We’ve been trying to do our part by helping to preserve treasured recipes passed down to family, friends and to so many of you readers who have become our new friends.
One stand-out favorite is stuff grape leaves (yalanchi). We’ve tasted many variations, including some we love so much we wouldn’t want future generations to do without them.
Two of those come from 1) my cousin, Vivian Vezirian Hovsepian, and 2) dear friend, Arousiak Avedyan.
Robyn’s note: They are both phenomenal cooks!
Vivian, from my Dikranagerdsi side of the family, was happy to share the recipe and said it was handed down from her mother, Victoria Vezirian. Vivian thinks this recipe probably came from her maternal grandmother, Gadar Najarian. Both women are gone now, but it’s wonderful to know they are remembered through their recipes. (Mother, Vicky, and daughter, Vivian, are pictured above.)
(If you need a refresher on how to roll grape leaves, check out our YouTube video.)
TheVezirian Family’s Yalanchi recipe
3 lbs. onions, chopped, not too big
2 cups oil
1 1/2 cups rice
1 large can tomato paste
Juice of 3 lemons
Salt & pepper to taste
1-2 T. paprika
2 T. all spice
3/4 Cup (approx.– more or less, to taste) pignolia nuts
few dashes cayenne pepper
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
Grape leaves: Vivian uses fresh grape leaves from the vines her father planted many years ago.
In a large pot, saute onions and rice in oil over medium heat until very clear. This will take at least one-half hour. Stir occasionally so it won’t stick. If you see mixture sticks or seems like it’s burning, lower heat.
When onions are limp, add rest of the ingredients – except the grape leaves, of course! Remove from stove and stir until all ingredients are well blended. Cool in pot for about 20 minutes. Tip pot so oil drains from mixture. Set aside for later use.
Fill grape leaves with mixture – about 2 Tbsp., depending on size of leaf. Roll leaves.
Place rolled grape leaves in large pyrex dish, but not more than 3 layers deep. Drizzle the drained oil from pot over the yalanchi.
Add warm water to fill pyrex 3/4 full. Bake, covered, in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until most liquid is absorbed. Check by tasting to see if rice is cooked. If so, remove from oven.
This was so difficult (as many Armenian recipes are) to get the specific measurement from my mother. She never owned a cookbook or measuring utensils. Everything was “achkee chap”– or “eyeballing” it! By watching and trying to get a spoon or measuring cup under her hands, was the way I learned …..truly a challenge! But I do appreciate the compliment about my yalanchi, but, after all, I did learn from the best!:)
Arousiak’s recipe for yalanchi came from her mother-in-law, Alice Avedyan, who lived in Istanbul. Arousiak, who was born in Armenia, confessed she never liked yalanchi, and therefore never learned to make it UNTIL she married her husband, Varoujan, and tasted his mother’s cooking.
Arousiak couldn’t believe how delicious it was, and regretted not eating it all those years. Luckily, Alice stayed with the newly married couple for several months, teaching Arousiak everything she needed to know about cooking.
Arousiak knew she was a success in the kitchen when she received the ultimate compliment from her mother-in-law: “Arousiak, you’re making it better than I do!”
Alice Avedyan’s Yalanchi
10 medium sized onions, chopped
½ cup rice (short grain)
1 bunch dill
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup currants
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp each salt and pepper
1 ½ cup vegetable oil
juice of ½ lemon
1. Saute onion in 1 ½ cup oil until soft. Add rice and all other ingredients. Cook about 20-25 minutes. Cool.
2. Wrap filling in grape leaves. (Note: Watch our video to see how to fold grape leaves.)
3. Place tightly together; squeeze lemon juice on top.
4. Place a plate on top of the wrapped grape leaves.
5. Pour some water over the grape leaves, but not enough to cover.
6. Cook about 45 minutes.