Cooking Turkish Cuisine - Recipes

Cooking Turkish Cuisine - Recipes
Not only do traditional Turkish foods look and taste wonderful, even their names are often delightful, such as “The Sultan Smiled,” “Lady’s Navel,” “The Imam Fainted,” “Lady’s Thighs,” and “Nightingale’s Nest.” Here are a few recipes, chosen because they are both tasty and not difficult to make. They are slightly adjusted for available American ingredients and measurements, for you to try.
Köfte (Meatballs)
Turks make a variety of köfte. They can be grilled or fried, and made with lamb, beef, a combination of the two, or less commonly, with vegetables.
1 lb. ground lamb or beef
1 onion, preferably a red one, grated
1 egg
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (or ketchup, in a pinch)
1⁄4 cup bread crumbs
1⁄2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. dill, or small bunch of fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp. parsley or small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp. pine nuts (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Mix together the ground meat, grated onion, and minced garlic in a large bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly with a spoon or by kneading the ingredients with your hands.
Shape small amounts of the mixture into sausage-like meatballs by rolling between your hands until it is round and as long as a finger.
These can be skewered to place on the grill and cooked, turning every couple of minutes until they are done. Or they can be rolled in flour and browned in hot oil on the stove, turning until they are done on all sides, then drained on paper towels.
Serve with cacik or plain yogurt.

Pilavs (pilafs) and Börek
There are many different rice and bulgar pilafs made in Anatolian kitchens, and they are quite easy to prepare. Some versions are made with ground meat or small pieces of cooked meat mixed in. Traditionally, they were a course in their own right, but pilaf also makes a great side dish for a meal, and may now be served with meat dishes in Turkish restaurants. Börek dishes are also many and varied. Even fussy eaters love the ones made with a cheese filling that is folded up in pastry dough triangles or rolled into cigar shapes and fried. The recipe here has a similar flavor, but is made in a pan and baked instead.
Spiced Pilav
2 c. rice
1 medium onion, chopped
6 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. pine nuts (you can substitute slivered almonds if you don’t have pine nuts)
1-2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 tsp. cinnamon or cloves
4 c. water or beef broth
1 Tbsp. currents (these are best, but you can substitute raisins or golden raisins, if necessary)
1 bunch dill, save out a few sprigs, and chop the rest finely
Sauté onion in butter until soened. Add pine nuts and rinsed rice, and continue to cook and stir for about 10 minutes, until pine nuts are slightly browned.
Add chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, cinnamon, water or broth, and currents and dill. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed.
Fluff rice with a fork to separate kernels. Garnish with a few sprigs of dill.

