25 July 2010
Aushak (Scallion Dumplings) with Yogurt and Candied Pumpkin
There are some great Afghan restaurants and kebab shops in the DC area, including one quite near my office. I'd probably go there much more often than I do, except that their proportions are enormous, platters literally piled with meat, meat, meat. When I do go, I often end up eating the leftovers for three more meals, resulting in the dreaded "meat hangover."
But I recently discovered that they offer aushak, simple Afghan scallion dumplings, as an appetizer, just the right size for a light lunch. Instead of the traditional ground meat topping, I choose sweet caramelized pumpkin and yogurt to go with the dumplings, a standard vegetarian variation. It should be no secret to any readers here that I covet anything in yogurt sauce (whether chicken, or shish barak, or pumpkin kibbe), and I like these so much, I made them for a recent luncheon.
Oddly, every recipe I could find for aushak called for prepared wonton wrappers as dough, and I followed that short cut, though I'm sure homemade dough would be better. For the candied pumpkin I made my own, but if you want a shortcut, you could use the prepared candied pumpkin available in Middle Eastern groceries (Mymoune brand is quite good).
Because the dumplings are filled with a very basic mixture of chopped uncooked scallions, they are bright and spicy and light. The spice is tamed by the yogurt and counterbalanced by the pumpkin, which is very sweet on its own, but harmonious within the dish. Dumplings, no matter what culture they come from, are always pretty comforting.
Aushak (Afghan Scallion Dumplings) with Yogurt and Candied Pumpkin
Don't use quite as much yogurt as I did in the picture, use just enough to lightly coat the dumplings and keep them from sticking to each other. Dried mint is more common in this recipe, but I prefer fresh if it's available.
1 package wonton wrappers, or make your own dough
3 bunches scallions
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, or Aleppo pepper for a less spicy experience
a drizzle of olive oil
1 pint (16 oz) plain yogurt, not Greek-style not fat-free
a squeeze of lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
candied pumpkin, see below
2 sprigs of mint, leaves cut into slivers
optional for garnish: toasted pine nuts, diced seeded tomato
1. Thinly slice the green parts of the scallions only reserve white and light green parts for another use). Place in a bowl with the red pepper flakes and olive oil.
2. Get out the wonton wrappers and a bowl of water. Lightly moisten the edge of the dough with some water, then place a teaspoonful of the scallion mixture in the center and fold up the dumpling, pressing the edges firmly to seal. Place on a patter and continue to work making dumplings, until you use up all the filling or lose patience. Do not let the dumplings touch each other or they may stick, separate layers with some wax paper. Can be done 1 day ahead of time.
3. Let yogurt come to room temperature. Add the lemon juice and salt and thin the yogurt so that it is a pourable consistency. This will depend on your yogurt, but I usually add 1/2 cup up to 1 cup of yogurt. Choose a large serving platter and spread a thin swipe over yogurt over the bottom of the platter.
4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, let it boil gently and not too vigorously. Add the dumplings, 4-5 at a time, and boil just for 1-2 minutes, or until the dough is tender. Transfer to the platter, trying not to let the dumplings crowd together or they will stick together. Drizzle a little bit of yogurt between layers of dumplings to prevent sticking.
5. When platter is full, drizzle the top with some more yogurt, and top with diced candied pumpkin, mint, and pine nuts. Serve immediately.
Second Serving Option: Leave the candied pumpkin in larger chunks and place them on the bottom of the platter. Drizzle with yogurt and then pile dumplings over top, as described in the original recipe.
a) purchase 1 jar of pumpkin in syrup, drain and rinse pumpkin, then dice
b) 2 lbs chopped peeled pumpkin or butternut squash, olive oil, 3/4 cup sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cube pumpkin into 2 inch chunks, toss with oil to coat, then roll in sugar to coat. Cover dish in foil and bake in oven until tender, about 30 minutes. Use as desired in either of the recipe variations above.