CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — These two recipes and the following text are contributed by writer, recipe developer, and baking instructor Andrew Janjigian, and were originally featured in Cook’s Illustrated (August 3, 2021). Permission was received from America’s Test Kitchen to reprint these recipes. (https://www.cooksillustrated.com/articles/3513-the-silkiest-soup).
From Andrew Janjigian:
Tanabour, or spas, is a nourishing and thoroughly satisfying Armenian grain-and-yogurt soup. Though tanabour can be made using a wide variety of grains, our versions uses pearl barley, since — lacking hulls — it cooks to a tender, plump consistency without breaking down entirely. We used Greek yogurt, since it gave the soup the requisite thickness and dairy richness without leaving it overly tart. We added an egg yolk to give the soup further richness and a silky consistency. Finally, we garnished the soup with cilantro and Aleppo pepper-infused melted butter.
In his definitive 1944 cookbook, Dinner at Omar Khayyam’s, Armenian-American chef and restaurateur George Mardikian explains step one for making yogurt at home in the United States: “Just open any telephone book and find a name ending with ‘ian.’ Go to that person’s address, knock on the door, and ask the Armenian who opens it for a cup of madzoon [yogurt].” The fact that you could count on just about any “-ian” to have a batch of yogurt in the fridge — in the 1940s, no less, when many Americans were unfamiliar with the ingredient — explains just how important a food it is in my culture.
One of our most beloved uses for yogurt is in the grain-enriched soup known as tanabour, or spas. (“Tan” is a yogurt drink, and “abour” means “soup”; “spas” comes from the verb “spasarkel,” which means “to serve,” referring to the fact that the dish requires a spoon.) Everyone I serve this soup to is wowed by its silky consistency and savory-tart flavor, even those unfamiliar with eating yogurt in a hot preparation.
They like it even more once they learn how easily it comes together.