Happy New Year! (plus a Güveç recipe) 

Today we rung in the new year with one of my all time favorites! Enjoy!


Ingredients
 

1 kg cubed beef

2 small onions, diced

4 Charleston peppers, diced

3 sweet sıvı peppers, diced 

5 tablespoons crushed tomato

2 tablespoons tomato /pepper paste

Sunflower (or canola) oil

Butter, margarine, or tereyağ 

Salt to taste

Cumin to taste

Black pepper to taste

Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

**note: you should use a stoneware pot (it’s not 100% necessary but does make a big difference**

Preparation

1. Cube the beef to the size of your thumb.  Stew beef can be used for this recipe, as can a lean cut.  I prefer stew beef. 

2. Put oil and butter in a 3:1 ration (oil:butter), enough to cover the bottom of your pot with about 1cm standing. Add the meat and close the lid, cooking on high.  Stir occasionally until the meat is nearly browned (it’s OK to have some raw spots). 

3. Add the tomato or pepper paste (or a blend) and stir, letting the paste melt into the simmering oil/butter/grease. Prepare your arteries mentally.  

4. Add the diced onions and peppers.  Also add your spices and salt (personally, I like 2tsp black pepper, 1tsp cumin, 2tsp crushed red pepper, and 2/3 tablespoons of salt.  The salt is determined by if there is salt in your paste or not.)  Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft. Around 8 minutes. 

5. Add boiling water until the meat is just sticking out of the water.  Cover the exposed meat with the crushed tomatoes.  DO NOT STIR . Simply press the tomato lightly into the water. 

6. Cover the mouth of your pot with tinfoil, putting the lid over the tinfoil to create a seal. You should see the foil poof up from the steam.  Move your pot to the smallest eye of your stove, and turn it on low. It should barely be seeping out steam from the lightness of the boiling inside (this is crucial!). Let cook for about 1.5 –  2 hours on low until meat is tender. 

Serve with warm bread or rice. Maybe some pickles too! 

You can’t go wrong with Güveç! 

Afiyet olsun! 

 

Traditional Dry Beans and Lamb

 Hubby brought a whole sack of lamb home the other day; apparently someone he knows had a kurban (sacrifice) and some of the meat came to us!

What is this? An alien?!

At first I was pretty intimidated, I had no idea what to do with it!  it was roughly butchered (as in, whole large cuts of meat), and some parts I couldn’t identify. Some of it was very fatty too (as lamb is prone to be). But if I’ve learned anything, it’s :

When in doubt- stew it out!

So I decided to take some good old fashioned dry beans, and make it even more traditional by throwing in some cubed lamb, specifically the super fatty parts!

Between you and me (I would never admit this to anyone), I used to not be able to cook dry beans.  I wanted to be fancy and add too much to it.  But when you add, it just takes away from the flavor!

There’s nothing like a good ol’ dry beans.  Even in the dog days of summer, it’s always welcome on our table! When I make beans, I make A LOT! Plenty enough for five people or more (even though it’s just the two of us right now).

Ingredients

2c dry beans

2 onions (one whole, one diced)

4 peppers (spicy or not, as you like)

3tbsp tomato paste

3 tbsp oil

2c lamb meat, for stew

water

salt to taste

pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Either soak the beans over night, or boil them hard (salted, I use 2 tsp salt) for an hour (after half an hour some may be floating, add water to the pot to knock them down, at that time add one whole onion).  I typically use 2:1 ration for water to beans.  But it is really up to you and how watery you want your beans to be.  I usually end up having to add more water down the line anyway…so don’t worry too much about it.
  2. Throw the stew lamb meat into the pot of water, beans, and onion.  If you soaked over night, then start cooking at this point, adding the onion and stew meat at the same time. Let the pot boil while you do step 3.
  3. Dice the remaining onion and pepper (I cut them to the size of my pinkie), and sautee in a pan with the olive oil* and a dash of salt. Add tomato paste and cook until everything melds together. Spoon water from the boiling pot into the tomato paste/veggies pan until the contents are a slurry.
  4. Pour the slurry into the boiling pot and mix well.  Cover and let boil on low for up to 6hrs (depending on how tough your lamb is.  Don’t be afraid to go back and check every hour or so!). Add salt and pepper as needed, towards the end.
  5. Turn off the heat and let sit for half an hour.

