TWELVE HUNDRED kufteh, 4,000 pieces of baklava, 200 pounds of rice pilaf and one-half ton of lamb. "Honey, that's just for starters!" said Jeanie Babashian. She was referring to the results of a month's cooking and baking for the 34th Annual Bazaar at St. Mary's Armenian Church, 42nd and Fessenden streets NW, to be held Oct. 27 through 30.
"This is no slipshod operation! We just roll up our sleeves, get to work and enjoy ourselves," said Anna Semerjian. "And we don't take any shortcuts either," Jean Sayan added. "When a recipe calls for butter, we use butter. There is nothing institutional about this food."
While this Armenian feast has been a Washington fixture for more than three decades, it wasn't until 1963 that the Armenian community in Washington became large enough to undertake the cost of maintaining a church. St. Mary's is still the main place of worship for about 4,000 metropolitan Armenians.
And it is the place where Washingtonians annually become reacquainted with the homemade string cheese and eggplant tava typical of Armenian cuisine. Over the centuries, ancient Romans, Babylonians, Phoenicians and Russians trampled across the ground of Armenia, leaving their signatures in the traditions and foods of this race; thus the Armenian cuisine, like the homeland, is a mixture and combination of the entire Near East. This year's bazaar will offer the gamut: Kebab is spiced and rolled beef, which, like shish kebab, is put on skewers with vegetables. Tourshi are the Armenian pickles that include cauliflower, cabbage, green peppers and other vegetables laced with garlic and esthetically arranged in jars filled with a brine of vinegar, sugar and dill. Kufteh is ground round steak stuffed with ground chuck and bulgur (cracked wheat). Shish kebab, pilaf and baklava are, of course, essential to any Armenian gathering.
As the church cooks do, home cooks can make many of these dishes in large quantities and then freeze them. The kufteh is a good candidate for freezing, as is kubebah, a pie made from bulgur and ground wheat. Lahmajoon, soft, flat dough rounds topped with lamb and seasonings, can be made by the dozens, frozen and reheated for later meals. These foods maintain their consistency and flavor through long periods of baking.
It is obvious that the foremost tenet of Armenian cuisine is to make sure that everyone is satiated. Additionally, the spices and their proportions are crucial: In any Armenian kitchen cumin, fresh parsley, garlic and pine nuts are indispensible. Each cook, however, has her own preference as to the amount of spice she adds to the dish. Recipes are handed down from mother to daughter, omitting the use of standardized measurement, and most cooks acquire a sense of spice, temperature and timing that is practically infallible. Surprisingly, the simplicity and strong character of these foods make them excellent for novice cooks to try.
Patty Willard is not Armenian by birth, but she insists that she has become Armenian through her work at the St. Mary's Church office. "Whenever you meet someone whose last name ends in 'ian,' remember that's an Armenian invitation. Try it."
The proceeds from the bazaar will be put toward--what else--a new dining hall. The work of St. Mary's cooks will be served at buffet luncheons Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Oct. 27, 28 and 29, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; at shish kebab dinners served Friday and Saturday, Oct. 29 and 30, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and with losh kebab sandwiches Saturday, Oct. 30, noon to 3 p.m. Carryout service is available Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. KUFTEH (6 to 8 servings) Filling: pound ground chuck with fat 2 pounds onions, chopped 1/2 large green pepper, chopped 4 tablespoons parsley, chopped fine 1/2 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped fine 1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped fine 1 teaspoon cinnamon Salt and pepper to taste Chopped nuts, optional Keyma, or outside layer: 1 pound round steak, ground twice Salt and pepper to taste 1 cup bulgur, very fine 1 small onion, chopped fine 1/2 tablespoon parsley, chopped
To prepare the filling, in a skillet, fry meat on medium heat until it begins to brown, add onions and cook on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Add green pepper and parsley, and cook for 10 minutes or more. Add remaining filling ingredients and cook 5 additional minutes. Allow to cool and refrigerate. Shape chilled filling into balls about the size of marbles.
