Food Diary, Day Two.

9.40 am: Orange juice, while I decide if I want coffee, cereal, both or neither.

10.50 am: Apparently what I want are two more Tylenols.

12.19 pm: Piece of mozzarella, while I wait for the oven to heat up. Suddenly, I am starving.

12.50 – 1.10 pm: Two lamejuns from Eastern Lamejun with lemon juice drizzled over them, and a Diet Coke. I love lamejun, but they can be very dangerous — it is all but impossible to eat just one.

2.00 – 2.10 pm: Still hungry… Bowl of Special K Red Berries with organic skim milk. My taste in cereal is pretty cyclical; I’ll eat one type for months on end, and then I won’t want to eat it again for ages and ages. For years it was Kashi GoLean Crunch! Honey Almond Flax but only with soy milk, then it was assorted Cheerios (regular, Honey Nut, MultiGrain) and Rice Krispies before I settled on Special K. In the beginning I ate the Vanilla Almond, but found it overly sweet; I knew my friend Lexi liked the Red Berries, and though the dehydrated strawberries freaked me out at first, I actually kind of love it now, and buy it in bulk.

5.55 pm: Baking apple cinnamon muffins, even though I don’t particularly like apple cinnamon muffins. They smell amazing though. The batter tastes a bit too sweet for me, but I know Keith will like them.

7.14 – 7.30 pm: Snack of feta, oregano and grape tomatoes with bread, and Diet Coke Number Two.

9.30 pm: Harpoon UFO at the bar at Eastern Standard. What I really want is one of my beloved Kir Royales, but the bar is very crowded and noisy that I don’t think the bartender will hear me. It’s easier to point at the Hefeweizen.

10.00 pm – 12.30 am: Dinner at Eastern Standard with Keith, Alyssa and Guillaume. Shared appetizers of baked Raclette — one of my favorite cheeses — and butter-poached escargots, followed by an entrée of a crab cake sandwich.

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Medz Mama’s Cookies, aka Armenian Butter Cookies.

Was it really so long ago that I went to Eastern Lamejun and bought some mahleb, with the intention of baking cookies? Honestly, where has the month gone? Oh, right — I remember now.

Regardless, with Easter around the corner (where has the month gone?!) I have shifted gears into a sort of terrifying overdrive — we’re expecting fourteen people over Sunday, and rumor has it they all expect to be fed. I’ve been trying to stay organized by preparing as much as I can ahead of time, and that includes desserts. Hopefully, a mostly-cookie spread will help me keep a firm grip on my sanity, even as shelf space in both my fridge and freezer dwindles. Thus far I’ve gotten two different types out of the way, as well as the mahleb cookies I’ve been wanting to bake for a while.

These cookies are traditionally made around this time of year but, in all honesty, seasonality has nothing to do with my desire to make them. After all, do I need a holiday simply to make a batch of cookies that are lusciously buttery and nutty, that are fun and easy to make, and that remind me of my grandmother?

I grew up eating these cookies, the recipe for which my mom cajoled out of my father’s mother. To this day, we still call them Medz Mama’s cookies; in Armenian, medz means big. To a child, that sort of logic makes perfect sense, no? Not that you have to be a child to enjoy this delicious little treat.

Medz Mama’s Cookies

img_2203.jpg2 sticks butter, melted
4 cups flour
½ cup sugar (add up to 3/4 cup if you prefer sweeter cookies)
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons nigella seeds (caraway seeds are acceptable)
½ teaspoon mahleb
1/4 cup Mazola oil (I used olive oil)
1 egg, beaten
sesame seeds

img_2213.jpg1. Preheat oven to 325°. Mix the first eight ingredients (up until the egg) until they are all totally incorporated. The resulting dough will be somewhat on the oily side; if you find it too oily add a little bit more flour.

img_2214.jpg2. Pinch off about one tablespoon’s worth of dough. On a clean surface, roll dough into a wreath, a twist or any other shape and set on baking tray. Repeat with remaining dough. Though the cookies will not expand much during baking, try to keep them about two inches apart. Brush with cookie tops generously with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.img_2230.jpg

3. Bake for approximately thirty minutes or until the cookies turn a nice deep golden color. Let cool, then store in an airtight container. I’m not quite sure how long the cookies keep for, because they don’t last long around me.

Haul from Eastern Lamejun.

img_2171-1.jpg Keith and I went to Eastern Lamejun in Belmont to stock up on a few things, since our supply was running frighteningly low. This is a partial representation of our loot — oversize pita bread (which I grew up calling hahts, which means bread), choreg, peanuts rolled in sesame, pastries from a great patisserie in Montréal and the powder is mahleb, a spice made from sour cherry pits. We also got some dolma (stuffed grape leaves), manayeesh, bulgur, carraway seeds and a couple dozen lamejun, which everyone always describes as “Amenian pizza.” I suppose I understand why, but lamejun is so much better: ground beef (or lamb), spices, minced tomato and onion spread over a super-thin round of dough that’s baked until crisp and then drizzled with lemon juice. Try and tell me that doesn’t sound delicious.

There were two items I specifically wanted to get: the choreg, and the mahleb. The former because I love it, and the latter because it’s an integral part of an Armenian cookie recipe that I’ve been meaning to try for a while now. I’ll let you know how it goes once I’m able to bake them.

But the choreg… I love choreg. Admittedly, I’ve never been to convert anyone to choreg; Keith says it tastes like sawdust, and someone else once told me pencil erasers. To me, those two descriptions are completely insane. I love its mild sweetness and the familiar smell of it, which pervades even through its sealed plastic bag, and makes me think of my grandmother. I love how the mahleb gives it a faintly nutty taste and how, when you inhale deeply, it smells of butter. I love its slick exterior texture, from the egg glaze, and its soft, fluffy insides. Mostly, I love the way it feels in my mouth, as I chew it.

To all the choreg naysayers — you don’t know what you’re missing. In fact, I hope you never like choreg. More for me.

Eastern Lamejun
145 Belmont Street
Belmont, Massachusetts 02478
617.489.3224
easternlamejun.com