Sharon Foley of Rensselaer knows that people who crave Armenian food want spicy, meaty, and vegetable dishes.

“I think the popular Armenian dishes that most people know about are paklava, phyllo dough stuffed with nuts, and of course the meat dishes would be shish kebabs,” said Foley, president of the women’s guild of the city. Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Peter. at Watervliet.

“We have the dolma – it’s basically a stuffed pepper,” she added. “We have pilau rice and we have what people are looking for from afar – lahmajoun. It’s basically known as Armenian pizza. It is rolled up like a pizza, very thin and topped with lamb or beef with chopped vegetables – tomatoes, peppers, spices and garlic. You can’t forget about the garlic.

“The staple of all Armenian foods,” church member Sonya Moroukian added.

Armenian festival

OR: Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Peter, 100 Troy-Schenectady Road, Watervliet

WHEN: Saturday, 12 pm-8pm; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

HOW MANY: Free entry

MORE INFORMATION: www.stpeterarmenianchurch.com

Foley and Moroukian are ready to give people what they want this weekend. The annual Saint-Pierre festival will take place on Saturday and Sunday on the grounds of the church.

Yalanchi (grape leaves), hummus and beoreg cheese (a phyllo dough filled with cheese) will also be served. The “Hye Burger,” a half-pound beef and lamb burger featured at the 2013 festival, will be back this year.

The church is on Troy-Schenectady Road, three kilometers east of the Latham roundabout. Looking east, the entrance driveway is on the right side of the road, in the middle of a large hill and opposite the Fenimore Trace apartment complex. A large sign indicates the way to the church, which is not visible from the road.

Cooking demonstrations, carnival games and Armenian dances will be on the weekend program. The John Berberian Ensemble will perform Armenian music, with the oud – a pear-shaped string instrument, clarinet, keyboard, and dumbeg – an hourglass-shaped drum – all in the mix.

Food servers can be busier than John and his outfit. Moroukian, who, along with Foley and other church members, spent Saturday morning baking choereg – sweet buns – said there are similarities between Greek and Armenian foods.

“We use a lot of rice and bulgur, which is actually cracked wheat, in our main dishes,” said Moroukian, who lives in Niskayuna. “And there is a specific difference in the desserts. They use a lot of honey. We use simple syrup, sugar and water, and a little lemon juice. And we make our own yogurt, from cultures of milk and yogurt.

Regional variations

Castleton’s Armenak Kutchukian said the same Armenian recipe will vary in ingredients and preparation, depending on the region it is from. “People will be arguing over which one is better,” Kutchukian said. “It’s an Armenian tradition.”

Armenian cuisine also uses many vegetables and herbs, such as okra, zucchini, eggplant, cucumber, parsley, green onions, and tomatoes.

“Each house usually has a small patch of parsley and mint,” Moroukian said. “It’s easy to grow and comes back every year. We use it in a lot of our dishes. . . . We dry it and use it in many soups.

“And we use mint tea for stomach aches and headaches,” Kutchukian added.

Readers who want to taste Armenian-style cuisine can try the following three recipes, compliments of church members.

Lazy Man’s Manti

From the Rev. Stepanos Doudoukjian

11⁄2 pounds of ground minced meat

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 pound of large pasta shells

1 box of plain yogurt (optional)

Brown the minced meat in a pan and drain the fat. In another skillet, brown the garlic and onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the meat to the onions and garlic. Keep on low heat. Cook the pasta shells. When the pasta shells are ready, mix everything together. Garnish with yogurt if desired, serve immediately.

Jajik (Super summer soup)

By Lori Khachikian.

1 medium cucumber

1 liter of madzoon (yogurt)

The water

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 dash of salt

Mint (if desired)

Wash and peel 1 medium cucumber. Cut lengthwise into 4 to 5 strips; very thin slice. Mix 1 liter of madzoon with a spoon, adding a little water if the madzoon is too thick, then add the cucumbers, minced garlic and a pinch of salt. Mix with a spoon, refrigerate. Two ice cubes can be added to each individual serving. Add mint if desired.

Paklava

By Sonya Moroukian.

1 pound unsalted butter (clarified)

1 packet of phyllo dough

Mixed nuts:

2 pounds of walnuts, finely ground

1⁄2 cup of sugar

1 large tablespoon of cinnamon

Simple syrup:

13⁄4 cup sugar

11⁄2 cup of water

1 large tablespoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Brush the bottom of the jelly mold with butter. Roll out six sheets of phyllo dough, butting between each layer with melted clarified butter. Combine the nuts, sugar and cinnamon to make a nut mixture.

Spread 1⁄3 of the nut mixture evenly on top. Place two sheets of filo pastry on top, buttering each sheet. Spread another 1⁄3 of the nut mixture evenly on top. Place two sheets of filo pastry on top of the nut mixture, buttering each layer. Spread the last third of the nut mixture evenly on top. Layer the remaining phyllo sheets on top, buttering each sheet. Cut into a diamond shape and pour the remaining butter over the whole paklava.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes, turning the pan once. Cool completely. To prepare a simple syrup, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. After boiling, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, then reduce the temperature to simmer for exactly 10 minutes. Cool the syrup until hot, then pour over cooled paklava.

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Categories: Food