 

Serve with pickles and fresh bread.

Afiyet olsun!

Yayla Corbasi

Sometimes, regardless of the weather, you crave something.

Today, it was yayla corbasi for me!  Despite the hot weather, I was dying for some soup!  This one happens to be a favorite of mine, featuring egg and yogurt (of all things)!  Also, it was a good way to make use of that leftover water I strained out of the pasta I boiled earlier.

Yeah, that’s a thing!

As is true to form, I don’t measure anything…so this is just an approximation 😉

Ingredients

~7c water

1c orzo (arpa sehriye)

1 chicken buillion cube

1 heaping tbsp butter

2 c yogurt

1 egg

2 tbsp flour

Drizzle of olive oil

salt (to taste)

dried mint (to taste)

 Preparation

1. Put approximately 6c water in a pot and bring it to a boil.  Cook orzo noodles in the water with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.  If available, use whatever leftover water you have from boiling noodles too, nixing the added salt and oil. Cook until the orzo is soft.

2. Add butter and bullion to the boiling water, making sure it is thoroughly dissolved.

3. Temper flour with 0.5c cold water, or enough to make a slurry. Mix water slowly into the flour, making sure to eliminate clumps.  Once the slurry is prepared, add spoonfuls of the hot soup water slowly to the slurry, bringing up the temperature.  After 2 or 3 spoonfuls/stirs, slowly pour the mixture into the pot, stirring well as you do (this also prevents clumps).  Let it boil for a few minutes.

4. Whisk together yogurt and egg very well.  Add approximately 0.5c of cold water to the yogurt and egg, diluting to a slurry. Again, make sure that everything is homogenous! Add spoonfuls of the hot soup water to the yogurt mixture, stirring well (I use the big mixing spoon for this).  After 3 or 4 (large) spoonfuls, pour the mixture into the pot, stirring well. Let it boil again.  This time, it should produce foam.  Boil for only a few minutes.

5. Turn off the heat, and add salt and dried mint to taste.

Afiyet olsun!

 

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!

All About Dem Artichokes BABAY

The first time I ever had an artichoke (outside of the jarred artichoke hearts) was in Turkey 4 years ago. Before that I had no idea how to prepare an artichoke, how to cut it, clean it, or even pick it! I knew the taste… But didn’t know it’s versatility or health benefits. Man, was I missing out!

Did you know you can make an artichoke tea from the discarded outer leaves (after drying), and that it’s good for your liver? What a great way to reduce waste when making an artichoke dish (hint hint wink wink)!

When it comes to picking an artichoke I’m still a bit of a novice. However, there are a few things I know for sure!
1. A closed artichoke is a fresh artichoke– Much like a flower, a new bud is fresher than an open flower. Pick an artichoke thats leaves are tightly closed.
2. Spikey plants are old plants– You will notice on the tips of the artichoke leaves are tiny thorns. These get thicker and harder as the plant ages. Look for soft and flexible spikes, indicating a fresher plant.
3.Check the cut– No, I don’t mean a cut like meat… I mean where the artichoke was cut from the plant. If it is very brown it was cut a long time ago. If it is just starting to brown but mostly green, it’s fresh.

Although this sign of freshness is a little late for the consumer… The center fuzzies in the artichoke turn purple as it ages.

image

Ingredients:
5 Artichokes, cut into 6ths and cleaned
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 small potatoes, diced
1.5 lemon’s juice
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
4 heaping tbsp flour
Salt and citric acid (for wash)
4 tbsp olive oil, approx.
2 tbsp fresh diced dill
1/2c fresh peas or bakla (optional)
1 ego’s yolk
Hot water

