Wish Upon A Dish: Afghan Noodles ♥ The Mushroom Council's "The Trend is to Blend" Recipe Redux Sponsored Contest

June 14, 2014

Afghan Noodles ♥ The Mushroom Council's "The Trend is to Blend" Recipe Redux Sponsored Contest

When the Recipe Redux joined with The Mushroom Council's "The Trend is to Blend" promotion, they asked us to show our love of mushrooms by sharing recipes that blend diced, chopped or minced mushrooms in place of some portion of meat or other lean protein using the "blendability technique" to make a healthier dish OR swap out all of the meat protein in a recipe to make a vegetarian dish featuring fresh mushrooms, I knew it was time to showcase this mushroom blended recipe. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more. For an excellent source of all things mushrooms, you should visit this site.

"By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by The Mushroom Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time." 

Lately I have been expanding my foodie horizons and moving into areas I dared not visit before. One good reason was because I knew The Nudge was just not into all those unique spices. Over the last few months I seem to have awakened something in his attitude that has changed from "no, I have never tasted that but I know I won't like it - to - Let me taste it first, then I will let you know". He has been very adventurous in the kitchen as of late and except for one small disaster, he's taken leftovers for lunch (that is my indication he likes what he has eaten!).

Tonight we traveled to Afghanistan with a dish I knew he would like. I always thought that Afghanistan food was like Indian (of which both of us are not fans), but after researching the cuisine, I found out, quite to my surprise, that there is nothing that they cook that can not be found in a good market here in the US. They love meat (beef #1) and spinach and squash is a big part of their diet. They also make dumplings and noodles, like mild spice, love coriander and use yogurt like most of the Mediterranean countries. The only spice that was not something I am exposed to often is fenugreek but after a whiff I recognize it as something I have found in Greek foods. While India uses it the most, it is prized by most arid-growing countries and travels along the spice trail to Morocco.

Turmeric (which most of us recognize today), is used in almost every dish that the Afghans eat. Today it has been found to have nutritional benefits that goes beyond the tell-tail bright orange color. While India uses ginger, that is one spice not found in the Afghan diet because Muslims do not cook with it (or alcohol of any kind). I imagine that just like India, there are many areas of cuisine that change depending where you live and how close to the spice trail that territory was. Needless to say, I am intrigued with that whole area in relationship to food.

This dish is something I created that might seem more American in nature due to the known ingredients that we can find here in the US, but a dish like this (in one version or another) is found in every home in Afghanistan. Always trying to 'sneak' more vegetables into our diet, the mushrooms were the perfect choice. They are like little sponges, soaking up the juices of all the ingredients that they are cooked with. I was actually able to use more than a 50-50 swap with this dish because lamp has a powerful presence and I needed less meat, making this extremely healthy.

Lamb is most often the meat of choice for this style dish but a lean beef can and does act as a suitable replacement since the Afghans do raise beef and quite enjoy it. I went with the lamb and to keep it healthy, after cooking, I drained it well in sheets of paper towels to whisk away all the fat. I then added minced onions, garlic, mushrooms and tomato sauce.
The rest was all herbs and spices. It is topped with a yogurt sauce that is flavored with garlic and lots of mint.
There isn't anything to not like in this dish. I wanted it to be red pepper hot so I added red pepper flakes and a good squirt of Sriracha just before eating but that is something that is optional, as is the fenugreek. If you have dried mint in your cabinet that will do just fine.

It is amazing that I could not ascertain that this mixture was a 30% meat - 70% mushroom blend. You will not taste an overwhelmingly mushroom flavor and you will swear you are eating all meat. I am amazed that the meat acts as a flavor component and not just the main ingredient. I also know this is very kid-friendly due to the natural sweetness of the tomato sauce, onions, coriander and the mint.
The yogurt sauce has a nice hit of brightness with the lemon juice and feel free to add more.

You will love the simplicity of this recipe and what the mushrooms contribute to it, and it got two thumbs up from The Nudge. I am extremely happy to have participated in this contest, but more importantly, I learned so much by doing so and my cooking will be better because of that. I call that a win-win any day.

Afghan Noodles
Serves 6

* 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
* 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or 1/2 teaspoon dried
* 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
* 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/3 pound ground lamb, beef, pork or poultry
* 10 ounces Baby Bellas, minced
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1/2 sweet onion, minced
* 2 garlic cloves, chopped
* 1 teaspoons chili powder
* 1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
* 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 1 cup tomato sauce
* 2 1/2 tablespoons of fresh mint or 1 1/2 teaspoon dried
* 4 cups dried yolk-less egg noodles, cooked

To prepare the sauce, combine the yogurt, 1 1/2 tablespoon fresh mint or 1/2 teaspoon dried, the lemon juice and the garlic.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft. Add the mushrooms, the meat and the chili powder. Saute until the meat is cooked and the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Add the paprika, coriander, turmeric, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Add the tomato sauce, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer until all the liquid had cooked off. Add the mint right before serving.
Spoon the noodles on a platter, add the meat mixture and top with the yogurt. Pass the Sriracha around.

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