The Armenian community in Lebanon has always fascinated me; I had Armenian friends in school, an Armenian dentist, knew Armenian musicians, carpenters, artists; we lived side by side, yet they spoke their own language and wrote in Armenian, a language that seemed mysterious, with letters that could not be deciphered even for someone fluent in Arabic and French.
So what about Armenian cuisine? Here is one example: In Lebanese cooking, we use tahini sauce with swiss chard stalks. We make pies with swiss chard and onion, but this is an Armenian version. If you like tahini, you will love this combo: Tahini and greens are a perfect match.
This is a vegan dish, par excellence.
Frozen chopped spinach can be substituted for the swiss chard.
INGREDIENTS: 8 Servings (Recipe is adapted from Anaheed’s Cookbook)
- 1 pound swiss chard or spinach, washed, boiled briefly, drained and squeezed dry
- 1/2 cup of tahini
- 2 onions, chopped
- Olive oil, as needed
- 3 garlic cloves, mashed in a mortar with 1 teaspoon of salt
- Spices: 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of allspice, a pinch of black pepper and 1 tablespoon of sumac (or add lemon juice to the mixture)
- 1 Tablespoon of red pepper paste mixed with 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1/2 cup of pine nuts
- 1/4 cup of minced parsley
- 1/4 cup of toasted sesame seeds
- 1 egg yolk for giving a shine to the dough (optional)
- 3 cups of unbleached flour
- 1/4 cup of oil
- 1 Tablespoon of dry instant yeast
- 1 Teaspoon of salt
- 1 cup of warm water (more or less depending on flour used and humidity)
Prepare the filling:
- Fry the onion in the olive oil till golden; the last 5 minutes of frying, throw in the pine nuts as well. When the onions are golden, remove from the heat and transfer onion and pine nuts into a bowl. Add the swiss chard or spinach, the spices, pepper and tomato paste and mix thoroughly. Add the tahini and mix. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and set aside.
- Prepare the dough or use a ready-made pizza dough; Proof the yeast in 2 ounces of warm water and a teaspoon of sugar. Place the flour and salt and oil in the bowl of a mixer and combine well. Add the bubbled yeast and more water and mix until the dough becomes compact, even if still sticky. Transfer to a greased bowl and pat it with oiled hands all around. Cover and let it rise for one hour in a warm place. Punch it down to release all gases and divide into two parts. Grease a rectangular pan and roll one part to fit the bottom of the pan. Cover the dough with the swiss chard filling. Roll the other part, stretching it to fit the pan and pinching it to seal it with the bottom dough. Brush with an egg yolk if desired and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
- Bake in a 350F oven for 40 minutes or until the beoreg is golden and crisp. Cool and serve at room temperature with labneh on the side. You can use Greek yogurt instead of the labneh or skip it altogether. The recipe does not call for it, it just seemed to taste very well with it.