Preparation:
1. Prepare a salty/sour water bath for your artichokes.  Cut the ends (about 1 inch from the top), so that no tips remain and you can see inside the artichoke. Also cut off the stems (do not discard). Remove a few layers of outer leaves to neaten the appearance.  Cut the artichoke in half and dunk it in the wash. Scoop out the furry center until only the heard heart remains. Let sit in the wash until all are cleaned. Also, clean the outer portions of the stems until only the pale yellow center remains.  Cut into small pieces (about in inch)  and add to the wash.  Once they are all halved and clean,  add 3tbsp flour to the wash.  Mix well and let sit while you prepare the rest.
2. Cut the onions, carrots, and potatoes. Put the onions and potatoes in olive oil in a wide, short pot with a lid.  Begin to cook them until soft on medium high.
3. Cut the artichoke halves into thirds (making 1 artichoke head into 6 pieces).  Add to the pot along with the trimmed stems. Squeeze 1 lemon over the top of the artichoke, sprinkle the sugar and salt, then stir well.
4. Add the potato and (optional bakla or peas) stir again.  Let the veggies cook in their own juices, stirring occasionally.  Finally, pour hot water over the mixture until the tops are just sticking out, do not submerge! Cover and let cook on low (boiling)  for about an hour or until everything is soft.
5. Temper the remaining 1 tbsp flour with a little cool water and the water from the artichoke to make a slurry. Mix into the pot and allow to boil lightly until thickened.
6. Whip the juice of 1 lemon with the yolk of 1 egg. Mix in hot juice from the food until the egg begins to cook. Pour over the top of the artichoke mixture and gently press into the hot liquid with a spoon, but don’t mix!
7. Sprinkle dill over the mixture and cover. Turn off the stove (but do not remove from the heat!) and let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Afiyet olsun!

Spring is coming… And so is taze fasulye!

Springs is coming… Which means a lot of my favorite foods are coming back in season! Eggplant, strawberries, and tomatoes…

Oh my!

One of my favorites that I always struggled to make stateside was green beans/ pole beans… Commonly known as taze fasulye in Turkey. I could never make them as tasty and soft as what I had eaten years ago…

But now I have the recipe! I will never want for taze fasulye AGAIN! Buahaha!

image

Ingredients:
1kg taze fasulye (either green beans or pole beans), julienned
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, julienned
1 Charleston pepper, chopped
2 tbsp salça (tomato or mixed)
10 tbsp tomato juice/konserve (or canned diced tomatoes with juice)
4 tsp sugar
4 tsp salt
Approx 1/4c olive oil
Hot water

Preparation:
1. Wash and julienne beans by slicing down their center and cutting across to form 1 inch length pieces.  If the beans husk is rubbery/hard to cut, remove the beans from inside and discard the husk. Let soak in room temp water while continuing prep.
2.  Prepare your peppers, onions, and carrots accordingly.  Add to a pot with olive oil and salça, mixing well. Add the sugar and turn on the heat to high.
3. Add the beans to the pot and DO NOT MIX! Spoon the tomato juice on top, lastly evenly distributing the salt on top.  Still do not mix!
4. Cover and cook on high until the beans turn light green (approximately 30mins). Pour hot water over the beans until half an inch of beans is exposed. Don’t mix it now either!
5. Cover and cook on low for about one hour or until beans are soft. The boiling will mix everything for you 🙂

Afiyet olsun!

Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’… (Hala’s sarma recipe)

Rollin’ sarma,  that is!

As much as I gripe about chores being piled on me,  it really pays off when it comes to things like this.

Hubby’s grandpa is in the hospital, likely running out his last days.  That has brought his hala (aunt) to our door.  In order to keep her mind off of the unpleasantness,  we’ve been making foods that are traditionally prepared with a few sets of hands.  Sarma is one of them!  Now I can say without a doubt that I get why women would come together in groups to prepare this delicacy.  All of that rolling is WORK!

But it’s wonderful, bonding work.  I sat there and rolled sarma with them,  listening to them gossip and cracking a smile when I understood something they said.  Stopping a moment to enjoy the scent of the pickled leaves and spices on my fingers (and being teased about sticking my nose in everything!).

