All posts tagged dinner

  • aushak (afghan dumplings with meat sauce and yogurt)


    I’ve been on a bit of an Afghan kick.

    Truth is, when I made kaddo bourani last week, what I really wanted was aushak, Afghan dumplings filled with scallions and leeks, served with a tomato-based meat sauce and garlic yogurt. I love both dishes and they’re both quite similar, but a hankering for dumplings just doesn’t go away. Living in a small college town without a car is its own kind of food desert, like why can’t I find any broccoli this week? Why is this small jar of tahini $10? And why oh why can’t I find wonton wrappers so I can make aushak? I was almost desperate enough to make the wrappers myself. It took some searching, but we did find an Asian market and stocked up on a variety of things, including wonton wrappers. To the kitchen we go!


    They’re dumplings, so the assembly is time consuming. I used to buy tiny wonton wrappers and it’d take over an hour to assemble them all. Audiobooks and kitchen helpers are welcome companions when reaching this step, but I’ve taken to buying larger wonton wrappers (4″ by 4″) to reduce preparation time. Also, although it’s not traditional I like to slip in some spinach into the dumplings. Never hurts to add some greens, right?

    Confession time: I took these photos about three years ago, just before starting a job that involved a four hour commute. Soon after, I stopped blogging for wayyy too long, but I’ve wanted to share this recipe ever since and I still like these photos!


    Aushak (Afghan dumplings with meat sauce and yogurt)
    Adapted from Khyber Pass Cafe

    For the meat:
    – 1 pound ground beef or lamb (I like using a mixture of both)
    – 1 yellow onion, chopped
    – 4 tablespoons tomato paste
    – 4 cloves garlic, diced
    – 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, diced
    – 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    – cayenne pepper, to taste
    – salt & pepper to taste
    – 1 cup water

    For the dumplings:
    – wonton wrappers, the amount you need depends on the size of your wrappers. 18-24 wrappers are needed if you’re using 4″ by 4″ wrappers.
    – 1 bunch scallions, diced
    – 3 leeks, diced
    – 12 ounces baby spinach
    – salt & pepper, to taste

    For the yogurt sauce:
    – 1 cup plain yogurt
    – 2 cloves garlic, diced
    – 1 teaspoon dried mint
    – salt & pepper, to taste

    For serving:
    – garnish with fresh or dried mint or cilantro
    warm naan

    Prepare the yogurt:
    Add garlic to a large bowl, mix in garlic, dried mint, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside unrefrigerated until the aushak is ready to serve.

    Prepare the meat:
    Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, stir for another 30 seconds or so. Add the ground meat, stirring frequently. When most traces of pink are gone, add coriander, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Add the tomato paste and water. Let simmer on low heat and stir occasionally until the dumplings are ready.

    Prepare the dumplings:
    Heat oil in another skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the scallions and leeks. Stir frequently and let them cook down for a few minutes. Add the spinach and let it cook down, about a minute or so. Add some salt and pepper, to taste.

    Heat a pot of water over medium heat, and get ready to assemble your wrappers.

    Set up your workstation. My set up is: cutting board directly in front of me, bowl of water next to the cutting board, skillet (containing the scallions and leeks) and wonton wrappers at my sides, and a floured baking sheet in front of the cutting board to place the assembled dumplings. Dollop a small amount of the fixins onto the center of the wrapper. Dip your fingers into the bowl of water (or use a pastry brush) and line the edges of your wrapper with water. If using round wrappers, fold them in half and seal them tightly with your fingers. If using square wrappers, fold them diagonally. Don’t fuss too much about folding them a certain way, just make sure they’re properly sealed.

    By the time your dumplings are assembled, the water should be boiling. Working in batches (3-5, depending on the size of your pot), boil the dumplings for about 3 minutes. I usually put a colander into the pot, as this prevents the dumplings to getting stuck on the bottom of the pan. Drain, and add to a plate. Serve with yogurt, meat sauce, and a side of warm naan to clean every last morsel off your plate. Garnish with dried or fresh mint or cilantro.

    Serves 4-6

  • kaddo bourani


    There’s an Afghan restaurant on Van Ness in San Francisco called Helmand Palace. The decor is painfully outdated, the service is spotty, but it is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Not to mention it is owned by brother of Hamid Karzai, you know, the corrupt and ever so stylish president of Afghanistan. Helmand Palace was a bit out of the way for us, so whenever we’d go we’d load up on appetizers and dessert. One of my must-eats was Kaddo Bourani, a dish with candied pumpkin, spicy ground meat, and garlicky yogurt. It may sound a little weird, but it is incredibly flavorful and a wonderful balance of sweet and savory. If you’re in the Boston area, they’re also behind Helmand Restaurant in Cambridge.

