Goldie Nakashian’s Koulenje from Gesaria (Kayseri)

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WATERTOWN — This recipe from Janice Okoomian is featured at the Armenian Museum of America website. Janice, a professor of English/Gender & Women’s Studies at Rhode Island College, contributed this recipe in honor of her beloved grandmother, Goldie Nakashian.

Voski Takouhi Victoria Nakashian (neé Mardirosian) was named after Queen Victoria of England, whom her mother admired.  (“Golden Queen Victoria” is the translation of her name; she was known as “Goldie.”)

“Goldie was born in 1907 in Everett Massachusetts, where she lived for her entire life,” says Janice. “Her mother, Khosrofouhi Arzoumanian, was the niece of Bishop Drtad Balian, the Bishop of Gesarya and a member of the Balian architect family.  Her father, Mgrdeech, from Kharpert, was a cooper (a barrel maker) and performed with a touring wrestling team in the United States.  Khosrofouhi believed in education for women, so she sent Goldie to college, where she completed one year of study.  Goldie married Ludwig Nakashian in 1926, and had two children, Phyllis (Janice’s mother), and Martin.”

“Goldie was an amateur oil painter and poet.  I have many of her seascapes hanging in my house, and some of her poetry was published in magazines.  She also developed a hobby of entering contests, and she got very good at winning them. On the way home from the hospital after the birth of her son, in 1931, she stopped by an airfield and won the prize for the youngest baby.  The prize was a ride in an airplane.  My childhood home was full of transistor radios, kitchen appliances, skateboards, and other objects that my grandmother had won in contests.  Often, she would have to write a jingle or poem for the contest.  She also adapted her Armenian recipes for an American context.  In the 1960s, when Jell-O ran a contest for recipes using Jell-O, Goldie was one of the winners, with a recipe she called ‘Mediterranean Jell-O Delight,’ which was basically a Jell-O mold version of jajek – madzoon, cucumbers, and mint.”

“I learned to cook at her elbow,” adds Janice.  “We collected rose petals from her garden and made rose syrup; she taught me to make “shekher lokhom” (kourabia), paklava, and many other Armenian delights.  My grandfather made madzoon on the steam radiator in the kitchen, and we would put his madzoon on our pilav.”

The Armenian Museum of America in Watertown, MA re-opened last month with an updated “art, culture, eternity” exhibition highlighting over 3,000 years of Armenian culture and new contemporary art exhibits in the Adele and Haig Der Manuelian Galleries. It is a living museum that collects and preserves religious and cultural artifacts and artwork, and presents multi-media programs that illustrate the creative endeavors of the Armenian people. The museum’s website also presents cherished recipes from Armenian families and contributors that reflect Armenia’s rich and diverse history, and the adaptability and strength of an enduring people.

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“This is my grandmother’s Armenian quick bread that originated in the region of Gesarya (Gesaria) in Armenia,” adds Janice. “Koulenje is not well known among Armenians in the United States — most Armenians are more familiar with choreg, which is a similar bread but made with yeast instead of baking powder. The seeds on the koulenje are called sev dzandig (or sev goundig), which translates as ‘little black seeds.’ My grandmother, who passed away in 1993, measured ingredients by eye and feel; this version approximates her amounts.  My family is Gesaratsi, and my mother and grandmother told me that our recipe is from that area. Our Kharpetsi relatives make the more commonly known choreg.”

 

“Gesaria (Կեսարիա), also transliterated as Gesarya or Gessaria, is now known in Turkey as Kayseri.  Kayseri is also renowned for its culinary specialties such as manti, pastirma and sucuk. Manti is the most popular dish in Kayseri for the local people and tourists.  Another specialty is stuffed zucchini flowers made with Köfte, garlic and spices. Nevzine is a traditional dessert.” (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kayseri)

Goldie Nakashian

Ingredients:

All ingredients should be at room temperature.

61/2 cups flour, or a little more

6 large eggs

6-7 heaping teaspoons baking powder

1 cup melted butter

1 tablespoon salt

1 to 1-1/3 cups milk

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon ground mahleb

1 tablespoon sev dzandig (black seeds)

 

Glaze:

1 medium egg

About 1 additional tablespoon sev dzandig (black seeds)

Preparation:

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together. In a separate bowl, beat 6 eggs, then blend in the butter and milk.

Sprinkle one tablespoon of sev dzandig (black seeds) and all the mahleb on top of the dry ingredients.  Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in all at once, mixing with a few strokes until the dough can be turned out onto a floured board.  Add more flour if necessary; it shouldn’t be too sticky.

Knead the mixture gently, just a few times, and then roll it out until it is 1/2″ thick.  Cut it into diamond shapes, circles, or long strips which can be rolled and braided into loaves.  Prick each piece several times with a fork.

Beat the seventh egg with additional sev dzandig (black seeds) added.  Brush each piece of koulenje with this glaze and place on cookie sheet covered with baking parchment.  Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes until slightly golden. Cool on a rack. (These are best eaten warm.  Reheat them by wrapping in foil.)

 

Note: To read more about the significant role that choreg has played in Armenian cuisine, tradition, and identity, visit: https://www.diningindiaspora.com/food/2018/3/30/choreg-for-armenian-americans-identity-is-braided-into-this-bread

Armenian Museum of America

65 Main Street
Watertown, MA 02472
Call for information: (617) 926-2562

Current hours: Fridays through Sundays from 12:00 noon to 6:00 pm; admission is free for members and children under 18

To share your Armenian recipes, go to: https://www.armenianmuseum.org/share-your-armenian-recipes

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For more about the historic City of Gesaria (modern-day Kayseri; historical Caesarea) go to: https://www.houshamadyan.org/mapottomanempire/vilayetankara/sandjak-of-kayseri/local-characteristics/folk-medicine.html

See: “UNESCO has added Turkey’s central province of Kayseri to its Creative Cities Network in the field of gastronomy for the city’s rich cuisine,” July 28, 2021. Turkey’s Kayseri becomes UNESCO Creative City due to culinary arts at: https://www.dailysabah.com/life/food/turkeys-kayseri-becomes-unesco-creative-city-due-to-culinary-arts

 

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