Sarma has a long and delicious history in Turkish culture,  and will eventually end up on every Turkish table sometime in the year.  Enjoy this recipe best by preparing it with family or friends.  Even better,  share your final product and show everyone that non-Turks can make it too 😉 (or if you’re a Turk,  up your cooking game haha).
image

Ingredients:
6 cups rice, washed and drained
2 onions, finely diced
1 bunch parsley, diced
1 bunch dill, diced
1 bunch green onion, diced
5 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp pepper paste
2 tsp salt
1.5 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp dolma spice
1 tsp sugar
5 tbsp olive oil

0.5 kilo pickled grape leaves

Preparation:

1.  Wash the grape leaves and blanch them in lightly boiling water for 5 seconds (do this in batches).  Let drain in a colander.
2. Cook onion to softness with 3tbsp olive oil.  Stir in 3 tbsp tomato paste and all pepper paste and let simmer until smooth.
3. Add washed and drained rice,  mixing continuously and cooking on medium high.  It should sizzle.
4. Cook rice for about 10 minutes or until very dry and the pastes are slightly browning.  Add all spices and remaining oil. Mix well. Allow to cool.
5. Add herbs and green onion to the mix after it has cooled.
6. Place filling in grape leaf and roll like a burrito (as shown below).  It should be tightly rolled and the size of a cigarette in thickness.
image

7. Layer sarma in a pot,  with the bottom covered with the herb stems.
8. In a separate pan,  cook remaining 2 tbsp of tomato paste in approx 2c water until smooth. Much like dolma, the sarma needs to cook in a sauce to maintain flavor. Pour hot tomato sauce into the pot.  Add water until sarmas are just covered. Use a clay topper or a bowl to weigh them down and prevent floating.
9. Bring to a low boil and cook until rice is done (approx.  40 min). Don’t be shy to bite one to check.
10. Let cool to room temp.  Good hot or cold.

Serve with lemon and yogurt

Afiyet olsun!!

Cheese-less cauliflower is a thing

If you are a proper American, you will have probably experienced cauliflower as a gratin (baked in cheese) or raw,  in a salad.

I am here to blow your mind.

I was rather pleased with boiled cauliflower doused in olive oil, lemon, and garlic, this new recipe brings cauliflower to the front and center stage on your table.

Maybe it’s just me, and I’m the only one thrilled with this recipe (that I literally learned just before writing this).  But if you’ve been looking for a more substantial way to incorporate cauliflower into your diet; I present to you…

image

Ingredients

1 cauliflower,  cut into medium pieces

1 onion, diced

1 carrot,  diced

1 sweet red pepper,  diced

2 tbsp tomato paste

6 tbsp jarred tomatoes (or tomato sauce)

Salt AND pepper,  as desired

1 cup ground beef (optional)

Dried jot peppers (optional)

Hot water

Enough olive oil to cover the bottom of your pot

Preparation

1. Cook your meat in the oil with the carrot. Once mostly cooked,  add the onion and pepper.

2. Once the hard vegetables are soft and cooked,  add the tomato paste and mix into the oil, cooking the paste until it is a darker red (maybe 1 min).

3. Add the cauliflower,  sauce,  and spices.  Mix well and cover,  allowing the cauliflower to cook in the tomato sauce for a bit (if using canned sauce, you may want to add a pinch of sugar to remove the added sourness). Note: consider scoring thick cauliflower stems to speed the cooking process.

4. After approximately 10 to 15 minutes,  but before the tomato sauce begins to burn,  add enough HOT water to just cover the cauliflower.  Cook on low,  covered,  until cauliflower is soft.

Optional: if you are feeling spicy,  lay dried peppers on the top of the food after adding hot water and let it cook on low with the rest of the food.

Serve with fresh bread and yogurt/spicy pickles..

Afiyet olsun

Ayva: Winter’s Surprise!

 And here I thought the fruit season had finished…

  Have you ever had quince?  If you are from the south eastern US, you probably haven’t.  It’s called ayva in Turkey, and it’s season is the fall/winter.  Four years ago I stared longingly at the ayva tree in our garden, desiring to try its fruits.  However, since we only stayed for the summer, it wasn’t my nasip at the time.

  But now, now it’s time!

quince on a white background
stolen from google 🙂

Ayva surprised me with how astringent it is, nearly sucking the moisture right out of my mouth.  I like it…but I love it as a jam!  Another sign of the change in season, ayva reçel is undoubtedly boiling on the stove of many Turks right now.  Spiced with cinnamon and (sometimes) clove, this jam reminds me of the US fall flavors I’ve been looking for.  This jam is particularly easy in that the seeds produce all of the gelatinous qualities you would normally need pectin for!

quincejam

Ingredients

5-6 quince, peeled, cored, and grated

water

approx. 5c of sugar

1 stick cinnamon

1 tsp clove (optional)

quince seeds

Preparation

1. Prepare a small pouch from a cheese cloth, old scarf, or another fine fabric- and place the quince seeds inside.

2. Put the quince in a pot with the seed pouch, covering them with water. Boil until the water is reduced by approx. half and the fruit is soft.

