Tanabour (spas)

The Silkiest Soup Andrew Janjigian’s Tanabour (Armenian Yogurt and Barley Soup)

907
0

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.

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

First, soften chopped onion in butter along with pinches of dried mint, salt, and pepper. Add korkot (dried or roasted cracked wheat; the traditional choice, though other grains can be used), pour in water or broth (I like the savoriness of chicken broth), and simmer until the korkot is tender and the liquid is velvety with its starch.

Next, whisk in lots of whole-milk yogurt (store-bought is fine), taking care to prevent the acidic dairy from curdling. Bolster it with a little flour and/or an egg or yolk and gently warm it through. Ladle out steaming portions, and then perk up the neutral tones with green (fresh herbs) and amber (spiced melted butter). Yogurt brings milky tang — and an exceptional satiny texture — to the soothing Armenian soup known as tanabour.

Dried mint is widely used in Middle Eastern cooking; its flavor is quite different from that of fresh mint, so if you can’t find it, it’s better to omit it than to substitute fresh. Chicken broth gives the soup added depth, but it can be replaced with water or vegetable broth. We prefer the richness of whole-milk Greek yogurt here, but low-fat can be used; avoid nonfat. If Aleppo pepper is unavailable, substitute 1 teaspoon of paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Fresh parsley or mint, or a combination of the two, can be substituted for the cilantro.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 onion, chopped fine

1 teaspoon dried mint

1 teaspoon table salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Pinch of baking soda

3/4 cup pearl barley

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

11/2 cups plain Greek yogurt

1 large egg yolk

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

1 teaspoon ground dried Aleppo pepper

 

Serves 6

Total Time: 1 1/2 hours

 

Preparation:

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, mint, salt, pepper, and baking soda. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has broken down into soft paste and is just starting to stick to saucepan, 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in barley. Cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes. Add broth and water. Increase heat to high and bring to boil. Adjust heat to maintain gentle simmer; cook, partially covered, until barley is very tender, 50 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk yogurt and egg yolk together in large bowl.

Remove saucepan from heat. Whisking vigorously, gradually add 2 cups barley mixture to yogurt mixture. Stirring constantly, add yogurt-barley mixture back to saucepan. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes to thicken.

Heat soup over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until temperature registers between 180 and 185 degrees (do not allow soup to boil or yogurt will curdle). Remove from heat. Soup should have consistency of buttermilk; if thicker, adjust by adding hot water, 2 tablespoons at a time. Stir in 2 tablespoons cilantro and season with salt to taste.

Andrew Janjigian

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small skillet over medium-high heat. Off heat, stir in Aleppo pepper. Ladle soup into bowls, drizzle each portion with 1 teaspoon spiced butter, sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro, and serve. (Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; reheat gently, being careful not to allow temperature to exceed 180 degrees. If necessary, thin by adding water, 2 tablespoons at a time.)

Note from Andrew: Barley has the ideal soft, plump, distinct texture, and it releases the right amount of starch into the surrounding soup. Greek yogurt provides good thickness and body without too much acidity. A ratio of 1 1/2 cups of yogurt to 6 cups of liquid strikes the right balance.

Temperature is more important than a stabilizer; keeping the soup between 180 and 185 degrees is key. The starch from the barley also helps prevent the yogurt from curdling.

Madzoon ov Kofte (Armenian Yogurt and Meatball Soup)

Madzoon ov kofte is a nourishing, filling, and thoroughly satisfying Armenian meatball-and-yogurt soup. We made ours into a one-dish meal by including pasta and chickpeas. 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. Unlike the time-consuming stuffed, spiced meatballs that are more traditional here, we opted for easy-to-make meatballs from ground beef and bulgur. Finally, we garnished the soup with cilantro and Aleppo pepper–infused melted butter.

If Aleppo pepper is unavailable, substitute 2 teaspoons of paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Dried mint is widely used in Middle Eastern cooking; its flavor is quite different from that of fresh mint, so if you can’t find it, it’s better to omit it than to substitute fresh. You can substitute small elbow macaroni for the pasta shells. We prefer the richness of whole-milk Greek yogurt here, but low-fat can be used; avoid nonfat. Fresh parsley or mint, or a combination of the two, can be substituted for the cilantro.

