Eggplant ‘Geragour’ and Cheese ‘Boreg’ (Don’t Shoot the Messenger)

My recipe for eggplant geragour was inspired after I was a dinner guest at the home of Mitch and Rose Kehetian, the excellent Mushetsi cook.

It has since become a staple in our diet, with the man of the house requesting it at least once a week. It is simple to prepare, healthy, and delicious. Through our 48 years of marriage, he has learned to love our geragours of green beans, cabbage with burger, peas, leeks, swiss chard, and on a rare occasion, onion stew (soghanleh).

He begs for heresa, but bowed out when it came to okra geragour, that famous “bamya stew,” until he tried it—and loved it—the way Rose Kehetian prepared it. I purchased fresh okra yesterday and it will be on the dinner table this week, so let’s see his reaction.

I’m paraphrasing: “Is there an Armenian with soul so dead who never to himself hath said give me my pilaf, my dolma, my boreg too, give me my tut maj abour and parag hatz; where is my bamya, my seroun and chee kufta, where is my kharput kufta shaped by my mother’s gentle hands.”


Eggplant ‘Geragour’ (Serves six)

1 medium eggplant peeled, cut in half, into strips, then into 1-inch cubes

2 medium zucchinis, peeled and cut onto 1-inch cubes

1 green pepper cut onto 1-inch cubes

1 red pepper cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large chopped tomato

2 stalks chopped celery

1 medium diced onion for flavor, if desired

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2+ cups chicken broth

1/4 cup No. 3 size bulgur

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 t. dried sweet basil

Mix all vegetables and other ingredients in heavy pan on top of range. I add no oil. Cover and cook over medium low heat 15-20 minutes until bulgur is cooked and vegetables are al dente. Add more broth if necessary so as not to burn.

Note: Vary the vegetables to your liking.


How about a cold beer with a warm slice of cheese boreg? This recipe has never failed to please friends and relatives, and always leaves them clamoring for more. I also use this same puff pastry sheets to make a hamburger boreg in a 13 x 9 baking dish. I use  two pounds of very lean loose hamburger filling cooked with diced onions, dried sweet basil, salt and pepper. Follow baking directions as for the cheese boreg.

Puff Pastry Cheese ‘Boreg’

Cheese filling: Mix ingredients together and set aside.

1 lb. Grated Muenster or brick cheese

1 beaten egg

1/2 cup chopped parsley, if desired

Taste mixture before adding salt and pepper

Method: Lightly flour work surface and rolling pin, then place 1 puff pastry sheet on floured top rolling gently to fit bottom of baking dish (13×9). Place cheese mixture filling on top of pastry sheet.

Roll out second pastry sheet and place on top of cheese filling. Fold edges of top sheet under edges of bottom sheet to secure filling. Use fork to gently poke holes in several places on top crust, then brush top with egg.

Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.


Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty (Serpouhie) Apigian Kessel was born in Pontiac, Mich. Together with her husband, Robert Kessel, she was the proprietor of Woodward Market in Pontiac and has two sons, Bradley and Brant Kessel. She belonged to the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild for 12 years, serving as secretary for many of those years. During the aftermath of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the Detroit community selected her to be the English-language secretary and she happily dedicated her efforts to help the earthquake victims. She has a column in the Armenian Weekly entitled “Michigan High Beat.”


  1. Saroyan made the romantic observation that when two Armenians meet anywhere in the world, they will start a new Armenia. This is because they immediately start talking about Armenian food, and the conversation never ends. I think we have this obsession with our national dishes because so many of our people starved to death during the genocide. The survivors spread out throughout the world with almost nothing but their memories. The strongest of these was the memory of the family gathered together at the table after the long day of hard labour. They knew the terrible struggle to keep the crops they grew to feed their families; the harvest was so often confiscated. Food was so hard come by that it was sacred. We need to preserve these ancient recipes for the generations that follow. We also need to record why our recipes are different from those found in more affluent cultures. Our mothers wasted nothing. Fire was shared by women, so food was often cooked in one pot. Bread had to be quickly baked, so we have lavash and peda, not high-rise yeast breads that take so long to bake. Even today, in rural villages of Armenia, fire is often shared by women. Firewood is scarce in mountain villages, and animal dung is still often dried on the roofs of houses and used for fire. There were regional variations in preparation, but the ingredients were always essentially the same. So, while my Moushatsi mother bragged about her regional boereg and manti, she still used the same ingredients as my grandmother from Kghi, just slightly different amounts of each ingredient, slightly different preparation methods. Food was cooked according to what was ripe at the same time in the fields. We have tourshi and feta because salt was a way of preserving vegetables. Honey in the gotah and choreg prepared for special occasions, kept it soft, and fresh longer. We eat garlic and madzoon and honey because they were considered to promote healing. Tomatoes and peppers and parsley and mint grow quickly, so they are often a basis for one-pot dishes. Our thrifty mothers ground cherry stones for mahlab. Because grazing land for animals was limited, we eat small, quickly grown animals like lamb, rather than cattle that require extensive pasture and longer maturation. We often substitute eggplant for meat, particularly at Lent. Oxen were valued, not for meat, but for the grinding of the wheat and the barley on stones, for the pulling of carts. The recipes our survivors brought with them have been altered by the food of the countries we have spread out into. Convenient, easily obtained ingredients have been added. Quicker, time-saving methods are used, and refrigeration is standard. We need to treasure the genuine recipes our mothers brought with them. I have many Armenian cookbooks, most of them influenced by the different cultures that we now live in. The one that is covered with sticky finger marks, notations, pasted in pages, almost in tatters, is the one I bought in 1974; Sonia Uvezian’s Cuisine of Armenia. It is the same familiar food my father remembered eating at his mother’s table. She did not survive.

  2. I have just been asked how our people who lived in mountain villages were able to get salt for preserving vegetables in tourshi and to preserve salted cheese. Salt was not like the meat and vegetables and grains they could grow. Salt was precious.
    February 7, 1918, was exceptionally cold, with a light falling snow. Soghomon Tehlirian and Aram Manougian, along with 35 fedayees, were being attacked by mobs of armed Kurds and Turks holding the pass of the Gharadaz salt mines. Their road of retreat was cut off. Vahan Eloian and Tchimliag, along with six other fedayees, were facing direct enemy fire on an open field. My father was under the command of Misak Sarkisian. Aghmalian ordered their retreat to Garin. Misak Sarkisian (my father’s hero) defied Aghmalian and went directly into the fire of battle at the Gharadaz salt mines to aid Tehlirian and Manougian.

    On November 15, 1920, our fedayees wept as they saw the Bolshevik commissioner and priest of Khurugh village, holding out plates of salt and bread to the approaching enemy army.
    Our mothers, who somehow miraculously survived the genocide, and fled in exile to lands where salt was plenty, again made the banir and tourshi in large unglazed ceramic crocks, just as their mothers before them had. I remember my grandmother running a box of salt through her fingers, her eyes wet with unshed tears.

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