Thursday, August 14, 2008

Out on a quiet spree

To begin, let me just say that sometimes I take certain things for granted. I kinda assume that everyone's had matzah brei because I grew up with it, and I forget that not everyone is so blessed. I promise to do a much more in depth discussion on matzah brei at another time....think April '09...

Every now and then on a Saturday Thatboy and I will take a foodie adventure. We explore new and different food markets and usually pick up lunch somewhere along the way. Thatboy's favorite is the local Asian market with its fresh (and live) fish that cover the entire back wall. This week I went on an adventure without him, I kinda felt bad, but I promised him the next weekend we're in town we'll head over for him to check it out. But I'm getting ahead of myself, as usual. Let's rewind a bit, shall we?

We're at the stage of Garlic and Sapphires where Reichl has begun the search for self. She begins this search by going through a cooking frenzy. I understand this too well as when I am completely stressed I have marathon baking sessions. As Reichl flips through her recipe files, she finds one for Aushak - scallion dumplings from Afghanistan served with a yogurt sauce and meat sauce. While picking up the ingredients she runs into the King of New York (or at least, that's how I like to think of him). He knows where to find all the best food and he brings her on a foodie tour of the boroughs instigated by his desire for her to have fresh Middle Eastern yogurt for the dish.

I was inspired. I wanted Middle Eastern yogurt! The only problem is, I haven't lived here long enough to know where one is located. Google is a beautiful thing. So I headed to the local Middle Eastern Market and wandered up and down the aisle filled with fragrant spices and fresh nuts, pastries, meats, and giant sacks of rice. I headed for the dairy and picked up yogurt and cheeses - refraining from stacking my cart with halavah, a childhood favorite, but definitely not kind on the waistline.

The aushak itself came together surprisingly easily. The meat sauce simmered while I mixed the yogurt and then it was merely throwing some scallions in wontons and boiling them. And the presentation is gorgeous - don't you think?

I served it up and Thatboy paused in his Olympic watching long enough to ask me what these were called again. When I told him, he repeated the name over and over again, like a mantra. I told him he was making me nervous. Then I asked why he kept repeating the name and he told me he wanted to make sure he remembered it so he could order it if he ever saw it on a menu. I guess they were a hit!


Meat Sauce

  • 3 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 cup full-fat yogurt
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • 2 bunches scallions, green parts only, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 25-30 wonton wrappers
1) Make the meat sauce: Heat oil in small skillet. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes until golden. Add beef, garlic, coriander, and ginger and cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes until meat is no longer red. Add water and cook, stirring often, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, stir, and cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

2) Make the yogurt sauce: Blend ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

3) Make the dumplings: Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Lay 1 tsp mixture in center of each wrapper and moisten edge. Fold over and press edges to make semicircles if your wrappers are round, or triangles if square.

4) Heat 3 quarts salted water in a large pot. When boiling, add dumplings and cook for 5 minutes.

5)To Assemble: Spoon 1/4 cup yogurt sauce onto a serving dish and cover with dumplings. Spoon remaining yogurt sauce on top and garnish with chopped fresh mint. Spoon meat sauce all around, and serve at once.

Serves 4.
Each serving has
Calories 406.0
Total Fat 14.8 g
Cholesterol 56.2 mg
Sodium 506.4 mg
Potassium 560.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 47.5 g
Protein 20.0 g


  1. Mmmmm...this made me miss my MIL :) I am going to try this one for sure!!

  2. OMG wait. dumpling skins and mediterranean yogurt in one dish???

    i want some. now.

  3. Oh those sound so good! I think they make them at Walter's in Claremont (the LA county Claremont).

  4. oooh, i'm close to claremont. i even know where walter's is!

    i love that TB made a chant out of the name.

  5. Hi There! My hubby's in the dog house and has promised to cook me a five star dinner to make up for it. (LOL! We'll see how that goes!)

    Anyways, I need help! He said he'll make me whatever I want, and I can't think of anything! I'm still a rookie at this cooking thing, and being the fabulous chef that you are, I know that you're the perfect person to help me brainstorm the perfect meal.

    I really heart sourdough bread with butter. Do you have any suggestions for a tasty meal that would go with that?

    Thanks in advance! You rule!

  6. Anonymous - I am of the opinion that sourdough bread with butter pretty much goes well with anything. Especially if it's warm and crusty.

    I have 2 questions for you though:
    1) What kind of chef is you husband? Because frankly if he's also a rookie you might be asking for a lot of trouble asking for anything complicated. The last time Thatboy made me dinner he was VERY impressed by the fact that he made meat sauce....with meat and sriracha.

    2) What are your favorite foods? If I were asked for my favorite meal it would involve gnocchi in a cream sauce - but for many that's not really 5 star. A really simple 5 star meal could be steak, steamed artichoke, and your favorite starch (potatoes, rice, etc.) We do a lot of lamb for special occasions in Thathouse.

  7. That looks SO SO good--by far the best thing you have ever posted for my tastes. It is going onto my post surgery to make list right now.

  8. Mmmmm. I remember when I came across this recipe in the book and I thought it sounded great. You've just reminded me of it again, and I am definitely going to do so soon.

  9. Yay, thank you! He's actually a pretty decent cook. He's better than me, which inspires me to get better at this whole cooking thing :) Your gnocci with cream sauce suggestion sounds SO good! I told him that's what I wanted (of course, with some warm toasty sourdough bread and butter), and he's making it for me tonight. I'll give you updates. Thanks so so much!

  10. This looks so good! I love Middle Eastern grocery stores...too bad the closest one is 200 miles away :(

  11. What an interesting dish. The presentation is very nice. :)

  12. Oh...Looks so good. I Love Afghan cuisine-it's so unique. There's an Afghan place in Baltimore that is owned by the President of Afghanistan's Brother that I suggest you try if you're ever in town.