I had a dish lined up to make for Armenia that I knew I loved and couldn't wait to eat: Choreg, a traditional Armenian sweet bread often served on Easter, but enjoyed by people like me throughout the year. I used to have an Armenian co-worker who would bring this bread into the office after Easter and some other major holidays (her mother made dozens of rounds of it for family and friends), and I would gorge myself on it whenever she did. I just love when bread is fluffy and yeasty and smells like sugar and butter from a mile away. It doesn't need any garnish or filling because it has so much flavor all on its own. I also love sesame and nigella seeds on bread. Clearly, this bread and I are a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, my current dietary restraint has us star-crossed. I won't be making Choreg any time soon, because I just can't control myself and only eat a little piece.
Instead, I'm sticking to soups and preparing Manti, a dumpling soup. I love filled dumplings of all kinds: dim sum, gyoza, pot stickers, pierogi, empanadas, even apple dumplings that I ate during my childhood from the Amish market, warmed with vanilla ice cream on top, with the secret ingredient of 7-Up soda in the buttery, cinnamon-scented syrup. I appreciate that this recipe short-cuts by using wonton wrappers for the dumplings instead of dough, because it keeps it lighter for me too, but if you search the internet for Manti you'll find lots of recipes using a heavy, savory dough that sounds simply delicious to me.
The recipe below calls for just a plain broth, but I added some carrots and onion. I think you could add veggies however desired to make it heartier. I also made big dumplings instead of little ones (didn't cut my wrappers into quarters, so my dumplings were four times bigger than they were supposed to be). This made dumpling prep quicker and easier, and I enjoyed the soup, but I think it would be better and easier to eat with the dumplings the size called for in the recipe. The yogurt sauce is not included in my picture above, but I did make it, and it brought so much flavor to the dish. I highly recommend dolloping a spoonful or two on top and then mixing it into the broth to give it some body and spice.
Manti (recipe from love&nourish)
1 lb. lean ground beef or lamb (I used lamb because I haven't yet in this project and I love it)
1 medium onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t allspice
1 T fresh chopped parsley
1 T fresh chopped parsley
4 T tomato paste, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1 pkg. wonton wraps, cut into quarters
8 cups chicken broth
Combine the ground meat, onion, garlic, allspice, 1 T of the tomato paste, and salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Fill cut wonton wrappers with about 1/4 t of meat filling. Dip your fingers in the bowl of water, wet the outer edge of each square of dough and bring up the sides, pinching together. Leave the top of each manti open in the middle. Place each manti onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, covered with another damp towel. Keep unused wonton wrappers under a damp towel to keep from drying out. Place each manti onto the parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake the manti on the center rack in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until crispy and golden.
While the manti are baking, bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add 3 T tomato paste and stir to combine. Add salt, pepper, and seasoning as desired.
Once the manti have baked, place in the pot of warm broth and stir to incorporate. Take the pot off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes for flavors to meld.
Serve in bowls topped off with a the yogurt butter sauce (recipe below).
Yogurt Butter Sauce (recipe from The Gutsy Gourmet)
1/2 stick (1 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 t sweet paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
4 dashes red pepper sauce (I used sriracha)
1 cup plain yogurt
1 clove garlic, mashed
Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the crushed garlic. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and the yogurt. Stir to combine and then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool. When ready to serve the manti, place a spoonful on top of the manti and broth.