Sunday, November 22, 2009

Meurav Yerushalmi = Divine Street Food

Two of my best friends bought me a subscription to my favorite cooking magazine: Saveur. Not only are the recipes and photos stellar, but they really make an effort to find real, authentic, world cuisine. When I saw they had an Afghan recipe in their collection I knew it was true love.

My first issue arrived and had a mouthwatering set of recipes from Jerusalem (which means basically a mixture of Arab cuisines) , including this recipe for "Meurav Yerushalmi" (Jerusalem Mixed Grill). I didn't have chicken livers or hearts on hand, but breast tenders did the trick!

The cast-iron pan is essential to get the real "charred" feel of the street griddle and get the onions golden and crispy instead of soggy.

Instead of the livers and hearts, I modified the recipe a bit and added fried eggplant slices, a mixed tomato-onion-basil relish and tahini sauce! The result was a rich, oily, but decadent dish that was lightened by the lemony tomato relish. (It's tough to avoid oily when you're cooking with eggplant, but you could bake them for a healthier, al beit drier option.) I served it on Trader Joe's frozen naan instead of pita.

I think the tahini and eggplant really put it over the top - the meat & onion mixture recommended by the recipe would have been a bit drier, but still delicious.

The result blew my mind. It is indescribable comfort food. And fun to boot! It's fast, and you feel like a real street chef with everything cooking so quickly in the smoking hot pan.

It's messy, and that's the way I like it.

Meurav Yerushalmi
Griddled chicken breast with crispy fried onions and spices, served on naan with fried eggplant, lemon-garlic tahini sauce, and mixed tomato relish

On an interesting note, it's incredibly similar to an Afghan dish I've featured here before, Do Piaza, but is quicker since it doesn't simmer the meat at all.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Baklava Recipe

I was typing this recipe up for a friend, so I figured I'd post it here! You may remember the Baklava I made in November. Enjoy!


Recipe from Afghan Food and Cookery by Helen Saberi

Makes about 30 – enough for a large party.


  • 1lb filo
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 cups ground almonds (can sub. walnuts)
  • 1 cup ground pistachio (this is a big part of the flavor, so try not to sub.)


  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp saffron (generous pinch)
  • 2 tbsps rosewater (A neat variation might be orange blossom water though.)
  • 1/2 tsp ground green cardamom seeds


  • Preheat the oven to 325.
  • Oil an approximately 14x8x2 baking tray (really you can do a lot of shapes).
  • Reserve one quarter of the ground pistachio, and combine the rest of the nuts in a bowl.
  • Lay down one layer of filo, brush it with oil, then layer the next sheet on top until you have 6 layers of filo. Now spread one third of the combined nuts on this layer.
  • Repeat twice so you have 18 total layers and have used all the nuts except the quarter of reserved pistachio.
  • Brush the top layer with oil.
  • Cut strips about 1 ½ inches wide lengthwise, then cut about 45 degrees diagonally across these strips to make diamond shaped pieces.
  • Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden.


Note that you may want to not start this until the pastry is done and cooled.

  • Put the sugar, 1 cup of water, lemon juice, and saffron in a saucepan and bring to a boil slowly to dissolve the sugar.
  • Boil gently until mixture becomes syrupy and sticks to the back of a spoon.
  • Now add the cardamom and rosewater and simmer for another couple minutes.
  • Remove from heat and keep warm.

Combining and Serving:

  • Allow the pastry to cool to room temperature then carefully spoon the prepared syrup all over the pastry. (This reputedly avoids soggy Baklava, though I'm not 100% sure yet.)
  • Add the reserved pistachio on top, let cool again, then serve with good tea.

*Note that Afghans pronounce it with a "w" sound instead of "v".

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Variety Hour: Hummus bi Tahini, Kebab, Sabzi Pilau, and Coffee!

Warning - this is going to be scatter-brained as I'm finally updating with all the things blog-worthy that I've cooked in, wow, over a month! Which has been unfortunately not been a ton =(. School is kind of time consuming, ya know?

First off, I'd like to give credit to Desert Candy's blog for the inspiration for this new attempt at hummus. Reading her blog, I finally realized you have to cook the beans until they are very soft (skins falling off) in order to get that delicious silky-smooth texture that "real" hummus has. The texture was what I always felt my hummus was missing. I guess that's what I get being an Afghan cooking Arab food ;)

Hummus bi Tahini
pureed chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice, topped with unfiltered olive oil, sumac, whole chickpeas, and kalamata olives

Definitely leaps and bounds better than hummus I've made in the past! It still needs some tweaking - it could be even more silky...mmm

Unfortunately I made the following dish on a different day - they would have been delicious together!

