Let's make giving gifts simple by sharing unique and homemade treats for the holidays. It's fun to set aside an afternoon to package a few homemade goodies for friends and colleagues.
Growing up my family didn't celebrate Christmas, but I do enjoy the spirit of giving in the holiday season. My gifts reflect tastes from my culture: nuts, rosewater, cardamom and fragrant spices. And I always enjoy taste-testing while making them.
With all these amazing foods around me, I adhere to this Afghan proverb:
"Kam bukhor, hamesha bukhor" Eat little, eat often
While testing today's recipe though, I consumed too much of this scrumptiously delicious Date Log. My sister Nabila created the original recipe, but I've tweaked it to my taste.
As you may notice in the photos, I tested the recipe with various types of nuts and techniques to create the right crunch and combination of flavors. I add a drizzle of rosewater to each pieces before serving. The combination of the tang from lemon juice and the delicate fragrance of rosewater creates a beautiful symphony for the pallete.
This dish also transforms into an unexpected appetizer! Just spread a thin layer of goat cheese on the dates before adding the nuts and then follow the recipe. No rosewater needed.
Lemony, Almond and Walnut Date Delight
18 dates seeded and cut on one side
1/4 cup roasted almonds roughly chopped
1/4 cup roasted roughly chopped walnuts
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. finely ground cardamom
Plastic food wrap
Set aside 1 tbsp of almonds and 1 1/2 tbsp walnuts
Lay a long strip of plastic food wrap on the kitchen counter. Arrange three dates flattened, side by side. Make sure they are overlapping. Repeat so you have a 3x3 square arrangement of dates. Save half the dates for later.
Sprinkle the almonds and walnuts on the bed of dates. Pour the lemon juice evenly and then sprinkle the cardamom before arranging the remaining nice dates on top.
Place a another piece of plastic food wrap on top of the date sandwich, make sure the plastic extends by 4 inches on over the length of the dates. Firmly press on the stack with the palms of your hands. Use the rolling pin to flatten the mixture into a think layer.
Remove the top plastic and gently roll into a log making sure that you press all the pieces together tightly.
Take the date log and roll onto the extra nut which you set aside, making sure all sides are covered with the ground nuts. Wrap in the plastic wrap and refridgerate for an hour or longer. When the log is firm, cut in bite size pieces.
*If you buy nuts, toast them in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes before doing the recipe
Khasta e Shereen
Afghan Cardamom Almond Brittle
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
1 lb. unsalted roasted almonds*
1 1/2 teasspoon ground cardamom
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the almonds in a single layer on the baking sheet, grouping them all together with no spaces between the nuts.
Heat the sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat, stirring regularly. The sugar will eventually turn to liquid. Continue to cook, stirring all the while, until the sugar is golden brown. Add the cardamom and cook a little longer until it reaches a deep amber color and smooth texture. The whole process of caramelizing the sugar will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
Drizzle the sugar in a thin stream evenly over the top of the almonds, covering them all. Cool completely. Break up the almonds with your fingers into two-bite pieces. Store in a jar with a tight lid or package for gifts.
*If you buy raw almonds, toast them in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes before doing the recipe.
Toasted Turmeric Cashews
Humaira's Khast e Shor
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp. ground turmeric
1 1/2 tbsp. Kosher salt (adjust to your taste)
1 pound unsalted, dry-roasted cashews
Heat a wok or large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add oil, turmeric and salt; quickly stir to make a paste. Immediately add the cashews and stir-fry for 1 minute, turning the cashews in the pan to coat with the spices but don’t burn them. Pour into a colander. Shake the colander for 1 minute to eliminate extra spices; you may need to brush off extra coating of turmeric. Let cool and store in a jar with a tight lid.
Note: Trader Joe’s has well priced and really fresh cashews.
* Afghan proverb is from "151 Afghan Proverbs" book.
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