3. Add the sugar to the mix and melt it in.  Add the spices.

4.  Allow the mixture to simmer until it turns pink.  The concoction will still be liquidy.

5. Pour into glass jars hot, allowing them to cool with their tops off.   Once cooled, it will solidify.

AFIYET OLSUN!

‘Tis the Season to Make Aşure

As the onslaught of winter holidays are preparing to commence in the US, Turkey has a few unofficial holidays of their own.  While you may be spying colored leaf decor, pilgrim hats, and probably a few Christmas trees, in the states…in Turkey you will be seeing tons and tons of aşure!

asure2

Aşure (Ah-shur-eh), or Noah’s Pudding, is a dessert that I personally adore.  Sweetened with both sugar and fruit, aşure is a sure sign of the changing season. At least, it is right now.

Along with being a dessert, this is also the nickname of the Muslim month of Muharram (the first month on the islamic calendar- which operates by the moon phases).  For this reason, the months change over time- so in 10 years we may be preparing aşure around Easter rather than Christmas!

asure ingredients

  But I digress.

This dessert comes from the ubiquitous story of Noah (or Nuh) and the flood.  While Muslims and Christians don’t necessarily agree on how big the flood was, we can all agree that there was a guy on a boat for quite some time.  At the end of that time, there was only so many ingredients available to prepare much of anything.  With what remained, Noah prepared aşure.  There is a lot of significance to this month that you can search for on your own, I’m sticking to the dessert!

When one prepares aşure, they prepare A LOT.  That’s because you share your dessert with the whole neighborhood!  Invite over your closest neighbors, say some prayers, read a little Quran, then eat!  Later, load up a tepsi (tray) with as many bowls as you can and distribute them to the neighbors on your block.  More likely than not, you have some coming your way as well!  Just last week we visited Amca and his family, their aşure flavored with orange and clove felt like being back in the states again.DSCN3030

My favorite part of eating/making aşure is that everyone does it differently. While the base is pretty much the same, how people chose to flavor it can vary. Some people put figs and apricots, others put orange and apple.  Rose water? why not. Clove? Bring it on.  And the toppings sprinkled on top are always a treat! It literally took us one entire day to prepare the toppings.  Cracking, blanching, toasting, and pulverizing your own almonds and walnuts is not an easy task. Oh, but the reward…asure toppings

Without further ado, here is our recipe for aşure.  It makes a huge stock pot worth, so if you don’t plan on sharing with a dozen people- feel free to cut down the recipe.  Change it as you like!  We prepared the beans the day before.

Asure

Ingredients

1kg whole bulgur wheat

2c dried chickpeas

2c dried great northern beans

2c rice

1kg sugar

3 apples, peeled and diced

3 mandarine orange rinds, diced finely

1-2c raisins

2tsp cloves

1tbsp rose water

hot water

salt

toppings:

toasted sesame

toasted almonds, pulverized

toasted walnuts, pulverized

pomegranate seeds

toasted pine nuts

currants

cinnamon

Preparation

1.Soak the dried beans separately for several hours until ready to cook. Add a generous hand-full of salt to the water.

2. Wash the bulgur wheat very well*, then cook in a pressure cooker until done.

3. Remove the bulgur and place in a large stock pot. Cook the chickpeas in the pressure cooker until soft.

4. Cook the beans and rice separately in standard pots, until soft.

5. Put all of the legumes and grains, drained, in the same stock pot, add sugar. Meanwhile, boil the mandarin rind twice, removing any undesirable bitter flavors.

6. Fill stock pot with water until everything is submerged, plus two or three inches more.

7. Add the fruits/rind/clove and bring to a boil, letting everything mush together (its ugly but delicious). Add the rose water after boiling and stir it in.

8. Try and maintain a pourable consistency with hot water. Serve with garnish, hot.

AFIYET OLSUN!

*you know, go ahead and wash everything well.  EVERYTHING. Even the raisins.  Any residual color compounds can make your dessert ugly and discolored!