Ingredients:

8 ounces 85 percent lean ground beef

3 tablespoons water

1 3/4 teaspoons table salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon baking soda, divided

1/2 cup medium-grind bulgur, rinsed

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

2 teaspoons ground dried Aleppo pepper, divided

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 onion, chopped fine

1 teaspoon dried mint

4 cups chicken broth

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, undrained

4 ounces (1 cup) small pasta shells

1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt

1 large egg yolk

 

Serves 6

Total Time: 1 1/4 hours

Preparation:

Toss beef with water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda in bowl until thoroughly combined. Add bulgur, 1 tablespoon cilantro, 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and mix by hand until uniform. Transfer meat mixture to cutting board and press into 6-inch square. Using bench scraper or sharp knife, divide mixture into 36 squares (6 rows by 6 rows). Using your lightly moistened hands, roll each square into smooth ball and leave on cutting board.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, mint, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has broken down into soft paste and is just starting to stick to saucepan, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add broth, chickpeas and their liquid, and meatballs to saucepan. Increase heat to high and bring to boil. Adjust heat to maintain simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta and continue to cook until pasta is tender. While pasta cooks, whisk yogurt and egg yolk together in large bowl.

Remove saucepan from heat. Using ladle, transfer 11/2 cups broth to liquid measuring cup (try to avoid meatballs, pasta, and chickpeas). Whisking vigorously, gradually add broth to yogurt mixture. Add half of yogurt-broth mixture back to saucepan and stir to combine. Stir in remaining yogurt-broth mixture. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes to thicken.

Heat soup over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until temperature registers between 180 and 185 degrees (do not allow soup to boil or yogurt will curdle). Remove from heat. Broth should have consistency of buttermilk; if thicker, adjust by adding hot water, 2 tablespoons at a time. Stir in 1 tablespoon cilantro and season with salt to taste.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small skillet over medium-high heat. Off heat, stir in remaining 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper. Ladle soup into bowls, drizzle each portion with 1 teaspoon spiced butter, sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro, and serve. (Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; reheat gently, being careful not to allow temperature to exceed 180 degrees. If necessary, thin by adding water, 2 tablespoons at a time.)

 

References:

https://wordloaf.substack.com/p/subscriber-preview-recipe-sourdough

https://www.instagram.com/wordloaf/?hl=en

https://www.seriouseats.com/andrew-janjigian-5118549

https://www.hisour.com/armenian-cuisine-36579/

https://www.masshist.org/object-of-the-month/objects/colombo-yogurt-a-massachusetts-success-story-2004-06-01

https://armenianweekly.com/2018/12/06/meet-the-family-making-yogurt-with-a-healthy-serving-of-armenian-culture/

http://thegutsygourmet.net/yogurt.html

http://thegutsygourmet.net/yog.html

https://www.tasteatlas.com/most-popular-soups-in-armenia

https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/author/andrew-janjigian

https://armenianweekly.com/2018/05/04/bob-colombosian/

https://www.andovertownsman.com/news/townspeople/andovers-role-in-the-history-of-yogurt/article_0931ed7f-42c8-5757-a0b5-7767c9001df8.html

 

Andrew Janjigian is a writer, recipe developer, and baking instructor from Cambridge, MA. He writes for a variety of publications, including Serious Eats, King Arthur Baking Co., Epicurious, and his own “breaducational” newsletter, Wordloaf https://wordloaf.substack.com/. Prior to launching Wordloaf, he worked for 11 years as a test cook and senior editor at America’s Test Kitchen, where he developed more than a hundred recipes, including many of the company’s most popular bread and pizza formulas. His work appeared regularly in Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, and has been featured in dozens of cookbooks. He’s been mining his family Armenian recipes (and more) for Serious Eats since late 2020. You can find him in various places online at @wordloaf https://www.instagram.com/wordloaf/.

 

Also see:

 

https://mirrorspectator.com/2020/09/10/recipe-corner-ultra-creamy-hummus-with-baharat-spiced-beef-topping/

https://mirrorspectator.com/2020/04/23/no-yeast-heres-the-easy-way-to-start-a-sourdough-starter-from-a-baking-expert/

https://mirrorspectator.com/2017/06/15/heritage-park-fundraiser-brings-together-eating-well-doing-good/

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=andrew+janjigian

 

© 2021 Andrew Janjigian. All rights reserved. All materials used with permission.

 

 

 

 

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: