Elise Kazanjian manages a multi-course meal in her San Francisco kitchen, including her favorite Beet Leaves with Rice dish. Photo: Gina Scialabba

More Lenten Recipes: Elise Kazanjian’s Beet Leaves with Rice (Jaguntegh Yev Purintz)


SAN FRANCISCO — Elise Kazanjian is a poet/writer who grew up in Tian Jin, China where her father managed an American rug factory. She has worked at Sunset Magazine, at CCTV in Bei Jing, China, for August Coppola’s Audio Vision Project at San Francisco State University, and has been a pawnbroker. Her poems/essays have appeared in Poets Eleven, New Millennium Writings, A Kind of Hurricane Press, SF Chronicle and the Marin Poetry Center Anthology. She is a Co-Judge in the Prose Poetry Category, Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, and has a collection of over 150 fountain pens and mechanical pencils.

She is a member of the Wednesday Women Writers, a group of writers who have been meeting for over ten years. From September through November, many Bay Area Armenian churches present fall bazaars and festivals, featuring a resplendent variety of Armenian foods and deserts, the result of months of dedicated effort and capacious freezer space in homes across the area.  A member of St. John’s Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco, Elise prepared her favorite Beet Leaves with Rice recipe at a sumptuous 2013 multi-course dinner at her home for KQED News celebrating “Food & Spirituality: Fall Feast with Armenians in San Francisco.”

“This is a dish my beloved mother, Alice Artinian Shabas, often made,” says Elise. “She was born in 1906 in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul, and always called the city Constantinople. In 1918, because of the Genocide, her father sent her and her sister to Vienna, Austria to their uncle’s home.  She and my father were good friends at the time, and their relationship blossomed in Vienna. They were married in 1928, and moved to Tian Jin, China where he managed A & M Karagheusian’s rug factory.  My mother spoke seven languages, and was an excellent cook in French, Italian, German, and Chinese recipes, as well as her mastery of Armenian cuisine. Her yalanchi dolmas, kuftas, and bourma were acclaimed among her many non-Armenian friends.  She was equally adept at vegetarian dishes like roasted beets, vospov kheyma, fassoulia, and bamia stews.  During World War II, our family were prisoners of war under the Japanese. In 1946, we came to San Francisco where my mother was a devoted member of the St. John Armenian Church ladies, and contributed her vast culinary skills at church events for many years.”

Beet Leaves with Rice (Jaguntegh Yev Purintz). Photo: Gina Scialabba




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1 bunch beets with leaves and stems (Select smaller size beets as the leaves will be younger and more tender, and beets will be more succulent.)

1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup long grain rice

1 cup plus extra boiling water

Topics: Lent

Fresh ground black pepper


Cut beets leaving a 1-inch stem on each.  Put aside for roasting. (See Note below about Roasting Beets.)

Discard bruised leaves, wash good leaves well.  Layer leaves on top of each other, cut into thin strips.

Cut the stems into 1-inch pieces. Set stems aside.  Boil water.

Heat olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan.  Add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring.  Don’t brown or burn the onions.  Add beet stems and layer over the onions.  Add chopped leaves.  Cover and cook for about 5 minutes over low heat.

Add salt and rice, tenderly mixing ingredients.  Add boiling water plus extra to ensure rice is covered by water.  Cover pot, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

Remove from stove, keep covered and let rest for a few minutes. Stir gently, sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Optional: Serve a dollop of madzoon (yoghurt) on dish with the beets.  Serves 4 as a side dish.


Note from Elise about roasting beets: “I use my mother’s recipe, but I don’t know where she got it from.  Preheat the oven to 380 degrees (oven heat may vary, and some recipes call for a 400-degree oven, but that’s too hot for my Miele oven.)  Today I had three medium beets. I like that size as they are more tender and cook better. Wash the beets, do not cut off the tails as the beets will bleed while roasting.  I usually roast two beets in a fairly large piece of aluminum foil, and the remaining beet in a smaller piece of foil. (If there are large beets, each one gets its own foil.)  Put beets in the center of foil, gently tucking in the tail and bring the corners up to fully overlap; cover beets squeezing softly to make a package.  It will not be a neat looking package but it will cover the beets.  Make sure the opening flaps are facing up.  Do the same with the remaining beet.  Place packages of beets on the middle rack, and cook for about 45 minutes. Use oven mitt and gently squeeze packages to see if they are getting soft.  If they are still hard, leave in for another 10 minutes or so. Take packages out of oven, keep in their foil wrapping, and let cool.  Once cooled, the beets will be easy to peel.  Roasted beets are delicious eaten without dressing or with thinly sliced sweet onions and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Garnish beets with sliced hard-boiled eggs or lemon before serving, if desired.”

For this recipe, go to: “Food & Spirituality: Fall Feast with Armenians in San Francisco,” October 16, 2013, see: https://www.kqed.org/bayareabites/70323/food-spirituality-fall-feast-with-armenians-in-san-francisco

*This recipe is adapted from a recipe in The 40 Days of Lent by Alice Antreassian, St. Vartan Press, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern).








Also see: Elise Kazanjian reads @the Soulmaking Keats Literary Awards, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofaqmFwuIYI

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