Kofta Kabob-e-Gusht-e-Gow
Minced beef kabobs flavored with onion, garlic, cilantro, and savory spices, grilled over charcoal and served in flatbread with sliced lemon-juice-marinated red onions, lemon tahini sauce, and spicy yogurt sauce

The grill jockey himself. Aka my buddy Nate who stepped in to help grill =)

Sabzi Pilau
Basmati rice parboiled and baked in the juices of a chicken, spinach, blackeye pea and caramelized onion stew, served with a cherry tomato, cilantro, and red onion salad.

This was a yummy AND cheap meal for the week which kept very well. The method is very similar to all Afghan pilaus - caramelize onions, then add in and sautee meat (typically lamb). When meat is done, add spices (coriander, cardamom, cumin, and cloves or so), then add spinach and blackeye peas. Simmer for half an hour, then pour over parboiled rice and bake for 45 minutes!

This time I tried something a bit different, using black cardamom instead of green. They are actually very different in flavor, but it is commonly used in parts of Afghanistan so I figured I'd give it a shot! It has a really distinctive smoky flavor, and I'm still not sure I liked it in this dish, though I can imagine it growing on me.

In other news, I've become increasingly addicted to coffee.... It really doesn't help that my roommate is a master percolator barista. One of his recent creations, one with milk, one without.

We've also tried grinding up a bit of (green) cardamom and tossing it in with the grounds. Yum. Arab-Italian-Latin American fusion, here we go.

Cafe con Leche y Cafe "Negro"

Really we just liked the colors.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Two Onions....

...and the only thing watering was my mouth. Okay that just sounds awful, but you get the idea? I wasn't drooling into the food, I swear!

I was hungry for a good Afghan treat, but I didn't have a lot of time, so here is an adaptation of a classic rustic Afghan dish:

Do Piazeh (lit: "Two Onions")
Breast of chicken fried with caramelized onions, blackeye peas, turmeric, coriander, cloves, and cardamom, then tossed with fresh red onion soaked in lime juice, served over a bed of mushroom, cilantro, and cinnamon scented couscous and drizzled with lemon-yogurt sauce.

My father actually typically made this dish very similarly - sans the blackeye peas. And of course, no couscous! (Afghanistan does NOT make couscous, but you'll see me use it since it's so easy and tasty.) Traditionally this is served over bread, but we eat it with rice as well.

I was thus a bit confused when I found a recipe for it in my Afghan cookbook, which stated that the meat (lamb) was actually boiled with the red onion first and a bit of split peas, then lifted out of the water when tender and placed on bread with vinegar-soaked yellow onion. I didn't have the time or the lamb to try it this way, but it sounds lovely and very different than the typical Afghan rices and qormas. In any case, this is a kind of quick version that I think is very tasty.

The dish derives its name from the way the "two onions" in the recipe are used - one is cooked (either caramelized in my version or boiled with the meat in the traditional version) and the other is added raw at the end (with a bit of acid to cut the bite).

Needless to say, it was delicious, quick, and has a lot of interesting textures and the contrasting bright flavor from the red onion really lightens the heavy caramelized onion flavor.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vancouver BC Foodventure

See, I'm not dead...I've just been busy! I haven't cooked anything new lately, but I did get the chance to head up to Vancouver, BC for a day with one of my good buddies, Kirk, for a "foodventure"! While the best food we (probably have ever) had, at Vij's unfortunately couldn't be photographed, our delicious lunch and 4PM dessert were fantastic as well!

Go Fish Ocean Emporium
- probably the best fish and chips I've had (though granted I'm no connoisseur). We both couldn't resist getting the salmon - crispy and delicate, lightly seasoned breading, perfectly flaky moist salmon inside, accompanied by some delicious fries that were nicely crunchy and nothing to laugh at, along with an interesting sesame (think asian fusion) coleslaw. Everything was crisp and refreshing rather than heavy and food-baby inducing!

The only downside was I couldn't resist taking a bite before the picture =)

At about 3PM, walking through Stanley Park in the sunshine, we couldn't help but be a little enticed by the teahouse restaurant on a cliff overlooking the water, just 30' above the beach. We were hungry, but all they had was dessert and beer...and well, that was just fine by us too!

