The launch of The Power Bar in the 1980s opened the floodgates to a multi-million (billion?) dollar “energy bar” industry. Nevertheless, the folks at Power Bar were hardly pioneers.In Afghanistan this little snack bar here has been fueling city dwellers and nomads alike for decades, if not centuries. Made up solely of dried mulberries, walnuts and a sprinkling of salt, they take minutes to make and are a heck of lot more nourishing than almost anything you’ll find on the shelf at your local Whole Foods. As a dietitian and a mom, I’m a big fan.
The trick is tracking down those pesky mulberries. I got mine from Humaira who picked them up from her nephew Abe who brought them from Jeja, Humaira’s mom, who bought them at her favorite Afghan market in Fremont. Whew! Your best bet is an Afghan market, too.Or get them by mail order. There are myriad sources on the internet.
I used black mulberries in this recipe, which are crispier than most dried fruits and similar in flavor to dried figs. I’ve also stumbled upon golden mulberries which didn’t taste markedly different to me than the black ones. Humaira, who has a firm opinion on most everything, differs on this point. She thinks the gold ones are inferior. I think if you can track down mulberries of any sort, it’s worth a try.
Once you have your hands on some mulberries, you simply whirl them with walnuts in a food processor. Traditionally this is eaten as a paste with either the fingers or a utensil. But pressing the paste into a pan, chilling it and then cutting them into bars appeals to our modern sensibilities. They keep a good long while and are perfectly portable, just ask any Afghan nomad.
Afghan Mulberry and Walnut Snack Bars
Makes 16 small bars
½ lb. dried mulberries
½ lb. walnuts
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
2 tbsp. water
16 walnut halves
Put all of the ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and puree for 1 to 2 minutes until the ingredients form a thick, smooth, sticky paste.
Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment or wax paper with the paper draping over two sides of the pan so you have something to hold onto when you remove the snack bars.
Put the mulberry/walnut mixture into the pan and firmly press it down evenly over the bottom of the pan. Distribute the walnut halves evenly over the snack bar mixture, gently pressing them into the bars, to make 4 even rows of 4 walnuts.
Refrigerate for an hour to firm up the bars. Using the edges of the wax paper, lift the mixture out of the pan and set it on a cutting surface. Use a sharp knife and cut it into 16 squares with a walnut in the center of each square. Store in a lidded container at room temperature, or the refrigerator if you prefer them cold.
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