook the meat in oil and think they are doing exactly what you want. This is true even in Chinese restaurants, even though Chinese has a special word (la) for food made hot with chili peppers. That being said, some countries don’t put a lot of hot chili in their food, and even those that do like chili have dishes that omit it. Spicy doesn’t always mean authentic.

    If you ever make a table setting goof or something, you can always say, “that’s the way they do it in Armenia!” But your table looks lovely!

    • Thank you for this information Brian! Australia has some very American elements too – in the Melting Pot arena anyway.

      With my luck I would tell someone that who knows how Armenians set their table LOL :)

  3. It all looks yummy, but when I saw the cake I wanted a bite! I bet it was tasty!

  4. Love those cute little baby hands! My roommate in college is Armenian, so I was looking forward to your review on this country’s cuisine. Yum!

  5. Michelle says:

    Warning: something about this dinner will make you sit around and talk for 7 hours! Ha Ha just kidding … this was a great meal. I absolutely love the cucumber sauce…mmmm

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