For my birthday this year, my daughter Mandy and son-in-law Ron, presented me with a special gift – a ZOOM cooking class with Chef Serge Madikians, chef-owner of Serevan restaurant in Amenia, NY.
Since being together was out of the question, they felt this was the next best thing – cooking together, albeit, long distance.
Chef Serge and my family have met twice before, both times at his establishment – first, when Doug and I celebrated our 40th anniversary, and then last summer for my birthday.
Dining at Serevan is like being in a close friend’s home – everyone is greeted-and-treated warmly. His meal preparations are utterly sublime and made with love. I appreciate how Serge incorporates fresh, local ingredients, and how he gives many of his dishes that special Armenian touch.
(Note: During the pandemic, Serevan is only offering take-out service and outdoor patio dining, weather permitting.)
When Mandy saw that Serge was offering cooking classes via Zoom, she signed us up right away. The recipes he demonstrated were 2 of his family’s favorites – Tabouleh and Ja’jik. Copies of these recipes, which you’ll find below, were made available to participants in advance to make preparation quick and easy on the day of the class.
Before and during the class Mandy and I texted each other and shared photos of what we were doing in our separate kitchens. It was such a lot of fun!
As the class began, Serge gave the participants background information about the recipes, explained each ingredient, the tools needed, along with kitchen safety and knife skill tips – all while being professional, entertaining, and charming.
Thanks Serge, Mandy, and Ron for making this long-distance birthday extra-special!
On a separate note, in case you don’t already know about ‘The Immigrant Cookbook’, Serge is one of the contributing chefs! It can be ordered on Amazon.
Disclaimer: If you order the book through this Amazon link, The Armenian Kitchen will receive a small commission.
Here are Chef Serge’s delicious, light and refreshing recipes for Tabouleh and Ja’jik…
- 1½ cups bulgur, #1 fine (If you don’t have #1 (fine) bulgur, pulse the larger size bulgur in a food processor a few times to achieve a finer grind.)
- 1 lb Roma or Beefsteak tomatoes (washed and diced to ¼-inch)
- ¼ lb Persian, Kirby, or European cucumbers (washed and diced to ¼-inch)
- 7 oz red onion (diced to ¼-inch)
- ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley and fine stems (well-packed fresh)
- ¼ cup cilantro and fine stems (well-packed fresh)
- ¼ cup mint leaves and fine stems (well-packed fresh)
- 2 tbsp chives (finely cut)
- ¼ cup light olive oil
- 3 tbsp Kosher salt (or more to taste, divided)
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar (optional)
- 2½ tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more to taste)
- cayenne pepper (dash, optional)
- freshly squeezed lime juice (whole lime, optional)
- Place the bulgur in a large enough bowl to hold at least triple its size, and with enough room for mixing the salad comfortably.
- Place the diced tomatoes and all of their juices on top of the bulgur. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. of Kosher salt on top of the tomatoes. Do not mix.
- Place the diced cucumbers and their liquid on top of the tomatoes; add another Tbsp. of the salt. Do not mix.
- Add the diced onions to the bowl and sprinkle ½ Tbsp. of the salt. Pour the lemon juice, vinegar, lime juice, and cayenne, if using. Do not mix.
- Put the bowl aside for 15 minutes without mixing.
- After 15 minutes, add the herbs and olive oil and mix well.
- Put the bowl aside for at least 10 minutes, or up to 30 minutes, so the bulgur can soften as it soaks up the juices and oil.
- After the bulgur has softened, taste to see if any seasonings need adjusting.
Serevan’s Ja’jik (Armenian-Style Chilled Yogurt Soup)
- 2 lbs Persian, Kirby, or European cucumbers (peeled and deseeded)
- 4 cups plain whole milk yogurt or labneh (Labneh will need to be diluted with milk or water to achieve soup consistency.)
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tbsp Kosher salt
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 shallot
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro (well packed)
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves (well packed)
- ¼ cup fresh dill (well packed)
- ½ cup light olive oil
- fresh lemon juice (from a whole lemon)
- cayenne pepper (dash, optional)
- fresh limes juice (from a whole lime, optional)
- Finely dice 1/3 of the peeled, deseeded cucumbers and store them in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Coarsely chop the remaining prepped cucumbers and set aside until ready to use.
- Use the chiffonade method to cut all of the herbs. Set aside until ready to use.
- Place half of the coarsely chopped cucumbers in a blender with ¼ cup water; blend well. With the blender running, add the remaining coarsely chopped cucumbers, shallots and garlic along with 1 ½ Tbsp. of the Kosher salt. Blend the mixture for at least 30-40 seconds, or until everything is well-blended.
- Add the yogurt to a bowl large enough to hold double or triple its size. Add the puréed cucumber mixture. Using a whisk, blend well.
- As you whisk, slowly drizzle in most of the olive oil and continue mixing until the oil is absorbed.
- Take the diced cucumbers from the refrigerator and place in a separate bowl. To it, add the remaining 1 ½ Tbsp. salt, most of the herbs, lemon juice, and lime juice, if using. Toss well so everything is coated with the salt and juice.
- Add the cucumber-herb mixture to the yogurt and puréed cucumber; mix well. Check for seasonings and adjust, if necessary.
- To serve: Place ja’jik in individual bowls, add an ice cube, if desired. Garnish with some of the remaining herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.