Bolani: Afghan Turnovers

These pan-fried turnovers, called bolani in Persian and perakai in Pashto, are filled with fresh herbs and potato, pumpkin, or spinach. Though traditionally prepared for special occasions, they are a staple at many Afghan restaurants in America. The first time I made bolani dough, I followed a recipe I found on an Afghan food blog.  I had help from a friend whose parents…

Maamoul: Middle Eastern Holiday Cookies

In the Levant region of the Middle East, both Easter and Eid are celebrated with date-and-walnut-filled shortbread cookies called maamoul.  I first learned about these delicious treats from a Palestinian coworker, who pointed out that maamoul are very similar to Russian tea cakes, one of my favorite cookies to bake. The tea cakes, which also happen to be…

Avocado Lime and Coconut Cookies

When my mom first moved to New York from Sao Paulo, she was surprised to discover that Americans use avocados in savory dishes. In Brazil, avocados are eaten for dessert, blended with sugar and lime juice until creamy and pudding-like. Inspired by this dessert, which I ate several times growing up, I developed a cookie recipe infused with Brazilian…

Masala Challah

Challah, a traditional Jewish bread made of egg-enriched dough and shaped into braids, is prepared much the same way in Jewish communities around the globe. But that hasn’t stopped modern cooks from putting a personal spin on it. Take Leah Koenig’s delicious pumpkin apple butter challah, or Deb Perelman’s fig and sea salt variation. Five years ago, on a whim, I added…

Chocolate Rose Water Cookies

Rose water, the liquid left over from steeping rose petals to make perfume, is a common ingredient in Persian desserts. So are almonds. In a nod to two holidays this month with roots in Iran – Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which is celebrated on the first day of spring, and Purim, the Jewish festival commemorating the tale of…

Tibetan Tsampa Snacks

  Last year, I spent five months tutoring children at a community center for Himalayan immigrants in Queens.  I taught academic enrichment classes, and learned all about Tibetan cuisine from my students and coworkers. Located high up on a plateau in the Himalayan region, Tibet has a harsh climate. Wintertime temperatures often drop below zero, so traditional foods tend to be hearty, like momo (meat-filled…

Parathas

Parathas are a South Asian flatbread, typically served with eggs (anda in Hindi/Urdu) for breakfast. Flaky and somewhat thick, paratha dough is layered with oil or ghee and folded multiple times, much like puff pastry. Sometimes, the dough is stuffed stuffed with potatoes (aloo) or cheese (paneer.) I first attempted to make parathas in college, using a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East…

Homemade Bagels

Even if homemade bagels weren’t so delicious, they’d be worth making for the experience alone. They’re an especially fun project for kids. I taught a group of elementary school students how to make bagels once, and they delighted in shaping dough by spinning it around their thumbs, cooking the bagels in simmering water, and sprinkling the…

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

This is another excellent recipe from the blog Sweet Little Joys. These shortbread cookies are flavored with cinnamon and a hint of cayenne pepper, just like the beverage they’re named after. A Google search on the history of Mexican hot chocolate led me to a fascinating Chicago Tribune article, dating back to 1942, that describes how…

Homemade Tortilla Pizza

This recipe, by food science guru Kenji Lopez-Alt, calls for topping a store-bought tortilla with tomato sauce, Parmesan, mozzarella, and basil, cooking it in a cast iron skillet, and then broiling it in the oven until the cheese is bubbly. It’s the kind of pizza meant for a quick weeknight dinner. I decided to complicate things just…

Cheddar-Chive Popovers

A good friend of mine, author of the food blog Sweet Little Joys, shared a delicious chive and Parmigiano-Reggiano popover recipe with me from the cookbook Back in the Day Bakery: Made With Love, by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day.  I made a few minor adaptations, swapping cheddar for Parmigiano-Reggiano and using a muffin tin rather than…

Jeera Biscuits – Cumin Seed Cookies

Jeera biscuits are a popular tea-time snack in India and Pakistan. At once salty and sweet, these shortbread cookies are infused with toasted cumin seeds (jeera means cumin in Hindi and Urdu.) When I visit my in-laws, who are originally from Pakistan,  I often bring a batch of jeera biscuits. We eat them plain, or…