Daughters of Vartan D.C. Chapter Fundraiser Features Chef Aret Sahakyan’s Menu


WASHINGTON — The Daughters of Vartan Dikranouhie Chapter here, composed of 32 sisters, held a special carry-out luncheon event at St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church on January 30, 2021, to raise funds for 1000Plus, a charitable foundation in Armenia that provides financial assistance to soldiers who died or were disabled while protecting the borders of Armenia and their families.* (See: https://armenianwoundedheroes.com/1000plus/ and https://www.1000plus.am/en).

Guest Chef Aret Sahakyan, the executive chef at Macakizi Hotel in Turkey, who was visiting his family at the time, volunteered to help with cooking and kitchen duties for the event. Sahakyan created the menu with the assistance of his brother, Raffi Sahakyan. This dynamic, duo along with the Daughters of Vartan sisters, friends and supporters, pitched in ahead of a looming snowstorm and produced three exceptional organic entrees: Harissa Salmon with Prune and Dill Rice, Marinated and Spice Rubbed Chicken with Broccoli, Carrots, and Potatoes, and finally, Portobello Lasagna with Lentil-Beet Salad.

The Daughters of Vartan spearheaded the event, and the St. Mary Gift Shop participated by selling jams, wines and dried fruits as part of a fundraiser which went to benefit the church. There were 155 orders sold in one day, and $4,400 was raised to benefit 1000Plus. Homemade Lentil Noodle Soup and three tasty desserts were donated for the luncheon, reports Malvina Brown.

Born in Istanbul, Aret Sahakyan is from an Armenian family where food and cooking was part passion and part profession. When he travelled to the United States to study, he worked in a variety of restaurants to support himself. He quickly found fulfillment and success in the kitchens of Roberto Donna and Yannick Cam, some of the most respected chefs in Washington D.C. He trained with Francesco Ricchi at I Ricchi and Jean Louis Palladin at the Watergate before going to the Cities Restaurant where he created distinctive dishes and menus based on a menu concept that featured the cuisine of different cities every six months. In 2000, Sahir Erozan requested that Aret join him to open Macakizi on the Aegean coast of Turkey near Bodrum. The sumptuous Mediterranean menu at Macakizi, created by Sahakyan, is served in an open-air restaurant beneath 100 year-old olive trees. (See: https://experienceselectnow.com/hotel/a2o0y000005JISpAAO/Macakizi-Hotel-Bodrum).

Sahir and Sahakyan also opened Tuus restaurant in one of the most elite sections of Istanbul in 2006.

The Daughters of Vartan is a charitable Armenian sisterhood dedicated to promoting Armenian heritage and faith. Founded in 1933, it is a non-sectarian, non-political, and non-denominational organization, with 18 chapters nationwide. In the United States, the Knights and Daughters of Vartan collectively raised $250,000 in the month of October for Armenia/Artsakh. For Washington, D.C. Daughters of Vartan membership, contact: margiesatian@icloud.com.

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Here are three signature recipes Chef Aret created for this carry-out fundraiser luncheon:

Prune and Dill Rice

1 cup basmati rice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water

1/4 cup fresh chopped dill, or to your taste

1/2 cup chopped Armenian red prunes, or any dried prune

Lemon juice


In a sieve, rinse the rice under cold running water until water runs clear.

In a medium pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, tossing, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and salt and sauté for 1 more minute.

Stir, add the rice and the stock, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until the water has evaporated, about 12 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then fold in the dill, prunes, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve hot.

Harissa Crusted Broiled Salmon


4 (6-oz.) wild salmon fillets



5 large red bell peppers

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 bird’s eye chili

1 large clove garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted in a dry pan

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted in a dry pan

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika


Set oven to broil. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Add red peppers to pan. Toss with 3 teaspoons olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Broil until skin is charred so you can peel easily.

For the harissa: In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and blend until the mixture forms a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, remove salmon from refrigerator, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Brush the salmon fillets with harissa.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush the baking paper with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place the salmons skin side down. Roast to desired level of doneness, 8 to 9 minutes for medium. Serve with Lentil-Beet Salad and Prune and Dill Rice.

Lentil-Beet Salad


3 small beets, peeled

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 strips orange zest

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup French lentils, rinsed

1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 cup chopped toasted almonds


2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Make the salad. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the beets, vinegar, honey, orange zest, coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 tablespoon water. Toss to coat.

Arrange beets on a rimmed baking sheet and cover the beets with baking paper; tightly cover the tray with foil.

Roast until the beets can be easily pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and swirl the beets in the sticky sauce to coat. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, cut then in 1/2-inch cubes.

Meanwhile, rinse the lentils under cold water. Place them in a medium pot with 2 1/2 cups of water and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to simmer, and cover. Cook lentils over medium-low heat until they are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain well and allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, toss together the lentils, beets, cilantro, shallot and almonds.

Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the pomegranate molasses, vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, chili flakes, and black pepper. Continue whisking as you stream in the olive oil. Whisk until the dressing is emulsified. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more lemon juice, chili or salt. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, and toss.

St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church

Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan

4125 Fessenden St. NW.

Washington, DC 20016

Office: (202) 363-1923

Email: stmarychurchdc@gmail.com












*“The Insurance Foundation for Servicemen, also known as 1000+, was created to alleviate the economic hardship many families face when a soldier is injured or killed in combat. They do this by providing monetary compensation to soldiers who sustain injuries while in combat and now live with disability, or to eligible family members of soldiers either killed in combat or declared missing. Using in-kind donations and 1,000 AMD donated every month from the income salaries of every registered worker in Armenia (hence the nickname 1000+), the foundation supports military families who have suffered losses first with an upfront lump sum, then with monthly disbursements for 20 years.” (See: https://www.onearmenia.org/)


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