Lenten Recipes from St. John Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco


SAN FRANCISCO — The St. John Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco offers these traditional Lenten-friendly recipes at its website. “The Great Lent is approaching and the Christian world is preparing for the season of fasting and self-reflection.  Each recipe is modified to suit the taste of the cook and you are free to make changes based on your own preferences.  A strict Lenten fast in the Armenian Church prohibits animal products, but if your health or circumstances cannot allow for it, start smaller.  It shouldn’t become an obsession, but a precursor to spiritual growth,” says Fr. Mesrop Ash, Parish Priest at St. John Armenian Apostolic Church since 2012.

In the Armenian Orthodox tradition, Lent is observed by abstaining from all meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products from the day after Poon Paragentan through Easter Eve Badarak.  Because it is often difficult to keep this strict tradition, most individuals and families choose to modify their diets.  A good alternative many people choose is to observe this rule on Wednesdays and Fridays, while abstaining from meat only on the other days of the week.

Red Lentils with Cracked Wheat Vospov (Kheemah or Kufta)


1 1/4 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed

3 cups water

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2 teaspoons salt

1 cup cracked wheat (bulgur), fine

3/4 cup olive oil

1 cup coarsely chopped onion

1 teaspoon red pepper, to taste


1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped red and green pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped scallions or onions


Place lentils in a kettle, add water and bring to a full boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes, removing thick foam that rises to the surface.

Add salt and continue simmering, covered, for 40 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. When mixture has cooked to a thick, yellow mass and water is absorbed, remove from heat.

Measure cracked wheat into a deep bowl and spoon cooked lentils over it, mixing to blend. Set bowl aside, covered for 10 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet and add onions, sautéing them just until they begin to brown. Add pepper; then add skillet contents to the bowl and knead or mix thoroughly.  Adjust seasonings.

Moisten hands and shape mixture into finger-or-sausage-shaped patties: pinch off a piece, squeeze it gently in your clenched fist and release it. Arrange patties on a dish or platter.  Combine garnish greens, sprinkle over patties, and serve.

Yield: 6 or more servings


Spinach Soup


4 cups hot water

1/2 cup lentils, picked over to discard residue and rinsed

1/2 cup cracked wheat (bulgur), large

1-2 cloves garlic, mashed

1-2 teaspoons salt

1 16-ounce can whole tomatoes, broken up

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 10-oz. package whole-leaf frozen spinach (or its equivalent in fresh spinach leaves)

1 teaspoon crushed, dried or 2 tablespoons fresh minced basil


Bring water to a full boil, add lentils and wheat, bring to a boil again, and let simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Add garlic, salt, tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until lentils are soft.  Add the spinach and basil during last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time.  Add more water, if needed.  Remove from heat and serve hot.

Yield: 6 servings

Note: Leftover soup will thicken as it cools so you may have to add some boiling water when reheating.

*This recipe is from The 40 Days of Lent by Alice Antreassian, published March 28, 1989 by St Vartan Press.


Bean Casserole Loopyai Aghtsan (Plaki)


1 20-oz. can white kidney beans (cannellini beans), rinsed and drained

1 cup water

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

2 medium celery ribs, diced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

14 cup minced parsley

2 tablespoons minced dill

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon tomato paste, to taste

1 medium tomato, diced

1/3 cup olive oil

Lemon slices


Rinse and drain beans in colander; set aside.

Add drained liquid to saucepan; add water and all remaining ingredients, except the tomato paste, tomato, olive oil, and beans.  Cook over low flame for half an hour, stirring.

Add the tomato paste and tomato.  Cook another 15 minutes.  Add olive oil. Cook 10 minutes more or until vegetables are soft and mixture is of a thick-soup consistency.

Add beans, bring mixture just barely to a boil, stir, and check seasoning. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate overnight to permit flavors to blend.

Serve cold, garnished with lemon slices.

Yield: 6 servings; 10 or more, serve as an appetizer

*This recipe is from The 40 Days of Lent by Alice Antreassian, published March 28, 1989 by St Vartan Press.


Stewed Celery


2 medium onions, sliced

1/4 cup olive oil

1 bunch celery, washed, leaves removed

1/2 cup water

3-4 garlic cloves, coarsely sliced

1/4 cup medium red or green pepper, seeded, coarsely chopped

Salt and pepper

1 rounded teaspoon tomato paste

Juice of 1 large lemon


Sauté onions in olive oil over moderate heat for about 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent browning.

Cut celery stalks crosswise into 1-inch pieces, there should be about 3 cups.  Add to onions, with the water, and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, covered. Stir occasionally.

Add garlic, bell pepper, and seasonings.  Mix tomato paste with lemon juice and add to saucepan, stirring to blend.  Cook an additional 20-25 minutes or until celery is crisp yet tender.  Serve warm for best flavor.

Yield: 4 servings

*Variation:  At step 3, add 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch rounds.

Note: Celery leaves may be added during the last 10 minutes of cooking or can be dried and used in soups or potato salad.


Vospov Prinzi Yeghintz (Rice Pilaf with Brown Lentils)


1/4 cup brown lentils, rinsed

1 bay leaf, water to cover

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup long grain rice

2 cups hot water or vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon crushed lemon balm or minced parsley

1 cup chopped onions


Pick over lentils, rinse, then add to a 2 or 3-quart saucepan with just enough water to cover lentils.  Add bay leaf, bring to the boil, then cook gently. Covered, for about 5 minutes or until water is absorbed.  Discard bay leaf.

Add 1/4 cup olive oil and the rice to the saucepan, stir to coat, then add the hot liquid and seasonings.  Bring to boil, cover, and simmer about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice and lentils are tender.

Remove saucepan from heat, add lemon balm or parsley and stir gently.  Keep covered for 5 minutes before serving.

While rice is cooking, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet and add the onions.  Gently sauté for 15 minutes or until onion just begins to brown at edges.  Serve a spoon of sautéed onion mixture onto each serving of the pilaf.

Yield: 4 servings


Lenten Sundays

Each Sunday of Lent has a unique name along with a unique message:

*       Week 1 – Poon Paregentan (Shrovetide)- A day of good living, reminding us of God’s love and blessings. (Read Matt. 5-7)

*       Week 2 – Expulsion Sunday – Sin enters our lives preventing us from experiencing the best of life and God’s fullness. (Genesis 1-3)

*       Week 3 – Prodigal Sunday -No matter how much we stray from the good of life, there is always hope through God’s Love and Forgiveness. (Luke 15)

*       Week 4 – Steward Sunday – Managing the talents and gifts given to us by God in a life of purpose and responsibility. (Luke 16)

*       Week 5 – Judge Sunday – Prayer and perseverance; having constant communion with God is revealed through an unjust and unrighteous judge who is the centre of this day’s message. (Luke 18)

*       Week 6 – Advent – The Second Coming of Christ is understood in the lessons of the First Coming. (Matthew 24)

*       Palm Sunday – We enter Holy Week. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem by our Lord also signals the beginning of the holiest days of Christianity. (Matthew 26)

*       Easter Sunday – Christ is Resurrected.

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