    Kaddo Bourani is traditionally made with pumpkin, you can also use butternut squash as I did here. Warning to my fellow procrastinators: don’t make this when you’re hungry, it takes about 2 1/2 hours to roast the pumpkin/butternut squash. The original recipe calls for 3 cups (!) of sugar, but I just can’t bring myself to use that much sugar for anything except jam. The end result is still plenty sweet.

    Kaddo Bourani (Afghan pumpkin dish with meat sauce and yogurt)

    Adapted from SFGate and Habeas Brulee

    For the pumpkin:
    1 3lb sugar pie pumpkin or butternut squash
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1 cup sugar

    For the meat:
    1 onion, diced
    1-2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon fresh ginger, diced
    1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
    1 1/2 pounds of ground meat, beef or lamb
    1 tablespoon turmeric
    1 teaspoon coriander
    salt & pepper to taste
    3 tablespoons tomato paste
    1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth or water

    For the yogurt:
    1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon dried mint
    salt & pepper, to taste

    For serving:
    warm naan or pita bread


    Pre-heat oven to 300F.

    Wash, peel, and seed the squash. Remove all of the rind. Cut the squash into halves and cut into slices that are about 3/4″ to 1″ thick. Layer the baking sheet with the squash slices, coat with the olive oil and spread the sugar evenly over the slices. Cover with aluminum foil for 2 hours. After 2 hours have passed, baste the pieces with the juices from the pan, cover it up again, and return to the oven for another half hour.

    Yogurt sauce:
    Mix the garlic, mint, salt, and pepper into the yogurt. Store in the fridge until just before serving.

    Add oil to a saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno peppers, stirring until fragrant, or about 30 seconds. Add the meat, stir until it is broken into small pieces and most traces of pink are gone. Add the spices and let it cook for a few minutes. Add the tomato paste and broth (or water), lower the heat and simmer until the pumpkin is ready.

    Serve with warm naan or pita.

    Serves 4

  • middle eastern meatballs with hummus

    middle eastern meatballs with hummus and rice 2

    Earlier this week, I wanted hummus. So I made some… 4.89 pounds of it, to be exact (I promise I’ll return your kitchen scale someday, dad). I didn’t mean to make that much, but I threw a bunch of chickpeas in a bowl to soak the night before and I was determined to use them all. Even though I really wanted hummus, I didn’t have any specific plans for it. We don’t keep enough bread and vegetables on hand to eat 5 pounds of it just as a snack, so I brainstormed other ideas. I really enjoy hummus in wraps, so why not use it as a sauce? First, I made one of my go-to recipes, mujaddara (rice and lentil pilaf with caramelized onions), served with copious amounts of hummus to mix into our bowls. Then I made these super flavorful meatballs, recipe below. Served with rice, it makes for a filling and satisfying meal.

    Aaaaaand we still have plenty of leftover hummus. Do you have any ideas how I should use the rest of it? You just might find me sitting in a corner with bread, bowls of olive oil, za’atar, and hummus and eating it all until I explode.

    middle eastern meatballs with hummus and rice

    Middle Eastern Meatballs
    Makes about 40 meatballs

    1 small onion, minced
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    1 teaspoon salt
    pepper, to taste
    2 tablespoons sesame seeds
    1 tablespoon sumac
    2 teaspoons dried mint
    1 teaspoon thyme
    1 teaspoon coriander
    1/2 teaspoon allspice
    1/4 teaspoon cardamon
    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    2 pounds ground lamb or beef (I used a mix of the two)
    1 cup bread crumbs
    2 eggs, beaten
    1/4 cup tomato sauce

    For serving:
    sumac, for sprinkling
    thyme, for sprinkling
    more sesame seeds, for sprinkling

    Pre-heat oven to 450 F.

    Heat skillet with oil over medium heat. When hot, add onion and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until softened. Add garlic and cook for another 30 or seconds, or until fragrant. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture into a large bowl.

    Add the salt, pepper, and spices to the bowl and stir to combine. Add ground meat, bread crumbs, egg, and tomato sauce into the bowl and keep stirring until thoroughly combined. You may need to use your hands.

    Use a tablespoon to scoop out enough meat for one ball, form the meat into the shape of a ball with your hands. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet lightly brushed with oil. Repeat… about 40 or so more times. You may need to use two baking sheets if you want to bake these all at once.

    Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with hummus, sumac, thyme, more sesame seeds, rice, and/or bread.

    Serves 6-8