A couple of weeks ago my sister Nabila had a birthday party for my brother Waheed, which signified an important and unmentionable age. So, my various siblings, nieces and nephews flocked to West Hollywood for this memorable occasion. I offered to pitch in with drinks and appetizers, but after hearing the rather elaborate menu Nabila had planned, I realized my help would be insignificant.
Nabila is one of the most talented people I know. You could say she is the Martha Stewart of our family: an excellent cook, accomplished artist, designer and seamstress. She is not into traditional Afghan cooking. She always puts her own spin on everything, which usually has fabulous results, but sometimes drives my mom, Jeja (a traditionalist) a little crazy. With our expanding, global world, and the fact that so many Afghans have lived in multiple places, like our family has, there is bound to be some intermingling of tastes, spices and creative ideas.
This birthday party was truly a global one with guests’ representing all nationalities: Swiss, Iranian, German/French, and Afghans. Nabila put out quite an amazing spread with Kitchree Quroot, Borani Banjan, Qorma e Murgh with Challaw, and a delicious mixed green salad with fruit.
Interestingly, the hit of the party was a cream cheese appetizer made with pineapple, green onions, cumin and cilantro. It’s not particularly Afghan, more multicultural, like so many of Nabila’s winning creations. So, it is in the spirit of globalization that I share this non-Afghan appetizer made by an Afghan for you to make for your next party.
Nabila's Afghan Cream Cheese Spread
8 oounces cream cheese
1/3 cup mashed unsweetened pineapple
¼ cup finely chopped green onions (around 4 onions)
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
¼ teaspoon cumin
Dash of salt and pepper to taste
Take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator to bring to room temperature. This should take an hour.
In a large bowl mix the cream cheese with all of the other ingredients until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Roll the mixture into a large ball, place on a pretty serving plate, cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. Serve with crackers or unsalted pretzel chips.
Additional options you may want to try:
~1/3 cup of chopped roasted walnuts or pecans
~1/3 cup of finely chopped apples instead of pineapple
~¼ cup of raisins
~Or mix 1 tablespoon of each: dried cilantro, dill and mint in a plate. Cover the cheese ball with the dried herb mixture until all sides, top and bottom are covered then refrigerate. The dried herbs add an additional dimension of great flavor.
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