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Readers Loved Armenian Kebab King

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  • Readers Loved Armenian Kebab King

    Joan Obra

    Fresno Bee
    July 14 2010

    My, how you loved Stanley Kooyumjian's food. It's been a week after
    my column about his passing, and you're still calling and e-mailing
    me with stories about him.

    Some of you asked for his recipes. You'll find a couple in today's
    food section: pilaf (bulgur and rice versions) and lamb shish kebab.

    These are printed in "A Harvest of Recipes," the Pilgrim Armenian
    Congregational Church cookbook. (For a copy, call the church at (559)
    229-2915.) I've edited them a little after talking to Stanley's wife,
    Doris Kooyumjian.

    You requested others, such as the lamb shank recipe and the imam
    bayeldi, a grilled eggplant dish. I'll post them on my blog in the
    future and let you know when they become available.

    In the meanwhile, check out the blog for a collection of memories.

    I'll add more e-mails as they arrive. (Look for the post entitled
    "Farewell, Stanley Kooyumjian.")

    Also in today's food pages are recipes from Christine Vartanian
    Datian. Stanley Kooyumjian was great friends with her father, Arthur
    Vartanian; he even was part of Vartanian's wedding party.

    They worked near each other. The Vartanians had the Simon and Son
    Cleaners across from The Home Market on Broadway.

    "There was no one who could cook shish kebab like Stanley," Datian
    writes in an e-mail. "He was the first restaurateur in Fresno to bring
    Armenian and Middle Eastern food to the forefront of the Fresno dining
    experience, and he did it in downtown and he did it old school, with
    the help and support of his family and the local community who loved
    his food and the great service and atmosphere."

    Datian left the shish kebabs to Stanley Kooyumjian, but some of her
    lamb recipes made it into magazines: potato-and-lamb moussaka (Cooking
    Light, September 2008), baked eggplant and lamb (Sunset, March 2002),
    and lamb-and-eggplant meatball pita sandwiches (Sunset, January 2005).

    To see her recipes, go to my and type "Christine Datian"
    in the search field.

    I've included her latest recipes below. One is spicy southwestern
    tabbouleh, which appears in this month's issue of Cooking Light. The
    other is chilled cucumber, avocado and yogurt soup, printed in last
    month's issue of Sunset.

    Datian's latest recipes aren't as traditional as those of Stanley
    Kooyumjian, but they include nods to their shared heritage. For
    example, she uses bulgur, a form of wheat kernel popular in Armenian

    She twists tabbouleh, a parsley and bulgur salad, by substituting
    cilantro for the parsley. Chili powder and peppers add kick, queso
    fresco lends tang, and lots of vegetables make it healthful.

    Try it, along with pilaf recipes from Stanley Kooyumjian and Datian.

    After all, a package of bulgur will be enough for several recipes.


    Shish kebab

    Makes 6 servings

    3 pounds lean leg of lamb, cut into 2-ounce cubes

    1 1/4 cups yellow or white onions, diced

    1/4 cup green bell pepper, diced

    1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced

    2 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced (optional)

    About 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

    About 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

    1/4 cup inexpensive red wine, such as Carlo Rossi burgundy, or juice
    of one freshly squeezed lemon

    1/4 cup olive oil

    In a medium (non-corrosive) bowl, combine cubed lamb, onions, bell
    pepper, parsley and garlic cloves, if using.

    Add salt and pepper. Pour wine (or lemon juice) and olive oil over
    lamb mixture, then mix well. Cover tightly, refrigerate, and allow
    to marinate six to 24 hours. Mix occasionally.

    Thread meat onto skewers. Place skewers on the grill over hot coals
    or under a hot broiler. Turn as needed to cook uniformly on all sides
    until the meat is medium doneness (browned well on the outside and
    still pink on the inside).

    From: A. Papazian