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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Recipes for Hummus, Pakhlava

Fresh, delicious food at Armenian Fest

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When it comes to food, it’s hard to deny the benefits of immigration in this country. Because of the folks who carried with them on their journey into the United States their grandmother’s recipe for meatballs, or papa’s special recipe for making fresh noodles, Americans enjoy an extraordinary selection of ethnic foods.

Here in Milwaukee, no time is better for sampling diverse culinary specialties than summertime, when the season ushers in our city’s famous ethnic festivals. It may not draw the attendance numbers of the German, Polish or Irish festivals, but Armenian Fest has set the gold standard for celebrating the best of what its unique culture has to offer in the form of delicious food, folk music and fellowship.

Armenian Fest is rooted in the 1930s, when Milwaukee’s Armenian community would get together for an annual family-style picnic and share traditional Mediterranean dishes made from family recipes. Now held at the St. John the Baptist Armenian Church grounds in Greenfield, delicious food is still the focus. Diana Keutelian, an active member of Milwaukee’s Armenian community, shares her recipes for two dishes that visitors can look forward to tasting at Armenian Fest.

Hummus

Hummus is eaten across the Eastern Mediterranean and the Near East, and Armenians include the healthy dish as one of their own. It can be served as a meal at any time of day, or as an appetizer. It’s simple and delicious. Give it a try.

Ingredients:

1 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well

2 tbsp. Tahini (sesame seed paste)

  to 1 tbsp. lemon juice (as desired)

2 or 3 cloves garlic, peeled (as desired)

Dash of salt

Preparation:

1. Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor.

2. Puree until you reach a dip consistency. If it requires more liquid, add water by the tablespoon and/or lemon juice (to taste) as needed.

3. Spread the hummus on a platter or in a bowl, and decorate it sparingly with chopped parsley and paprika. You may drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil if desired. 

4. Serve with quartered pita bread and a side dish of sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and green or black olives.

Pakhlava

Without a doubt, the most popular Armenian dessert is pakhlava (baklava to non-Armenians). The rich, sweet pastry is a perfect butter-kissed ending to an Armenian meal.

Ingredients:

1 package phyllo dough, thawed

1 pound butter (liquid form)

Filling:

1 pound chopped walnut

2-3 tbsp. ground cinnamon

cup sugar

Syrup Topping: (Prepare a day ahead)

2 c. sugar

1 c. water

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Preparation: Topping

1. Mix the ingredients

2. Boil gradually, mixing often. Boil on low for 10-15 minutes to reduce to a liquid syrup consistency. 

3. Allow it to cool and cover it.

Preparation:

Since the dough is very thin, you have to work quickly; otherwise the dough will dry and crumble.

1. Brush butter on the pan before placing the first layer of phyllo dough.

2. Brush butter on every other sheet that you layer until you have layered half of the dough.

3. Brush butter on the dough again before putting all of the filling evenly on the dough.

4. Drizzle a little of the butter on the filling before you begin layering the rest of the dough, again buttering every other sheet.  Make sure you butter the top sheet well. 

5. Cover in foil and refrigerate for half-hour to make sure the butter is set before you cut the dough into shape. This makes it much easier to cut.

6. Use a sharp knife when cutting the dough into 2- or 3-inch squares, and then cut diagonally for a triangular shape. 

7. Cook in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes until the dough color is golden.  Don’t overcook; otherwise the nuts will start burning.

8. Drizzle the cool syrup over the hot pakhlava. 

9. Serve it when it is cool.

Armenian Fest: Sunday, July 25, from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. at 7825 W. Layton Ave.n

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