Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Silk Road Spaghetti

Much like the Silk Road itself, this is a dish of East meets West. This recipe combines a Mediterranean-inspired tomato sauce with zingy Afghan spices, Indian yogurt and ghee, a Persian raisin/almond combination, and fiery Chinese-style chilies. If the Mongol hordes had just had this dish at home, it's unlikely they would have ever bothered with all that unfortunate pillaging and looting.

Prep time: 2 cocktails

10-12 ounces of dry whole wheat spaghetti 
1 ½ pounds fresh tomatoes, stems removed and quartered
3 ounces tomato paste
3 TBSP olive oil or ghee
3 cinnamon sticks
4 large bay leaves
1 large red onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2-5 fresh cayenne pappers or spicy Chinese chilies, chopped
1¼  tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 TBSP Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
1/4 cup chopped raisins
1/2  cup plain yogurt, use full-fat ONLY
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2 TBSP coarsely chopped or slivered almonds, optional

Cook pasta as you prepare all the other ingredients. When it’s done, toss with a bit of olive oil and set it aside in covered container.

Combine the tomatoes and tomato paste in food processor and puree into a totally smooth sauce. Set aside.

In large frying pan or wok, heat the oil or ghee on medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Allow them to fry in the oil for 10 second before adding onions, and chilies. Sauté until onions become lightly golden brown, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and sauté one more minute. Next, stir in tomato puree, salt, oregano, parsley, and raisins.  Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium. Cook sauce 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool at least 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir in yogurt and almonds (if using). Adjust salt to taste.

In a large bowl, toss the pasta and the sauce well. If the pasta and sauce have cooled too much, return it all to the stovetop and heat it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it’s warm enough.

Serve with Parmesan cheese on top. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Habesha Gomen

Ethiopian habesha gomen is basically like any other sauteed greens. If you want to make them a little more Ethiopian, you can always add a sprinkle of berbere, even though I never really saw it done in Ethiopia.

If you've got other greens—such as spinach, kale, chard, or mustard greens—you can also use those for this recipe, but cooking times will vary, depending the toughness of your greens.

Prep time: 1/4 cocktail

1.5 TBSP oil
¼ cup minced onion
4 cloves minced garlic
2 hot chilies, chopped finely (optional)
1 bunch of leafy greens (such as kale or chard), spine removed and chopped pretty well
1.5 TBSP soy sauce
Ground black pepper to taste

In frying pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for a minute or two. Add greens and sauté for 90 seconds, stirring frequently.

Add soy sauce, black pepper, and a couple tablespoons of water. Reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally until greens reach desired, about 5 minutes. Add additional splashes of water if it cooks off completely.

Serve hot.

Shiro Tagabino!!!

Living in Ethiopia, this became my favorite meal. Filling, easy, delicious, and fast. Total comfort food.

Real tagabino is only found in the north. Elsewhere in Ethiopia, when you order tagabino, you get flavorless, watery glop that basically amounts to an 8-birr plate of disappointment.  But the true northern-style tagabino is pretty damn amazing. It's great as a standalone dish or served alongside any other Ethiopian dishes--such as mesir wot, quanta firfir, doro wot, gomen, or whatever else you like.

You can get stuff like shiro powder and teff for your injera online or at any big-city Ethiopian grocer. Note that shiro--a spiced chickpea powder--can vary in the amount of berbere that's added to it when it's produced. It can vary in color from white (no spice added) to deep orange (already very spicy). So you'll want to adjust your berbere and salt as you go. 

Prep time: 1/2 cocktail

2 onions, chopped
1/2 cup shiro powder
1/2 cup neutral oil like canola or avacado
1 cup water
1-2 tomatoes, finely chopped (optional)
1 tsp berbere (optional, depending on how seasoned your shiro powder already is)
Salt to taste (shiro powders vary in the amount of added salt, I find I usually have to add about 1.5 tsp to most)
Thinly sliced raw garlic slivers and jalepenos as a topping (optional)

Put onions in a food processor and pulse until they are a really finely chopped and just beginning to release some water--but not a total slurry. This is probably about 15 pulses. Make sure you scrape down the edges with a rubber spatula every few pulses.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and transfer the onion to the dry, heated pan. Dry cook the onions until all the excess moisture has cooked off and they're slightly golden-brown, about 10-20 minutes, stiffing frequently. Add oil, shiro, water, tomatoes and stir it all in together. Then add berbere and salt to taste.

Remove from heat and serve with garlic and jalepeno slivers on top of injera!

Lead a Happy Life--Eat Bolani

Bolani is an Afghani stuffed flatbread that makes an amazing appetizer or main course. When served with the myriad of condiments mentioned below, this is one of my very favorite foods of all time. Of course, that's also probably at least partly because I'm a hopeless condiment whore. 

This recipe makes roughly 16 bolani—enough appetizers for about 12 hungry guests. If you’re hosting fewer people or are making it as a full meal for a few people, rather than an appetizer, cut the recipe in half. Bolani also refrigerates well. 

Bolani can have different fillings, including spinach, lentils, pumpkin, butternut squash, or leeks. So a potato filling is not mandatory. And also note that if you want to lighten this dish up, you don’t have to fry the bolani. You can just brush them with oil and bake at 400 degrees until the outsides begin to brown (flipping halfway through).

Finally, note that the potato filling from this recipe makes a pretty rad choice any time you want to try a new twist on mashed potatoes. 

Prep time: 2 cocktails

6 cups unbleached white flour
2 cup water room temperature
2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil

4 medium-sized russet potatoes
1 bunch finely chopped cilantro
1 bunch finely chopped scallions white and green parts
¼ cup olive oil
1 TBSP salt
2 tsp ground black pepper

Finishing touches:
½ cup canola or other vegetable oil
1 batch CilantroChutney 

First prepare the dough: Mix the flour and 2 tsp salt together in a large bowl.  As you continue to mix, slowly add the water and the 2 teaspoons of oil and mix the dough together, kneading it a little until it forms a ball.  If the dough is too dry to come together, add more water, a tablespoon at a time.  Once the dough is formed, knead it for at least 10 minutes on a lightly floured cutting board.  Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a cloth and let it rest for one hour.

As the dough sets, prepare the filling: Boil or microwave the potatoes until soft in the center when pierced with a fork.  Remove from the water and, when cool enough to handle, slip the skins off the potatoes.  Put the potatoes, cilantro, scallions, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mash together with a potato masher until thoroughly combined. Some lumps are ok.

Now construct the bolanis: Take a small amount of dough the size of a golf ball and roll into a smooth ball.  Spread some flour on the wood board and roll out the dough using a rolling pin.  Continue to flatten the dough until it takes a round shape, is as thin as a tortilla, and about 8-10  inches across.  The thinner the dough the better.  Cut off any irregularities with a pizza cutter or knife so you have a perfect circle. Spread roughly 1/2 cup of potato mixture on one side of the dough, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the rim.  Fold the other half over and press the dough together with your finger to form a seal, as though you’re building a calzone.

Heat the remaining ½ cup of oil in a 10-12 inch frying pan over medium heat.  Brown the bolani, two at a time, until golden on both sides.  The bolani should sizzle when they hit the pan. Lay cooked bolani on a paper towel. Add more oil to your pan if your oil starts to reduce. Bolani are best served warm.

Just before serving, cut the bolani into wedges that are manageable as a finger food. The bolani pieces should be smeared with each of the three spreads when eating. It is pure heaven!