My knowledge of Afghani culture could easily be stuffed into a dumpling. But if civility convenes at the table, then my own peace plan may as well start in the kitchen.
Sliced leeks and cayenne pepper for Afghani dumplings (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune / April 14, 2010)
Honestly, my knowledge of Afghani culture could easily be stuffed into a dumpling. Cultural Crossroad. Hot and Cold. Proxy War. War War. But if civility convenes at the table, then my own peace plan may as well start in the kitchen.
Start with the leek — as common to the landlocked wilds there as to the kitchen garden here. Chop, spice and soften over low heat. Heap the pungent mixture onto a dumpling skin. You can make the wrapper from flour and water and waiting and rolling and slicing. Or, in an inspired moment of cross-cultural convenience, let the wonton wrapper serve as proxy. Fold, boil supple and sauce twice: once with a hot meat and tomato ragu. Once with a cold yogurt-and-garlic swirl. Dig in.
The familiar flavors pull together on plate and palate as refreshingly unexpected. Which might also describe the effort to cook up peace.
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 6 minutes
Serves: 4 as a first course
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1 to 2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
20 wonton wrappers
Swirl: In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, garlic, mint, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let sauce warm to room temperature.
Chop: Slice white and pale green portion of leeks into long strips. Rinse and dry. Chop finely.
Soften: Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add leeks; cook over medium heat, adding water as needed, until tender and melded, 20 minutes. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cayenne pepper. Let cool.
Fold: Spoon 1 teaspoon leek mixture onto a wonton wrapper. Run a wet finger around the edge. Fold into a filled half-moon, triangle or rectangle, pressing edges to seal. Repeat.
Boil: Drop aushak into boiling, lightly salted water; cook until tender and translucent, 6 minutes. Scoop up with a slotted spoon; settle on four plates. Spoon on a dollop of yogurt sauce.
Provenance: Hearsay. Aushak are traditionally served with tomato meat sauce and yogurt sauce. For spring, I like the bright simplicity of yogurt only. Green garlic or ramps would make inventive substitutes for leeks.