Lamejun, an Armenian Pizza
Yesterday, my sister Kate texted me to say she had made kibbeh for Lebanese Easter. Kibbeh is one of the dishes I’ve come across in my research on Middle Eastern cuisine, and it’s on my to-make list. But Kate lives in Arkansas, and she’s neither Lebanese nor Christian. Apparently, she’s on her own Middle Eastern journey.
As for me, today my Middle Eastern explorations take us to lamejun, spelled in a dozen variations. Whatever the spelling, the dish is common in both Armenia and Turkey.
I remember eating “pitza” almost daily when I visited Turkey–fresh flatbread with cheese, spices, and vegetables. But in my research, I found that most lamejun recipes used beef or lamb and no cheese at all.
To mesh my memories of cheesy Turkish pitza with what I was finding out about lamejun, I headed to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn for the second time this month. This time, I stopped at Damascus, where I bought big floppy whole wheat pitas, at least twice as large and half as thin as the pitas I normally see. They would be the crust for my lamejuns.
Next, in a variation sanctioned by Ana Sortun, author of Spiceand chef at Oleana in Massachusetts, I swapped out the red meat and used ground chicken instead. Once you’ve bought your ground chicken, the process is really easy: you gently liven up the meat with onion, garlic, sumac, and paprika, then press it onto a round of pita or a big piece of lavash. I also used Sargento’s really thin slices of provolone, in an effort to bring back the cheese I remembered.
While baking, the chicken on the pizzas firm up, and the cheese bubbles and browns. Since the crust is so thin, these cool down right away – but they’re just as good at room temperature as they are warm. I like them cut into 4-inch squares or thereabouts, served as part of an appetizer or mezze spread, or packed for a picnic. You can also eat bigger pieces, rolled up in little tubes. We feasted on our leftovers as snacks all week–turns out lamejun is also good straight from the fridge.
This sponsored post is part of an ongoing collaboration with Sargento, called Flavor Journey. Throughout the year, with the support of Sargento, I’ll be exploring Middle Eastern cuisine–at home, in Brooklyn, and wherever the flavors may take me. Sponsored posts let me do some of my best work on this blog, and I only ever work with brands whose values and products mesh with the content I love to produce for you. You can read my affiliate disclosure here if you’re interested.
Chicken Lamejun with Sumac and Red Peppers
Serves a crowd as an appetizer
1 onion, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 cloves garlic
2 tablepsoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons sumac
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground chicken
12 slices Sargento ultra thin provolone cheese
4 whole wheat lavash or 2 big pitas, halved horizontally to make 4 rounds
4 scallions, white and light green parts chopped, sprinkled on right before baking
2 roasted peppers, rinsed well, drained, and minced
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper to make clean up easier.
In a mini food processor, pulse the onions and garlic til they form a paste. Add the tomato paste, paprika, thyme, sumac, and salt and pulse to combine. Tranfer to a bowl. Add the chicken and the egg and mix to combine everything evenly.
Put the pita or lavash crusts onto the baking sheets, and place 3 slices of provolone on each. Spread one quarter of the chicken mixture on each crust as evenly as possible, leaving almost no space around the edge. I found that clean hands were the best tool for this. Scatter each pizza with a few of the chopped scallions.
Bake the pizzas for 12 minutes, until the chicken is firm and the cheese is melty. Sprinkle the pizzas with salt, minced red pepper, and parsley. Cut each into 4 or 8 slices each, and serve warm or at room temperature.