Cacık

This recipe is incredibly simple but so refreshing. Yogurt is a staple in Turkey- which is made even more evident by the large plastic tubs they sell it in.  They ain’t havin’ none of that little cup stuff like in the states! Typically yogurt is plain- and you dress it up however you like.  Drinking/ eating yogurt as a savory, salty product rather than sweet took a lot of getting used to when it was introduced to me 4 years ago, but now it is my preferred method of consumption!

Ayran is incredibly popular in Turkey.  Ayran is simply watered down, salty yogurt.  Another step up from this is cacık, which you may recognize as tzatsiki in greek restaurants in the US.  Don’t be surprised when many foods we know as greek pop up in Turkish cuisine.  These countries share a deeply intertwined history, and their common foods indicate this.

Here is a quick recipe for cacık, which can be served as a cold soup or beverage. I did not include any ratios because they are completely up to the person making it.  Some people like theirs thick, lightly salted, with only a little cucumber.  Others like it thin, salty, and swimming with cucumber.  We usually do the latter.

cacikmint

Ingredients

Yogurt

Cold water

Salt

Cucumber, grated

Mint, chopped

Garlic, mashed (optional: for soup)

Preparation

Put salt, cucumber, yogurt and (optional) garlic into a large bowl and mix well.

Thin out yogurt to desired consistently by pouring in cold water slowly, mixing all the while.

Once yogurt is at desired consistency, serve in bowls or glasses and garnish with mint.

This goes incredibly well with meat dishes

Afiyet olsun!

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Tavuk sote (Chicken sautee)

Because food.

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Need I say more?

This is one of hubsters faaaaavorite recipes.  I enjoy it in the winter and the summer, there is no limit to TAVUK SOTE!  If you can, try and pick up the zucchini from a farmers market- I see a huge difference in this dish when I do that!

Ingredients

2 deboned, skinless chicken thighs*, cut into strips

1 medium white onion, chopped

4 mild peppers, chopped

2 roma tomatoes, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

3 medium zucchini, sliced

2 tbsp tomato paste

1/3c water

2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

Dollop canola/ veggie oil

salt

black pepper

cumin

coriander

drizzle worschestire sauce (optional)

Preparation
  1. Place a dollop of canola oil in the sautee pan, adding onion, pepper, and carrots, tossed in the oil.  Add a sprinkle of salt and cook on medium low, covered, until soft.
  2. Meanwhile, cut chicken thighs into strips and allow to marinate in a drizzle of worschestire sauce.
  3. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, and water to the cooked veggies.  Cover and let cook until soft.
  4. Add chicken strips, zucchini, garlic, and spices.  Cover and let cook until chicken and zucchini are cooked.
Serve with rice pilaf and yogurt
Afiyet Olsun!
*I prefer to purchase chicken thighs with bones and skin, removing these bits and saving them for making chicken stock for soup.

By the way-if you would like to see my recipe for traditional turkish rice pilaf (learned in my mother-in-law’s kitchen via one word statements and a lot of gesturing) drop a comment below!

Ode to the White Eggplant (plus recipe!)

Oh white eggplant

How I adore thee

With your sweet flesh

Made soft upon cooking

With your white skin

Transforming to…green?

Well, never mind then…I’ll stick to brushes to produce my art.

  One thing that I absolutely love about the farmers market in Florida (and probably anywhere? Most of my experience with farmers markets has been in Florida…besides in Turkey where I followed my mother-in-law’s lead and didn’t really look around much) are the EGGPLANTS!  I am a HUGE fan of eggplants, but the ones in the grocery store do not do justice to the wonder that is this lovely vegetable (technically fruit, I guess, since it has seeds).

move over, boring purple eggplant!  Guess who is coming to dinner?!

oh yeah…that’s the stuff.

  So you may be wondering, “what’s wrong with the grocery store’s purple eggplant?”  Well, nothing, I guess…if you want to throw it in the oven.  I learned a lot about eggplant in Turkey.  For instance, our traditional purple eggplants are called kozleme eggplant, meaning they are solely for roasting (in their culinary tradition).  I mean, I’ve made mousaka with them, fried them, boiled them, what have you…but white eggplants and “japanese” eggplants are on another level.

  First, let’s talk about white eggplants.  They are much sweeter (in my opinion) than the others, and they are the perfect size for slicing into round pieces and frying up for a good mousaka.  They are also delicious roasted and stewed (recipe at the bottom of this post!).

  Japanese eggplants (i.e. the long skinny ones), are similarly great for stewing, but I prefer them roasted.  So what is the difference between purple eggplants and japanese?  The Japanese eggplants are much more silky after roasting, and you can roast them whole after stabbing some vent holes in them with a fork- locking in the flavor.  They also don’t need to sweat like most other eggplants.