We split an AMAZING Belgian Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake, complete with a chocolate dipped gooseberry (!) on top, drizzled with raspberry sauce. We really weren't expecting much, but we were both blown away! One of the best slices of cake I've ever indulged in, and certianly the most beautifully presented. You can only see the edge, but there is a white and dark flecked chocolate "fan" - I'm not sure what it's called really - on top as well. It's a really thin piece of chocolate with lots of holes in it, shaped like a fan.

We both thought the gooseberry was an heirloom tomato and were very confused but intrigued. I ate it and was still uncertain, but upon asking the waitress found out its true identity - as well as the fact that the gooseberry is related to the tomato, so we weren't so far off!

And of course Kirk got a beer!

I promise more of my own cooking soon =)


If you've never been to Vij's restaurant in Vancouver, you MUST go when you're up there! (Frankly I would almost drive the two hours there just for dinner.) The best modern Indian food I've ever had, and frankly probably my favorite restaurant yet. It is very likely one of the best, and certainly most unique, Indian restaurants in North America. The ambiance is perfect, the service impeccable, and the food still manages to outshine it all. Think Pacific Northwest local ingredients with authentic Indian flavors and cooking techniques. Vij destroys any stereotypes about what "Indian food" has to be; he really elevates it to near haute-cuisine, all while keeping it approachable, with an emphasis on sharing and somehow managing an unpretentious, but (dare I say) sexy vibe in service and decor. There's no "chicken tikka masala" on the menu, nor is there a menu with 90 variations on the same curry base. Everything is delicious, and wholly unique. The menu changes frequently, but he might face mutiny if he took a few favorites, like "Wine Marinated Lamb Popsicles" and "Mutton Kabobs with Bengali style curry" off the menu! By the way, the mutton kabobs are my favorite food. Ever.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spicy Lamb in Almond Milk

Last night I was free to really cook for the first time in what felt like ages of finals and other my buddy Nate and I whipped this together for a group of hungry friends:

Badami Elachi Gosht (Spicy Lamb in Almond Milk)
Leg of lamb braised in a rich and spicy almond cream sauce, steeped with cardamom and cinnamon, topped with slivered almonds, a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

(doesn't the Hindi name sound so much more "exotic" than it's translation?)

We served it with a traditional tomato-onion relish and...

Saffron and Golden Raisin Chalau
topped with ground pistachio

Yum! The curry was deliciously rich and an interesting change from my usual psuedo-healthy Afghan qorma. Afghans (as far as I have experienced) never use cream in their "curries", which they call "qormas". The typical base is tomato or sometimes yogurt. "Quoroot" (pronunced "Koo-root") is a favorite delicacy I have never gotten a chance to try: salted yogurt set to dry in the sun into small pebble size balls. These are then reconstituted in soups and qormas! Really it was never a delicacy, but merely a method of food preservation, but like the French "confit" and Italian-American "sun-dried tomatoes", the ancient necessary technique becomes an expensive modern delicacy. Though I also have no idea where I could buy "quoroot" in the US...

Anyway, back to the curry! It was from a recipe in my Cooking With Herbs and Spices cookbook. It was also interesting in the way the base of the sauce was blended together first, including the onions and almonds, and then reduced in the pan over a medium flame, which means the onions never were explicitly sauteed, a shocking shift for me. The result was a clean, nearly white sauce. The lamb made it a bit brown but the cream lightened it once again. The pictures have a yellow tint, but that has more to do with the lighting - the final product was just off-white.

The chalau was a simple concoction based on what I've cooked before, but I really like the use of golden raisins rather than regular since the color fit better with the white curry. I was restrained with the saffron, so it left only a mild speckle of yellow and a subtle flavor rather than an explosion of saffron. I wanted to complement the curry, not overpower it.

For dessert, we had delicious mango sorbet from Trader Joe's - if they have it at your local TJ's, pick it up, it's amazing! We blended frozen berries together with cream and drizzled it over for an added effect - Nate's very delicious idea!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Climate change and the unfortunate fate of foods we love

I've heard this idea before - it's really sad to think about losing your favorite foods to climate change (among other factors). There was a great article in Gastronomica a while back about the future of various foods in a climate changed of the total losses was true Basmati rice. India would no longer be able to grow the crop, and it is difficult to replicate the flavors growing it elsewhere, if I remember the article correctly. I don't know what I'd do without Basmati rice!!

In a way, this is the kind of effect of climate change that really hits home; it actually affects your children's dinner table.