As I recover from a full day of quarantine style celebrations, I reflect upon my Dandeegeen duties post-“Zadeeg/Easter.” My grandmothers Arshalous Madoian and Hripsime Apigian would have been proud, as would my mother-in-law Mary Krafian. They are smiling down upon me today as I pulled off some Easter miracles this weekend.
The holiday proved to be a packed Dandeegeen affair. Saturday was dedicated to making boregs—buttery phyllo dough filled with scrumptious melted cheeses. How could I mess this up? Butter, phyllo and cheese make for a wonderful trio. Failure was not an option. There are many recipes for this appetizer, and no one recipe is best. It’s just what your family prefers or what recipe has been handed down from generation to generation, or better yet, Dandeegeen to Dandeegeen. On this occasion, I used my mother-in-law’s recipe, which was passed on by the Kalfayan family, most notably Serpoohi Kalfayan Berberian—my father-in-law’s sister. (You might be wondering, what does Kalfayan have to do with Krafian? Krafian was born out of an Arabic mis-translation from Kalfayan during the family’s emigration from Egypt, a story for another column.)
My 27-year-old daughter Araxi and I embarked on this experience together making three dozen boregs. Unsure of how much cheese to dollop onto the phyllo, we were somewhat conservative at the start, so the first dozen were more phyllo and less cheese. (My apologies to my sister-in-law Nora. This was her batch for Easter). We upped the ante and were more generous in our dollops for the remaining two dozen. Traditionally, my mother-in-law used to make little cigarette style boregs, four-inch wide rolled cheese sticks. They were an annual staple at our family gatherings. It was always easy for the kids to make and handle at a young age, and of course they went down pretty quickly. I had never seen anyone ever make them this way, so it was now a family tradition. At Araxi’s request, we attempted to make the triangles as we were not well practiced in this style. The kids have wonderful memories making the cheese sticks with their Nani, so we conquered a new frontier, the triangle. Next time I will try to make a full tray, seems like a quicker alternative, yielding a nice side dish for dinner rather than an appetizer and a little less work. We refrigerated the boregs to be cooked on Sunday for our Easter mezze presentation, followed by our virtual church attendance at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, MA.
Easter morning started at 7:30 with a second go at choreg from our first installment of Dandeegeen Diaries—a larger and more improved batch. They were served fresh out of the oven with tel banir (Armenian string cheese) for breakfast after our virtual communion (tortilla bread in red wine). In this case, the second time’s a charm. The choreg had significantly risen better, thereby tasting better. When it comes to yeast, it’s all about patience. Don’t rush. That’s my tip.
Easter Sunday was full of dinner preparations, I went out on a limb and made a leg of lamb for the first time ever. It really was not too difficult. In Ara’s shopping escapades to Costco, he thought a leg of lamb would be a good idea, even though I had no idea how to make it. I channeled my inner Dandeegeen and threw together some olive oil, garlic, onions, salt and pepper. I wish I had added potatoes and carrots. That dish I believe is called “Geragoor.” It’s an old family staple back in the day when Dandeegeens threw together some lamb with starch and vegetables in the home. This was not on the original menu, but during these odd times, we seem to be making cooking decisions on the fly. So this was Easter dinner accompanied by another Dandeegeen staple of pilaf, corn on the cob and salad. No, there was no khadayif or baklava for dessert. Let’s not get carried away, people. I need more dishes to write about down the road, so let’s save something for later. Instead, we binged on plenty of other sweets we had given up for Lent like ice cream and candy.
This Easter weekend provided for some time to practice some old recipes and explore some new ones. It took some initiative on my part to move out of my comfort zone and go with the flow. The good news is, everything tasted very good. No one in the home has become ill, and everyone seems willing to continue to partake in this Dandeegeen Diaries experiment called Armenian cooking for beginners. I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. Though we were not celebrating in our houses of worship or surrounded by our extended families and friends, we were nonetheless connected through a celebration of the human spirit. This too shall pass. Hopefully the Dandeegeen Diaries can help just a little to ease the pain.