Spinach Börek
Nigella sativa seeds (çörek otu in Turkish) have been used since Roman times for cooking, and in Asia they have been used for medicinal purposes from antiquity. They are said to cure everything except death, but do not use it in large quantities, since nigella is a member of the buttercup family. Too much can be an irritant, and even toxic. As a spice, it can be difficult to locate in America. You may find it under one of its numerous other names; some of the most common include black cumin, black caraway, black seed, nutmeg flower and Roman coriander. Russians, as well as Turks, use it on bread, and Armenians also cook with it, so it may be called charnushka or Russian caraway sometimes. Indian cooks call it kala zeera, kalonji, munga reala or krishnajiraka, and use it in the making of lobhia and in naan bread, so you may find it in stores that carry Indian supplies. In America, nigella is known primarily from a closely related plant with similar seeds, nigella damascena. Known as a beautiful annual for the garden, which is easy to grow even in bad soil, as long as you have sun and good drainage. Its seeds can also be used culinarily. Its common name in garden catalogues is Love-in-the-Mist.
2 bunches fresh spinach (about 2+ lbs.) or 1 package frozen spinach
1 medium onion, chopped finely
12-14 oz. beyaz peynir (try to substitute Greek or Bulgarian feta if you don’t have a local or Internet supplier of beyaz peynir; American feta is not as good)
salt and pepper
about 11⁄4 stick butter
3 eggs
1⁄2 c. milk
1 package filo pastry leaves (Turks use a flaky pastry dough called yufka, but filo dough will work, and is readily available to Americans in most cities)
sesame seeds or çörek otu (nigella seeds)
Butter or grease a lasagna dish or other large rectangular pan (a sheet cake pan or jelly roll pan will work).
Thaw, if frozen, or wash and chop fresh spinach. Chop onion and sauté in 3-4 Tbsp. butter until soft. Add spinach and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes. Crumble the beyaz peynir or feta into the spinach mixture, stir to mix, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Set mixture aside while you melt 3⁄4 stick butter in a saucepan.
Beat 3 eggs with 1⁄2 c. milk in a small bowl.
Spread 2 leaves of filo dough on the bottom of the pan, allowing the edges of the leaves to lie against or overlap the sides of the pan. Spoon a little of the melted butter over the leaves and spread it with the back of the spoon, or with a pastry brush, over the layer. Place 2 more leaves of filo dough down to form another layer, and brush this layer with a few spoonfuls of the egg and milk mixture. Alternate the pastry leaves, melted butter, more filo leaves and the egg/milk mixture until half the filo dough is used.
Spread the spinach and cheese mixture as the middle layer, then continue to alternate the remaining filo leaves with the butter and the egg/milk mixture, until all the leaves are used, or your pan is filled up. Fold down the edges of the filo leaves that went up the sides of the pan so that they lie flat on the top, and seal them down with the melted butter. Brush the top layer with the butter and the egg mixture, and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired. Çörek otu (nigella seed) is even better, sprinkled over the top. Some people ascribe various flavors, from “mild peppery” to “oregano or fennel-like” to the seeds, but they don’t really taste quite like anything else.They are another great Mediterrean/ Asian flavor for you to try.
Bake in a moderate oven, about 325 degrees, for 45 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Mücver (Squash fritters)
These vegetable fritters are served as meze at parties and for dinner. The white cheese and dill melted inside will make them a favorite. Some Turks do omit the cheese, so if you have leftover zucchini, but no feta, try it anyway. One Turkish friend told me they add in whatever vegetables they like that they have on hand, such as potatoes (which would also have to be grated before mixing). Potato is not typical, but is a nice variant if you like a flavor more like potato pancakes. Usually, they are made with a small squash that is similar to zucchini, which makes a good substitute. The carrot adds a nice touch of orange, but mücver is often made without it.
11⁄2 lbs. zucchini (about 4, depending on their size)
1-2 onions (to taste)
2 or 3 carrots (optional)
4 oz. beyaz peynir or feta ( or about 3⁄4 c. crumbled but not packed in)
2 c. flour (depending on moisture content of mix, you may have to add more)
3 eggs
1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped
1⁄2 bunch of fresh mint or parsley, chopped (optional)
1 tsp. each of pepper and salt (or to taste)
vegetable oil for frying (about 1 to 11⁄2 c., or enough to be 1-11⁄2 inches deep in a frying pan)
Grate zucchini, onions, and carrots.
This step is important: scoop the grated vegetables up in your hands and squeeze as much of the extra moisture out of them as you can. Place the squeezed vegetables in another bowl. If too much water remains in them, the mücver will not cook in the center, or you will probably have to add too much flour to compensate.
Mix the grated vegetables together in a large bowl with the eggs, herbs and seasonings. Crumble or grate the cheese into the mixture. Add the flour a quarter cup or so at a time, mixing between additions, until the mixture is no longer runny and will stick together.
Heat the oil to frying temperature in a pan. You can see whether it is hot enough by testing a small, marble-sized portion of the mixture first. It should immediately begin bubbling and frying around the mixture if the oil is properly heated. Drop tablespoon-sized balls of the mixture into the hot oil, or teaspoon-sized ones for smaller fritters. Fry on each side until brown, then remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Çoban Salatası (Shepherd’s Salad)
This salad makes a colorful alternative to leafy greens. Good by itself, it can also be served on a bed of lettuce.
1-2 cucumbers, peeled, sliced and quartered or diced
2 large or 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
1⁄2 large red onion, sliced thinly
1 bunch fresh Italian or flat parsley, chopped
2 hot green peppers
1-2 cloves of garlic, pressed
juice of 1 lemon (about 3 Tbsp. lemon juice)
about 3⁄4 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Place the first five ingredients in the salad bowl.
Squeeze lemon juice into a small bowl. Add the olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper, if desired. Pour over vegetables and stir to mix everything together.

Cacık (Cucumber and Yogurt)
A dish that is easy to make and wonderfully cool alongside köfte (Turkish meatballs) or other meat dishes, or it can be diluted with water to serve as a cold soup.
2 cups yogurt
1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped, sliced finely, or shredded
2 cloves garlic, or to taste, minced
bunch of fresh dill or mint, chopped
salt to taste
1 tsp. olive oil (optional)
ice cubes or shavings (optional)
Stir salt and minced garlic into the yogurt.
Add cucumber, and the mint or dill.
If you want to chill further, add ice cubes or shavings before serving. You may drizzle oil over the top and garnish with a sprig of mint or parsley, if desired.

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