Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rugelach & Persian Party

I find it mildly ironic that two days after having a "brown party" with all my Persian (Iranian), Uzbek, and fellow Afghan friends, I settled on creating my next dessert: Rugelach, one of the most famous Jewish cookies. Ahmadinejad can say what hate he will, but Jewish people know how to eat just (well almost...) as well as we Persians and Afghans - these cookies were fantastic. I've had them quite a number of times at the house of one of my best friends. While I can't say they are quite as good, for a first try they were flaky, crunchy, and moist.

cream cheese pastry rolled with apricot jam, golden raisins, walnuts, dark chocolate, and a hint of cinnamon

Variation: rolled with strawberry jam, dark chocolate, walnuts, coffee bean nibs, and a hint of cardamom

The dough is a cream cheese base and would probably be good on its own! But I made two versions: one almost traditional, stuffed with apricot jam, raisins, chopped walnuts, dark chocolate, and cinnamon. The other version was an experiment, with strawberry jam, chopped walnuts, lots more dark chocolate, coffee bean nibs, and cardamom. They were both quite good, but the coffee nibs were a bit too coarsely chopped and the cinnamon was really yummy in the fruitier traditional version.

A few shots of the Persian potluck (not pictured: lamb qorma, saffron basmati rice)-

Boulanee Kechalu
shallow fried turnover stuffed with potato, leek, green onion and spices, served with mint-garlic sauce

One of my Afghan friends brought this dish - this is the more traditional form of Boulanee - the picture I have from my last Afghan party is of a deep fried, smaller version my mom used to make. This version, while not as bite size and crunchy, is actually in some ways tastier, as you get more filling per bite.

Burani Bonjon
fried eggplant slices braised in garlic, chopped heirloom tomatoes, and spices. Served on a platter of mint-garlic yogurt sauce and garnished with cilantro.

You may be wondering why I keep making this dish and Boulanee - it's because they are such crowd pleasers! Afghans are famous for Burani Bonjon especially. One of my friend's mothers was in shock and awe (that phrase is forever ruined) after first trying it at Kabul, Seattle's only Afghan restaurant.

This was probably the best rendition I've ever made. The key is to dry the eggplants well before frying, like a steak, then drain them well of oil afterwards. My mother's tip also helped immensely - cut them into semicircular slices and they don't fall apart! Also, I put in some dried heirloom tomatoes from the farmer's market - OH MY GOD. If you can find them at your local farmer's market BUY THEM NOW. They are the most delicious tomatoes I've ever eaten after they puffed up in the steam of the braise. Better than fresh, I swear. I actually need to go buy some more right now...!

Traditional Afghan custard with rosewater and cardamom, topped with ground pistachio and served in individual glasses.

We're planning to serve this one in cocktail glasses if we can for the fundraiser...sexing up Afghan food is no small task. It's rustic and delicious by nature. But we can be hoity-toity if we need to. =)


Anonymous said...

Hey Dean, I showed your food blog to my mom and she bookmarked it on her computer. Hahaha. I think she's going to try making one of the eggplant things. :)

Dean said...

oh cool! let me know if she needs an actual recipe - basically just fry eggplant, add a little chopped garlic, turmeric, and coriander, fry for a few minutes until fragrant but not browned, then add just a bit of diced tomato and let simmer for 20 minutes on low. then serve with yogurt mixed with lemon juice, crushed raw garlic, and dried mint if you have it.

Maya Sugarman said...

Dean, I absolutely love your blog. It is so awesome, and it definitely makes me hungry!! Also, my grandmother made some mean rugelach back in her day. And kugel is some good stuff. But I think Afghani food takes Jewish food any day. I went to a demonstration at a tapas restaurant yesterday, and thought about you! Hope you are well, and making some amazing new feast!

Engineers Without Border - UW Seattle said...

Thanks Maya!! I have a backlog of posts to make - I've been cooking but haven't had a spare second to post them. EWB has their big annual dessert & wine fundraiser next monday and the planning has taken over my life - this weekend I'll be baking 24/7. =) After monday hopefully I'll get a chance to make some fun posts.

Ali Baba said...

oh gosh that was me - I accidentally forgot to log out of the EWB