  Anyway, without further ado- a recipe for white eggplants that we call “eggplant sulu”  Sulu means with water  in turkish (su= water, lu= with).  Yeah, we are so clever. Go find yourself a few white eggplants at your local farmers market and enjoy! Now is the perfect time to find them (Just fyi, they are sooo expensive at a grocery store)!

sulu

Ingredients

3-4 small white eggplants, cubed

1 large onion, diced

4 medium peppers (mild, like sweet banana peppers), diced

2 tomatoes, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp tomato paste

dollop olive oil

salt

cumin

paprika

pepper

water

Preparation
  1. cube eggplants and salt them, allowing them to sweat in a colander (over a dish or bowl) for 30min to an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up onions and peppers. Add to a pot (a BIG pot!) with olive oil and some salt.  Cook over medium heat until translucent.
  3. Add tomato paste, rinsed eggplant, and tomato, mixing well.  Let sautee (covered) on medium heat for about half an hour or until eggplants are somewhat soft.
  4. Add water (room temp or cold) to the pot, filling until the eggplant is just covered. Sprinkle in spices as desired (I use only 1/4 tsp cumin and paprika, more pepper and salt) and add minced garlic.  Simmer on medium low until completely cooked.
Serve with warm bread and yogurt

Afiyet olsun 🙂 !

Every time is a good time for POGACA!

Pogaca (turkish: poğaça/poh-ach-ah) is one of my favorite things to make and to eat!  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, you name it, pogaca is appropriate.  Along with being versatile, it is very simple to make!  Known by other names in other countries, pogaca is a bready pocket filled with anything you can think of.  Try out this recipe next time you get a craving for a little “I dont know what”!

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Ingredients:
  • Dough
    • 3c all purpose flour (approx.)salt to taste
    • 1/2tsp baking powder
    • 1/2c canola oil (or olive oil)
    • 1/2c yogurt
    • 7tbsp butter (softened)
    • 1 egg (white only)
  • Filling
    • feta and spinach
    • potato and onion
  • Top (wash)
    • 1 egg yolk, brushed
    • sesame or nigella seeds
Preparation
  1. Put butter in a bowl to soften. Once soft, cut in the oil, yogurt, and egg white
  2. Put flour, salt,  and baking powder into a large bowl, blending well
  3. Forming a well in the center, mix wet and dry ingredients until a smooth, non-sticky dough is formed.  (you may add a little more flour if needed)
  4. pinch egg sized pieces from the dough, shape into a ball, then flatten with your palm. Do not make the dough too thin or it wont bake right (about 1/4″ thick).
  5. Place a dollop of filling in one side of the flattened circle. Fold two sides of the dough together, pinching it to seal, forming a half moon shape.
  6. brush the egg yolks on the top (one side) of the half moons (or you can make them into balls if you are feeling skillfull), sprinkling seeds to finish.
  7. Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes in a convection oven, 30 minutes in standard.

Spinach Filling (pictured):

  1. Cover the bottom of a pot with a little water, dissolving a chicken buillion cube in it (or use a little homemade stock)
  2. Wash and chop spinach/onion/ and garlic. Put all vegetables into the pot and steam on medium until the spinach is very wilted and the onions are cooked.
  3. Drain off the juice and cook until dry, patting with a paper towel as needed.  Add salt, pepper, and cumin to taste.
  4. Before applying filling, mix in feta cheese

Potato and Onion Filling:

  1. Peel and grate potato and onion, saute in olive oil until soft and translucent. (when transferring grated potato and onion to the pan, be sure to squeeeeeze out the potato and onion juice, making the grated veggies drier- reducing chances of oil popping)
  2. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, parsley, and dill.

Whey soup/ Peynir suyu corba

Last weekend I made a gallon-of-milk worth of biberli lor!  This left me with about 10 cups of whey (the yellowish liquid remaining after cheese is made)!  Never wanting to waste, I asked my mother-in-law what I could do with this peynir suyu (cheese juice) and she advised I make a soup.  I wasn’t sure what kind of soup I could make with this slightly acidic, dairy flavored juice…. so she gave me this recipe.  While the hubby insists it doesn’t taste just like the original*, I adore it…dare I say, I eat enough for both of us.  Following in turkish tradition, I don’t know exactly what the measurements are for this soup- I simply eye-ball it, but I will try to guess the measurements for those who aren’t accustomed to “approximate cooking”.

Whey soup with all the extras

*When I made lor cheese the first time, I used vinegar to precipitate the cheese proteins, which results in a vinegary whey.  On separate occasions I used lemon juice and citric acid (from a cheese making kit), respectively…both resulted in a sweeter whey that does taste like the mom-authentic version :).  I’m just incredibly lazy to ream seven or eight lemons….