To prepare keyma, mix meat, salt and pepper with bulgur and knead for 20 minutes like dough, adding cold water to soften slightly. Dip your hands into cold water to facilitate making balls the size of walnuts. Make a dent in the middle of a ball with your thumb and press all around the inside wall to make a round opening for the filling. (The thinner the wall, the more successful your kufteh will be.) Place filling in hole and seal by smoothing surface with wet fingers. Flatten the balls slightly by pressing gently between palms.
The balls may then be dropped in boiling broth or bouillon for 10 minutes or covered and baked in a 350-degree oven for 1/2 hour. EETCH (8 servings) 1 large onion, chopped 1/2 cup oil 6-ounce can tomato paste 1 cup water 2 cups fine bulgur 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped 2 green peppers, chopped 2 sprigs parsley 3 scallions, chopped Salt and pepper to taste 1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Saute' chopped onion in oil until soft. Remove from heat and mix with tomato paste, 1 cup water and bulgur.
Toss chopped vegetables with bulgur. Add salt, pepper, mint and lemon juice to taste. This is a good salad-type dish to complement a main course of kufteh or any other meat entree. CHEESE BOEREG (6 servings) Crust: 4 eggs, beaten 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup milk 1 yeast cake dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water 5 cups flour, sifted Butter for brushing Filling: 1 1/2 pounds brick cheese, grated 1/2 cup parsley, chopped 1/2 pound unsalted and melted butter 3 eggs
Mix together beaten eggs, salt, sugar, olive oil, milk and dissolved yeast. Add the flour and knead for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into two even parts. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Place one part of the dough on a floured table, sprinkle flour on the dough and roll out thin with a long (36-inch) rolling pin. Roll into a sheet large enough to cover the rolling pin short of 2 to 3 inches from each end, or about 30 inches in diameter. Brush the surface with warm butter, fold the opposite sides toward the center; butter again and fold the other sides the same way. Now butter half the folded surface and this time fold the dough over double. Butter the half again, and fold double once more. Now you will have a dough 6-by-6-inches square. Put this dough to one side, and do the same to the other half.
Take the first dough; roll out to fit a 13-by-16-by-3-inch pan. Mix filling ingredients and spread on the dough. Roll out the second dough and place it on top of the cheese. Cover with waxed paper and let rise for at least 2 hours. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Cut into square pieces. Serve warm. LAHMAJOON (Makes 12 cakes) Dough: 2 1/4 cups sifted flour 3/4 cup water, lukewarm 1 yeast cake dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water 1/4 cup oil 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon sugar Meat mixture: 1 pound lamb shoulder, ground fine 2 cups onion, chopped fine 1/4 cup parsley, chopped 1/2 small green pepper, chopped Salt and pepper 1 teaspoon fresh mint leaves, chopped 1/2 clove garlic, chopped (optional) 1/2 6-ounce can tomato paste 1/2 12-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
Mix dough ingredients thoroughly with sufficient lukewarm water to give the paste a consistency slightly softer than pie dough. Coat hands with oil and knead the soft paste very thoroughly for 12 to 15 minutes.
Place in container, cover and allow dough to rise, approximately 2 to 3 hours.
While waiting for dough to rise, thoroughly mix the ingredients for the meat in the order given. After the dough has risen, divide it into 50 or 60 egg-size pieces and roll between hands to form small balls 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes to facilitate further handling.
Roll or pat by hand each piece of dough to a circle approximately 6 inches in diameter (pancake size), or as thin as possible. Spread a thin layer of the meat mixture over the entire surface of each round.
Place individual pieces of dough on a greased pan as they are being made and bake at 450 degress for about 15 minutes. (Pans are greased only the first time.)
Lahmajoons may be baked ahead of serving time, and stacked in a covered pan, meat sides facing, and kept in a cool place. To heat lahmajoons, place them singly on a cookie sheet, meat side up, and put in warm oven for a few minutes, then stack them again in a tightly covered pan.