My Mouth-Watering, Indulgence-Worthy, Im-Going-To-Gain-20lb Turkish Food Favorites

Wow, that title was a mouthful.

… Get it?

One of the questions I get asked most often when people find out I’m foreign is “what’s your favorite Turkish food?”.  I never know what to say, because I can’t really chose a stand-alone favorite.  I do have a few dishes ready that I list off when this inevitable query is mentioned.  Some days I prefer one over the other, but it’s all just on a whim.  Honestly, whenever I see one of these dishes on the table, I immediately have a smile on my face!

These are my top ten favorite foods, broken down into their respective categories.  I didn’t include things that we also eat in the US (like kumpir/baked potato and the like).

Main Dish

1. DOLMA: If you don’t like dolma, we can’t be friends.  A variety of vegetables fall under the category “dolma”, but they all have one thing in common: they are stuffed with rice, herbs, spices, and sometimes meat (depending on your recipe).  Boiled/steamed,  the rice is cooked and the flavors of the vessel veggie are trapped inside.  You can find pepper, onion, tomato, eggplant, dried eggplant, grape leaf (aka sarma), and cabbage dolmas, among others.  My favorites are sweet red pepper, dried eggplant, and sarma!

Oh,  the remaining water after boiling makes an excellent soup with a few additions!
2. ISKENDER: A shaved meat dish similar to döner, these meat is laid on a bed of soft pita bread and drowned in tomato sauce, chhhsssss melted butter,  and a side of plain yogurt.  Unfortunately this meal tends to be a bit pricey compared to its sandwich counter part.  For us it is a special indulgence… A delicious, fattening indulgence.
3. KARNIYARIK: Lightly fried eggplant halves filled with a ground beef mixture then baked.  There is something about fried eggplant (without breading)  that is just… Amazing. So soft, so velvety, somewhat sweet…mhm.  Whenever we eat something fried, we usually serve it with yogurt and a salad. The spices, herbs, onion, and other additions to the meat mixture make it flavorful without being overwhelming and losing the flavor of the eggplant.
4. KÖZLEME PATLICAN: Speaking of eggplant… Fire roasted eggplant.  Oh. My. Gosh. You can’t jar the flavor of eggplants actually cooked over an open flame.  We roasted a few kilos of eggplant from our garden last summer and froze it for the winter.  I prefer mine drowned in garlic yogurt, mixed with olive oil, parsley, mint, cumin, red pepper flakes, and black pepper.  I mean,  dang. Hubby likes it without the yogurt and adding tomato. But… But… Garlic yogurt!
5. BEZELYE YEMEĞİ :We all remember pushing peas around our plates as kids… But no one will be turning up their nose at this! A classic sulu (with water) food, bezelye yemeği consists of chopped and sautéed onions, carrots, and potatoes, swimming in a tomatoe-y broth with the peas happily joining in the fray. This is my favorite of the “standard” (I call sulu foods standard because everything can be made like this lol) Turkish meals. You can also add ground beef!

Breakfast

6. BİBERLİ LOR :Nom. Nom. Nom. This is a great way to give in to my cheese addiction. Lor is basically ricotta cheese, and biberli lor is ricotta cheese mixed in with sautéed peppers. Heat it all up together and make sure there is plenty of olive oil! I hope you aren’t worried about gaining a few pounds…
7. ÇILBUR :This mix sounds weird but I swear it is delicious. Pan cooked eggs (no milk, not beaten, and not quite fried… Just oil and eggs cooked until it’s not runny) smothered in plain yogurt (and if you have caught on to my preferences… Garlic is an option for a lunch time meal). I like to drizzle a sauce made from butter and salça (like manti) on top.

Dessert

8. MUHALLEBI : Basically a very light, plain pudding that I just love.  It’s almost fluffy because it’s made with rice starch instead of corn or wheat.  Add a little sakiz, and I’m in heaven!
9. AYVA TATLISI : Poached quince with cinnamon and whipped cream.  Hello, delcious!
10. BAKLAVA : No list of delicious Turkish foods is complete without baklava. I’m pretty picky about it, though! I like mine to be crunchy, flaky, and not drown in sugar syrup!  And while you’re at it, make it with walnuts.  I know for some it is sacrilege, but I really like walnuts…

Anyway, when you get the chance give these a try! I hope you didn’t gain a few kg just reading!

