Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lahmahjoon (Armenian-style Pizza)

These savory "pizzas" are spread with a tomato and lamb topping, then cut into wedges to serve.

They can be served hot or cold, cut into wedges as an appetizer, or put some tender greens, (and other salad makings if you like), in the middle and fold over like a taco for a delicious meal. You can sustitute ground beef instead of ground lamb, if you prefer.

There are several versions/variations of Lahmahjoon. The first time I made it I followed a different recipe, I made my own flatbread but the raw-meat topping was spread on very thinly and allowed to bake to cook throughly right on the bread. But this time I used store bought, fresh naan (Indian flatbread), cooked the topping separately then spread it on thickly and baked the breads on an oiled baking sheet in a hot (450-degree F) oven until hot and slightly crisp.

I like to add some plain yogurt and a few toasted pinenuts when I serve them. Thick Greek yogurt works best. If you have regular yogurt, drain in a paper towel (or cheese cloth) lined sieve/strainer, allow to drain over a bowl for at least 30 minutes or longer, some of the whey will drain out and as it does the yogurt will thicken.

(Armenian-style Pizza)

4 Servings

1 pound lean ground lamb (or beef)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 (14.5 ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves (authentic, but in winter my garden mint is not of good quality so I omit.)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

several shakes of dry Za'tar *
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or a couple of shakes of Tabasc0 (optional, but I always add)
4 authentic Armenian flatbreads, pita breads, fresh naan, or fluffy tortillas


Place ground lamb in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and break into small pieces until mostly browned. Drain any excess grease. Add the onion, green pepper, and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent. Stir in diced tomatoes and tomato paste, then season with parsley, basil, mint, cumin, and if using, cayenne. Simmer for about 5 minutes, mixture should be thick and nearly smooth. Remove from heat, cover, and refrigerate overnight to blend the flavors. (When I'm in a hurry, I skip the chilling step.)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Distribute the lamb mixture evenly over the tortillas, and spread out to the edges. Place the tortillas onto a baking sheet.
Bake for about 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from the oven and place the lahmahjoons onto a large piece of aluminum foil so that two of them are meat side to meat side, then stack the pairs together, and bring the foil up over the top to keep warm. These can be served hot or cold. Cut into small wedges.

*Za'tar seasoning:

For this recipe I simply use Penzey's dry shake, right from the jar. However, you can make your own:

(Recipe from In Mama's Kitchen website)

"Most za’tar is consumed as a condiment, made by grinding hyssop leaves to a coarse, aromatic, brownish green powder then mixing the pwder with olive oil, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, chickpeas, and wheat. If you can't get hyssop, substitute thyme."

1/2 cup dried hyssop (or thyme)
1/4 cup sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Put the sesame seeds on a small sheet pan or pie plate and toast for 6 minutes. Combine hyssop or thyme, sumac, salt, parsely, and sesame seeds and grind into a fine powder in a spice mill. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 to 4 months.