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Panrkhash from Lavash, the cookbook.
Lavash: The bread that launched 1,000 meals, plus salads, stews, and other recipes from Armenia by Kate Leahy, John Lee and Ara Zada.
Our cookbook of the week is Lavash: The bread that launched 1,000 meals, plus salads, stews, and other recipes from Armenia by food writer Kate Leahy, photojournalist John Lee and chef Ara Zada. Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with its authors.
This layered cheesy bake is far more than the sum of its humble parts. John Lee fell for it on his first trip to Armenia, but when he shared the extraordinary taste memory with his co-authors, they were decidedly skeptical.
Ara Zada, having grown up in an Armenian-Egyptian household in Los Angeles, had never heard of the dish and didn’t have very high expectations. What he describes as “the dark horse” of the book fast became one of his favourite recipes and is now his go-to football-watching snack.
“John had told us about this dish that he found in the north that had cheese and lavash and water, and I was like, ‘That sounds completely terrible.’ It wasn’t until we got to the north in Gyumri that we had (chef Armenuhi Marukyan at the restaurant Old Armenia) make it for us,” says Zada. “It’s just bits of lavash layered with cheese, and it’s an extremely simple dish, but when you add the water and it cooks, it basically turns into Armenian mac and cheese. It was incredible.”
Lee adds: “When I think about this dish, I think about who created this idea and in what circumstances. What do you have in your kitchen? You have a bunch of leftover lavash, you might have some salty string cheese, you might have a little bit of butter and you have some onions that you can caramelize, and then you put some hot water in it. It’s pretty inventive. I think about these dishes from the perspective of poverty or from the perspective of not having a whole lot. And what they can create from not a whole lot is pretty amazing.”
Lavash and cheese bake
1/2 cup (115 g) plus 1 tbsp (15 g) unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the bowls
6 sheets homemade Lavash ( see recipe ) or 3 sheets purchased lavash (see note)
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
2 cups (170 g) shredded and chopped string cheese (see note)
2 cups (480 mL) hot water
Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Butter two 6 in (15 cm) wide ovenproof bowls or ramekins.
Cut two 6 in (15 cm) squares of lavash (these will cover the top of each bowl). Cut the remaining lavash into 1 in (2.5 cm) squares.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 1/2 cup (115 g) of the butter. Add the onion and sweat until softened, about 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
To assemble the panrkhash, in each bowl, build up four layers, alternating 1/2 cup (21 g) lavash squares and 1/4 cup (21 g) cheese and ending with cheese. Top each bowl with half of the onion-butter mixture and pour 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot water over the top of each bowl.
Place 1 lavash square over each bowl and dot each square with half of the remaining 1 tbsp of butter.
Bake until the tops of the lavash squares are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling and melted, 10 to 15 minutes. Leftover panrkhash keeps, refrigerated, for up to 5 days. Reheat in a 350°F (180°C) oven until hot all the way through.
Notes: If you’re using store-bought lavash, look for classic Armenian-style lavash, the thinnest kind you can find.
For a stronger cheese flavour, crumble in a little blue cheese with the string cheese.
Excerpted from Lavash: The bread that launched 1,000 meals, plus salads, stews, and other recipes from Armenia by Kate Leahy, John Lee and Ara Zada (Chronicle Books). Copyright © 2019. Used with permission from the publisher.
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