Honorable mentions (you’ll have to look up for yourself!): Cig kofte, mercimek kofte, patlican yemegi, kisir, bamya yemegi, yayla corbasi…ok I need to stop or I’ll list everything!

Stale Bread is Not The End!

If you’re anything like me, you HATE stale bread.  As in,  please-dont-make-me-put-this-in-my-mouth HATE.  But with summer upon us, bread goes stale in a matter of a day or two.

Sure, you can turn it into croutons or bread crumbs, but that only gets you so far.  If you want to get rid of multiple loaves of bread (or just one), you can go for ekmek kızartması or…

Drum roll

Ekmek köftesi!

image

Basically the regular recipe for fried köfte, but instead of meat use bread!  It may sound weird at first, but it’s so close to a fritter I can’t help but love it :).  Great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks for guests, the sky is the limit! Just be careful with the salt…

Ingredients
1 loaf stale bread, torn to pieces and moistened in water
1 egg
1 tbsp flour
50-100g grated tulum cheese (or any cheese), as you prefer
Cumin to taste
Black pepper to taste
Parsley to taste, chopped
Salt to taste (your cheese may be salty so be light with your salt)
Sunflower oil for frying
(Optionals)
Grated onion
Dill
Mint
Anything you think sounds good, because no one can tell you what to do!

Preparation
1. Tear your bread apart and soak it in water.  Squeeze out the excess and place the bread in a bowl.
2. Add all the other ingredients, kneading it like a dough (as described in the köfte recipe).  This should be really soft and blended!
3. If needed, an extra egg can be added if the bread doesn’t stick together well. Also,  if too wet (like you squeeze it and bubbles come out between your fingers), add flour 1 tsp at a time.
4. Pinch off about a golf ball size piece from the dough and work it in your hand, squeezing and rolling it like a stress ball.  Tap it flat with your fingers, at about 1/4 of an inch thick.
5. Heat a skillet with oil for frying. Place your köfte in the pan and let fry until dark golden brown.  Flip them and fry both sides similarly.  Place on a paper towel to soak up the extra oil.

Serve with tomatoes and cucumbers

Afiyet olsun!

Turkey 201a: Kahvaltı part 1

Kahvaltı is the Turkish word for breakfast.  No, I didn’t name this post kahvaltı because it is a turkish word and I wanted to be clever. No. I named this post as such because Turkish breakfasts deserve their own word.  They are in no way comparable to any American breakfast I have ever had, outside of those served by Turkish Americans.  Here is a small sampling of things that you may find at kahvaltı, but this is in no way everything!  This morning our breakfast was actually very basic, and I hope to include additional breakfast items in a second installment, Turkey 201b: Kahvaltı part 2 in the future.

Before beginning, I want to stress that kahvaltı can vary dramatically by location, and by season!  For example, when fresh tomatoes are hard to find in January, you may find a tomato sauce food instead.  In the eastern side of Turkey, eating a lot of meat at breakfast is much more common than in the western region, where fresh fruits and vegetables reign.  So, if I don’t mention something here, that’s simply because my experience has been limited to the Aegean during the summer…but that will change soon inşallah!

tea

çay

The first item of discussion is the ubiquitous çay (ch-ai), which can be found on any Turkish table throughout the day.  Much like coffee or orange juice in the US, this drink must accompany breakfast.  Preparing tea in Turkey is not necessarily an easy task.  Utilizing a çaydanlık (which I posted on instagram), a certain ratio of a variety of black teas are added to the top and slightly dampened, while the bottom container comes to a boil.  The hot water is added to the moistened tea leaves and steeped for as long as the drinker desires.  The tea I made, seen above, is actually kind of light…but I really liked it! SO THERE!  Drink your tea plain, with sugar, or with a candy in your mouth.