Ingredients

  • 3-4c whey
  • 3tbsp flour
  • 1 heaping tbsp butter
  • vermicelli or cappelini, broken into 3 segments
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 chicken buillion cube (optional)
  • other optional ingredients include:
    • spinach
    • mushroom
    • garlic

Preparation

  1. Pour the whey into a pot and bring it to a soft boil.
  2. Add optional spinach/ mushroom and vermicelli/cappelini, boiling until cooked
  3. In a separate pan, add butter and melt (cook the garlic with the butter if you opted for garlic). Add flour and mix well, forming a yellow paste.
  4. Take a ladle-full of hot whey from the pot and pour it in the pan with flour, whisking thoroughly and adding more whey by the ladle-full until dissolved (the paste will because goopier and goopier, until it is completely smooth).
  5. Pour the flour/butter/whey concoction into the main pot, whisking thoroughly to keep clumps out.  Let the soup simmer until thick.
  6. Add salt to taste before serving, sprinkle the bowl with black pepper as desired.

Afiyet olsun!

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!

Muhallebi (pudding)

Today I tried making one of my husband’s favorite desserts, muhallebi! Muhallebi is a simple pudding that is light and delicious for these hot summer days. Mashallah, the dessert came out perfectly the first time! Let me share it with you!

nom nom nom
nom nom nom
Ingredients:
  • 2c milk
  • 2tbsp rice flour
  • 1/2c sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla
Preparation:
  1.  Mix rice flour and sugar together in a dry pot until fully incorporated
  2. Pour in 1/2c of milk, turn pot on to medium-high and whisk thoroughly,  making sure to dissolve all the granular bits.
  3. As the temperature increases add milk in 1/2c increments and whisk continuously.  Add the vanilla.
  4. Whisk and boil until the bubbles leave craters in the mixture.
  5. Pour into a pyrex dish and cool in the fridge for a few hours or until it sets.
  6. Serve with cinnamon and walnuts (or any crushed nut)
Afiyet olsun!

Alcohol-less Sangria

One of the hardest parts of living a more halal life is giving up alcohol.  I won’t lie to you- I’ve been quite the fan.  In order to make this transition easier, I started looking up mocktails (alcohol-less cocktails!).  The first thing I tried was a tonic and lime…no vodka for this girl!  I found I liked it, so I went to good old Uncle Google for somemore ideas.

I looooove sangria (or should I say, loved), so when I saw this recipe- I knew I had to try it.  I already had two glasses of it today! The hubby loves it too!  This means…I must share!

Deliciously halal
Deliciously halal
Ingredients:
  • 2c black tea (2c hot water, 2 packets of black tea)
  • 1/2c sugar
  • 3c fruit juice (cran grape is good)
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • 2 plums, sliced (or any other fruit you like!)
  • dash of cinnamon
  • serve with: club soda
Preparation:
  1. Boil water and steep 2 bags of black tea in 2c of water for about 5 minutes
  2. Add sugar and a dash of cinnamon to the tea, mix and let it dissolve
  3. Put the tea in a pitcher with the sliced fruit and juice. Stir well
  4. Allow the mix to sit for at least an hr in the fridge, best is overnight
  5. Serve with a splash of club soda and ice
Afiyet olsun!

Turkish BBQ/ Mangal

Highs in the 70’s, clear blue skies, and the beginning of spring break…This calls for only one thing.

MANGAL!

Mangal (also known as turkish style bbq) is a right of passage for anyone involved in turkish culture. It is the highlight of the spring/summer season and is, definitely, a must. My day has become a little more bright (if that is possible on this sunny day) just knowing mangal will happen! And the best part is that it is SO easy!

Without further ado, the recipe:

  • Deboned chicken (thighs or flattened or butterflied breasts)
  • Olive oil
  • cumin
  • salt
  • paprika
  • chili powder (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Cut the fat from the chicken and save it for greasing the grill
  2. Dredge the chicken (now flattened/ thin) in olive oil until it is all coated
  3. Mix the salt and spices together on a plate (use chili powder if you like your chicken spicy). Make a lovely pile, don’t be stingy! (Usually my ratio is about 1:3:2:1alt:cumin:paprika:chili but I eye ball it)
  4. Place the chicken in the spices so they stick to it. Rub the spices all over the chicken with your hands (the chicken will now be tinted red)

Now it is ready for the grill!

Even the act of grilling mangal is a little different than the traditional american style. For instance, you don’t use charcoal at all when you grill mangal, simply wood. However, we usually put a few briquets to get the fire started with the wood bundle. You should wait until the wood begins to ash before you throw on the mangal.

As the fire is burning, use the fat from the trimmed chicken to grease the grill. This will keep your chicken from sticking and pulling apart.

Cook the mangal on both sides until it is done.

Typically when we cook mangal, we will also throw some onion slices, cubanelle peppers (mild), and sometimes mushrooms on the grill as well.

Mangal is more than a meal, it is an EVENT!   Have a turkish-styled BBQ on your porch, at your friends house, or even the lake!

Afiyet olsun 🙂