Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Weekend at the beach!

This weekend, we will be heading to the beach! We will be heading towards Ocean City, MD, and then spending much of our time in the Chincoteague, Virginia area. Not only are we looking forward to the wild ponies there, but we will also be there to see the offerings at the 2007 Chincoteague Blueberry Festival! So with that, we wish you all a wonderful weekend, and hopefully we'll come back with some good blueberry goodies!

Monday, July 9, 2007


We've been so busy lately, we hadn't gotten around to finishing posting about the Afghan feast we had on Independence Day! We made Ashak, which are boiled scallion dumplings, with the Afghan Nan. It was a bit of work, but not unmanageable, and totally worth it. While the bread was rising, I was able to start the yogurt sauce, and the dumpling fillings. Instead of homemade yogurt, I opted for a quicker version, that was not as flavorful as the yogurt sauces that we've had in restaurants, but for us, it was quite good, and still complemented the dish well. Highly recommended, this is Kevin's favorite Afghan meal to order. The recipe is adapted from the Classic Afghan Cookbook by Mousa Amiri.

For the yogurt topping:
2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 clove of garlic, minced
dried mint (for garnish)

Line a strainer with a cheese cloth. Place the yogurt in the cheesecloth and let drain at room temperature for at least 3 hours.
After well drained, place the yogurt into a bowl. Add salt and garlic to the yogurt. Stir well, and put bowl in refrigerator.
Before using, add a little water to the yogurt, if it is too thick, and stir well.

For the dumplings:
3 bunches of scallions
1 lb frozen chopped spinach
2 packages of round wonton skins
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Slice the scallions 1/4 inch thick. Place in a colander and wash. Let drain for 15 minutes.
Sqeeze out all water from the spinach. Combine the scallions and spinach into a mixing bowl. Add the salt and cayenne. Mix well.
Using water as 'glue', brush a little water on the edge of a wonton.
Place 1/2 tablespoon of the filling in the center of the wonton.
Fold the wonton skin over the filling, and seal the edges, making a half-moon shape. Continue making dumplings until the filling or dumplings are used up. (Most likely the filling will be used up first.)

For the peas topping:
1/2 lb dried yellow split peas
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 tomato seeded, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water

Sautee the onion with the oil until lightly browned. Add the peas, garlic, black pepper and water.
Simmer until the peas are tender.
Add the tomato, tomato sauce, and salt. Simmer for 10 more minutes.

Assembling the dish:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and vegetable oil to the water.
Add 10 to 12 dumplings to the water. Let cook for 3 minutes and then remove to a plate.
Top with the peas topping, and then the yogurt topping. Sprinkle the dried mint over the yogurt.
Repeat for another plate of dumplings.

Serves 6 to 8 hungry people.

Afghan Nan

This was a simple bread from the Classic Afghan Cookbook. I've adapted the steps and amounts to what I used. This nan is traditionally cooked in a tandoor, like Indian naan, but the flavor is much more like a light pizza dough. The bread has parallel grooves, that give a unique look and texture. The bread is pictured with in our Ashak post.

2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup warm water
3 grams dry yeast (or half a packet)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a bowl, mix the yeast with the water.
Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well and knead for 10 minutes.
Cover the dough and let it rise for one hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Liberally grease a baking sheet with the vegetable oil.
With wet hands, spread the dough flat onto the baking sheet. Flatten the dough out so that it is uniform thickness, and covers the entire baking sheet.
With wet fingers, run your fingers down the dough in a straight line, pressing and releasing every inch or so, to form wavy up and down grooves down the length of the dough.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the bread is slightly golden.
This bread is great straight from the oven, or lightly toasted after cooling.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Classic Afghan Cookbook

Our love of Afghan food started a few years ago when friends of ours invited us to eat at the renowned Helmand restaurant in Baltimore. The restaurant is owned by the brother of Afghanistan President Karzai, and naturally, everything we tasted that night was unforgettable. Since then, we've explored other Afghan restaurants closer to us. (We highly recommend Bamian in Falls Church. Very delicious and so much closer to us than Baltimore!) Dishes like Kadu, (sweet baby pumpkin), Ashak (scallion dumplings) and Naan (traditional bread) relieve our hunger pangs, but also feed our addictions for Afghan food.

The next sensible progression of our fascination with the tastes of Afghanistan is to cook it ourselves! One of my most recently acquired cookbooks is the Classic Afghan Cookbook. The author, Mousa Amiri, owns a popular Afghan restaurant in Sacramento, and the recipes looked so good, we had to give it a shot. So on this past 4th of July, we celebrated with an Afghan feast! Stay tuned for a post on the dishes we made from this cookbook!