cheese

 Peynir

Another common item found on the table when you get up is peynir (pay-neer), cheese.  There are a metric ton of different types of cheeses in Turkey (you think I’m being hyperbolic, but I am serious), and any number of them can find their way to the breakfast table.   Not to be confused with indian cheese paneer, the name peynir applies to all cheeses, and you have to qualify which one you are talking about.

tomato

Taze sebzeler

In my experience I’ve always found a chopped assortment of taze sebzeler (tah-zey seb-zey-lehr), fresh vegetables, drowned in olive oil and salt when I woke up for breakfast.  Tomatoes are always present, but sometimes you will find peppers and/or cucumbers.  At least something on the table isn’t fattening haha!

bread

Ekmek

If you are at all familiar with a Turkish kitchen, you know that ekmek (ehk-mek), bread, is never very far away when it comes to meal time.  Much like cheese, there are many types of bread, depending on what you are eating.  Sandwich breads, dipping breads, wrapping breads…but here you see a standard bread that visited the toasting press before serving.

egg

Yumurta

Most of the time you will find yumurta (you-murt-ah), egg, in some shape or form.  Today we kept it simple and boiled it, but you can also prepare a scrambled Turkish omelette (menemen), scrambled egg with yogurt (çilbur), or even plain fried eggs.  It is all up to the cook.

kaymak (1)

Kaymak

The sky opens up, a light shines down, angels sing…and there lies kaymak (kai-mahk).  Yes, if you think that is sweet cream, it is.  Soft and supple, this super fattening delight is worth every calorie.  I try to only eat it once, like, ever in my life, because when I get started I can’t stop.  Dip your bread in it and go to town.  I can’t even describe in words the glory that is kaymak.

There are many other things that can be served at breakfast, such as olives (zeytin), jams (reçel) a variety of savory pastries (börek), beef sausages (sucuk, sosis), and others.  I hope to share them with you soon.

In Turkey, breakfast is KING!

  Where are you in the world, and what did you have for breakfast?

Creamy cottage cheese with peppers- start to finish! (Evde biberli lor/kesmik)

Yesterday I was feeling domestic, so I tried my hand at making “cottage cheese” (lor or, as my husband called it, kesmik).  I felt pretty pleased with how it turned out- nice and firm, but not rubbery!  I only got about 1/2-3/4c of cheese curds out of 4c of 1% milk! That left me with a LOT of whey (the yellow, watery looking leftovers of milk when a lot of macronutrients like fat and proteins have settled out into cheese).  I did some googling and I saw mixed opinions on whether or not an acid whey, left over from acid set cheese, such as cottage cheese/lor could be used to make ricotta.  Well, I thought I’d give it a go, if it didn’t work I’d still have whey.  Cranking up the heat on the stove,I was left with some creamy, semi solid substance that I had to scrape off of my tea cloth (aka- hubbys old tshirt scraps). Adding that to the solid cheese curds added a whole new dimension to the lor/curds! YUMMY!  I think I’ll use the whey as a substitute for water in a bread recipe, or as a stock for a creamy soup like potato…It feels so wrong to throw it out.  Later I found out from my mother-in-law that I can bring the milk and curds to a boil together the second time, saving me that extra straining step!

Today we went to the local farmers market and came back with quite a variety of goodies! This included some mild, raw banana peppers from a local farm. Cutting into them and washing away the seeds, I could smell the sweet aroma of a ripe pepper. MMMmmmm! Sautee them up in some olive oil, add the curds, and you should have biberli lor!  The first time I tried this at home, I added the curds to the pan…and they began to melt a little! Hmmm! So I added a tiny bit of whey to the pan to make the mixture extra creamy.  It was DELICIOUS with my homemade english muffins! Normally in Turkey, you wouldn’t add the curds to the pan but serve them cold from the refrigerator…its all up to you!

Now, down to the nitty gritty!

