On a Sunday morning of late, the Cute Gardener and I found our selves strolling around a strip mall in a seedy section of North Hollywood in the breakfast hours awaiting a plate of ajarski. We had ventured to Sis Bakery seeking the Georgian-originated, Armenian dish lovingly coined “breakfast in a boat” and were told that because the dough was made to order and super fresh it would take a half hour to cook. Being the egg and bread whores that we are, we agreed to wait, and spent the next thirty minutes sampling a dense and juicy baklava square from the bakery next door, shoring up on Lebanese almond and rum cookies, scouring the shelves of the corner liquor store for discount bottles of good Kahlua and whiskey and perusing the grocery to marvel over cheap, bulk bags of colorful lentils and multiple varieties of feta. When we finally sat down to eat what looked like an open-faced calzone floating with two heartily peppered and golden, wet eggs over melted cheese, we were ravenous.
I am pretty sure if I were forced to choose a cuisine that I was limited to for the rest of my life it would be Middle Eastern. There is something about the food in that cradle of the world that rocks Armenia, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran that calls distinctly to my palette; most specifically the dates and pomegranates, musky meats, spices of cardamom, dill, chives and all the mellow cheeses that teeter between creamy when crumbled and curdled tart into spreadable yogurts. I love how roasted red pepper makes its way into many dishes and also the appearance of nuts, grains, lentils and lemon that don both savory and sweet incarnations. But I have yet to delve into the types of bread that are common to the region aside from the readily available flat lavosh style sheets that I tend to buy, stuff and roll into wraps with a decidedly Mediterranean whimsy.
As we sat at the one table in the small and extremely warm bakery to eat our novel egg dish for a scanty five bucks with two plastic forks, I was enticed to learn more about this dough that seemed to make up for all the offerings in the bakery that day. We had it as boreks, wrapped around cheese and chives in generous pockets for a mere $2.50 and saw it also house innards like beef. I could easily see myself remembering this place as an alternative to fast food on the road but what I really wanted to do was learn to make the bread at home, only perhaps just a tad bit more flavorful, so that I could create these concoctions myself for everyday eating.
What I learned is that bread is a basic staple called khachapuri, which is leavened and allowed to rise and then shaped in various ways. I found a simple recipe for it here, which reveals yet another grand use, as a carrier pastry for marvelous minced pork filled meat pies.
Although the ajarski dish we tried was rather plain compared to others I have since seen showcased around the Internet, I am happy to have discovered it in such a small, family owned hole-in-the-wall space. I may give it one more go if I ever get to Red Top Burger in Glendale only perhaps topped as well with jalapenos and bits of bacon.