Monday, December 10, 2012

Sweet and Sour Carrot Jelly

A great all purpose condiment for just about any spicy meal, but this shines with bolani.

Prep time: 1/2 cocktail

½ pound carrots
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2-1 jalapeño pepper, chopped (optional, if you want to add some heat)
½ tsp coriander,
¼ tsp dried, ground ginger
1 cup water
2 tsp cornstarch

Combine everything except corn starch in food processor. Puree well. Transfer to a small saucepan on medium heat and bring to boil. Once boiling, whisk the cornstarch with 1 TBSP water in a small dish with a fork until cornstarch is dissolved. Stir it into the saucepan. Continue boiling a few more minutes, or until you have reached the consistency of applesauce. Remove from heat and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Cilantro Chutney (Chutni Gashneez)

Cilantro chutney along with garlic-mint yogurt, is served with virtually every meal in Afghanistan. This condiment is served on top of just about everything from bolani to kebabs.

There are many variations, but here’s a really good, straightforward preparation.

1 big bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped 
3 garlic cloves 
1 jalepeno pepper, chopped 
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 TBSP lemon juice
3/4 tsp salt 
2 tsp sugar

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until you get a uniform consistency. Now the taste test: like any good pesto, you should be able to perfectly taste each flavor: lemon, walnuts, pepper/garlic, cilantro, salt, and a slight sweetness. In addition to each flavor having equal weight, they should blend harmoniously into one superb-tasting sauce. Because your salt, jalapenos, lemons, or other items may vary in strength or size from batch to batch, remember that the taste test is what tells you you’re done; not the instructions.

Once you have made any necessary flavor adjustments, chill before serving.

Ridiculously Delicious Kadu Bouranee

This is another of my favorite Afghan dishes. Served with challaw (Afghan spiced rice) and topped with garlic mint yogurt sauce, this sweet-savory dish is easy and stupid-delicious. If sugar pie pumpkins are available, they make a great alternative to butternut squash. Eat often and love life!

Prep time: 2 cocktails

6 TBSP butter or oil, divided
3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-2-inch cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 TBSP tomato paste
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
3 TBSP white sugar
2 cups vegetable stock
1 batch Challaw 

Melt half the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the butternut squash cubes and sauté about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it becomes a browned—but not burned—on the outsides. Remove from heat and set aside.

Melt the other half of the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger and sauté another 1 minute. Now stir in the tomato paste, turmeric, coriander, sugar, veggie stock and bring to a boil.

Once everything reaches a boil, add the squash and reduce to a simmer and let cook down, uncovered, until the squash is tender, but not mushy—about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally, but be careful not to mash the squash. If all the liquid cooks off before the squash is done, add a bit more stock or water to prevent the squash from burning.

Serve over warm challaw and top with a good portion of yogurt sauce. You can garnish with minced fresh parsley, cilantro, or mint, if available. 

Brown Rice Challow

Challow, a spiced Afghan rice, is usually made with basmati. I prefer brown, but you can use pretty much anything. 

Prep time: 1/4 cocktail (not including baking time)  

1 cup brown rice
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP oil
2 tsp cardamom
2 tsp whole cumin seeds

Preheat oven to 350.

Put 3 1/2 cups water in a Dutch oven or other saucepan that's oven safe and has a snug lid. Bring to boil.

While you're waiting for the water to boil. Soak rice in a bowl full of cold water a minute and work it well with your fingers. Drain, rinse, and repeat a couple times.

Once the pot of water is boiling, add your strained rice. Bring to boil, uncovered and boil 10 minutes.

Stir in remaining ingredients and put lid on and put the pot into the oven. Bake about an hour until the water is all absorbed and the rice is tender.

After you remove it, let it rest for a few minutes and fluff with a fork before serving.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Afghani Garlic-Mint Yogurt

An all-purpose topping that goes great on any Afghani food or is good as a dip. If you want to try making Greek yogurt yourself, here's how you do it.

16 ounces plain Greek yogurt (full fat or lowfat only—no nonfat)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP dried mint
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Combine everything into a bowl and stir well. Let sit in refrigerator, covered, at least an hour before serving. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Walnut-Gorgonzola Ravioli with Sun-Dried Tomato Sage Pesto

We had my special ladyfriend's relatives over for dinner a few nights ago and made this little gem. They liked it so much, I thought they were going to move in. I share this recipe so that you too can get on the good side with your in-laws. Served with a Cesar salad, good bread, and excessive volumes of red wine, there's no way you can end the night not a hero.

While you don't need any special equipment, an inexpensive crank-powered pasta roller is a big help. Well worth the investment. A $5 ravioli cutter is also a great investment, but a pizza slicer or even a sharp knife will substitute just fine--you just won't have the fun crimped edges.

Note that this pesto is also really great on pasta in place of traditional basil pesto if you’re looking for something new. And the cheese filling goes really well in lasagna recipes.

Prep time: 3 cocktails

2 cups rehydrated, drained sun dried tomatoes
¾ cup walnuts
1 cup fresh sage leaves, lightly packed
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 clove garlic
1 tsp pepper
½ cup water
½ cup grated high-quality Parmesan Reggiano

¾ cup ricotta (part skim is fine)
½ cup grated mozzarella        
2/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola
½ cup grated Parmesan Reggiano 
2 eggs
1 cup walnuts
3/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP fresh basil or Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely minced (optional)
1 TBSP shallot, finely minced (optional)

2 large eggs
1 TBSP Water (a bit more if you're at altitude, like me)
Pinch salt
1 3/4 cup white flour
Additional flour for rolling

Combine all pesto ingredients in food processor and process until smooth. Add additional salt to adjust flavor and additional water if the consistency to too thick. Transfer to another container and set in refrigerator.

Wash and dry food processor. Add all the filling ingredients, except for basil or parsley and shallot and process until it makes a totally smooth cheesy filling. Stir in the herbs and shallot and set aside.

In large mixing bowl, mix all dough ingredients except flour. Then, as you continue to mix, gradually add flour. You want a cohesive ball that isn't sticky. If you're not there, add water or flour as needed. Remove dough from bowl and roll as thinly as possible on a floured surface without making holes with rolling pin or pasta roller. Thickness of 1/8 inch or less is ideal. If you don’t have a lot of counter space you’ll probably have to break the dough into a few smaller batches for rolling.

Now you’re ready to assemble the raviolis. Cut rolled dough into 4-by-3-inch rectangles (a pizza slicer works great for this, if you’ve got one handy). Brush edges with a little bit of water. Place a heaping tablespoon (or so) of filling in middle. Fold the ravioli over long-ways and tightly pinch it shut with your fingers. The raviolis should close well unless there’s too much filling—adjust ravioli size or filling amount, if necessary. As you set aside the prepared raviolis, note that they’re pretty sticky, so it’s a good idea to set them on a floured surface and, if you stack them, to separate layers with wax paper.

(Note that if you use a pasta roller and have pretty uniform-shaped pasta sheets, it's faster to just take 1 full pasta sheet, put dollops of filling a few inches apart, brush the spaces in between with water, then put another sheet on top, seal each with your fingertips, and cut.)

To cook, boil the raviolis for 5-7 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Note that after cooking, leftover  raviolis will stick together in the fridge, so only cook as many as you need. Any uncooked raviolis will be just fine in the refrigerator for several days (separated with wax paper) until you cook them.

Serve topped with pesto and additional fresh-grated Parmesan! Eat!