Cottage cheese and peppers

Acid set cottage cheese/ricotta

Ingredients:

  • 4c milk
  • 1/4c vinegar
  • salt to taste

Preparation:

  1. Pour the milk into a pot and heat slowly, stirring, over medium heat until it is hot to the touch, but not boiling or forming a skin on top (approx 120F).  This temperature approximation is CRITICAL. If it gets too hot at any time, the curds will come out rubbery! I did it without using a thermometer…it should be “hot shower” hot, but not scalding.
  2. Remove the milk from the heat once the proper temperature is reached. Immediately pour in your vinegar, giving the milk a slow stir for about a minute.  You will see the milk curdle before your eyes! Just scrape it off the spoon when you are done stirring.
  3. Cover and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  I put it in the pantry so the AC won’t cool it down.
  4. Put the pot back on the stove, heating it to a brief boil (around 200F or so), remove from the heat and let sit for about 30 minutes again.
  5. Put a colander in a bowl (that doesn’t touch the bottom) and line the colander with cheese cloth or a tea towel (or an old cotton tshirt, one layer, no graphics). Slowly pour the pots contents into this straining device and let them strain for about 5 min.
  6. Remove the towel with the curds in it and run them under cold water, mixing them and breaking them apart with your fingers until they are completely cooled.  They will be incredibly soft. Squeeze the curds as dry as you can in the towel and put them in a container for storage or a bowl to eat them, adding salt in either case.

Creamy ricotta with peppers (biberli lor)

Ingredients:

  • Ricotta or homemade curds
  • Sweet/mild raw peppers (anaheim, cubanelle, charleston, banana… your choice)
  • olive oil
  • salt

(I purposefully didn’t put measurements in this recipe, since it is all about preference.)

Preparation:

  1. Chop the peppers to your preferred size and sautee them in olive oil.  I add just a smidge of salt to the peppers to bring out their own, unique flavor. Make sure to keep the seeds OUT! Let them cool.
  2. When storing, pack the cheese into a jar with the peppers (either mix the peppers in with the cheese, or layer cheese then pepper, cheese then pepper.  Make sure it is packed air-tight!
  3. Allow to sit for one day, draining the liquid that has come out of the cheese overnight. Do this again for another day.
  4. Pour olive oil into the jar, as you desire, and store in the refrigerator. It should keep for a week or two.

Afiyet olsun!!

I hope you guys like this as much as I did :).  I haven’t actually tried to make the ricotta and peppers with store bought cheese, but I saw the recipe on turkishfoodandrecipes.com for using store bought.  With how easy (and cheap) it is to make the curds at home, I don’t see why you wouldn’t 😉 time permitting.

National Yeast day/ English Muffins recipe

There should be a national yeast day.  There’s so many amazing things you can do with it! For example:

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Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4c bread flour
  • 1/4c warm water
  • 1 1/4 tsp. yeast (sprinkle of sugar)
  • 3/4c milk
  • 1 tbsp. butter, room temp
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tbsp. sugar
Preparation:
  1. Proof yeast in warm water with a sprinkle of sugar.
  2. Combine flour, salt, sugar, and butter in a mixing bowl, forming a well in the center.  The butter will not seem like much in the dough at this point.
  3. Pour milk and proofed yeast into the well. Knead well until smooth and tacky. You will probably need to add more flour.
  4. Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover, letting it double in size (60-90min)
  5. Once doubled, turn out dough on a floured surface.  pinch the dough into 6-8 pieces.  Roll each into little balls and place on a well floured (or cornmeal sprinkled) parchment paper and cover, letting rise again for about an hour.  They will spread up and out, give them plenty of room.
  6. lightly oil a griddle and turn on to medium heat. Once the dough has risen again, gently place the dough balls on the hot griddle.  Let them brown on one side (a golden brown, not burnt), then flip them over. Each side can take 3-6 minutes, depending on the stove top temp.
  7. Preheat oven to 400F.  Place browned dough balls into the oven to finish cooking (either on a parchment covered cookie sheet or a baking stone).  Bake for about 10-12min.  Remove and let cool.
Afiyet olsun!
**Credit for this recipe goes to Elsie and Emma over at abeautifulmess.com
Edit: Today I tried these with my creamy cottage cheese and peppers...AMAZING!