Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kofte - Turkish Burgers

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup parsley
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (whole grain bread works best, but store bought ready crumbs OK too)
  • 2 heaping teaspoon cumin
  • 1 table spoon tomato paste
  • red chili pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
Place egg, oil, crushed garlic and cut onions in a blender. Blend until onions are chopped but not liquefied. Add washed parsley leaves to the blender, blend until parsley is chopped, but not liquefied. Place the ground beef in a large bowl. Add the mixture in the blender to it. Add bread crumbs, black pepper, red pepper(optional), salt and cumin to the bowl. Knead all ingredients for a few minutes until it is well mixed. Shape the mixture into flat paddies. Cook them on the barbecue. If in a hurry, you can cook them in a non-stick pan. Grilled koftes taste better of course.

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Bulgur Pilaf (Cracked Wheat) :

Bulgur pilaf with sautéd mushrooms

Bulgur pilaf with peas

Bulgur Pilaf
Traditionally bulgur(cracked wheat) is commonly used in Turkey. However, it is considered as the "poor man's pilaf" since wheat is a lot cheaper than white rice. Though there are several dishes including soups and yes, even desserts that use wheat, the most common dish is the bulgur pilaf. It is a plain, yet very nutritious dish. You can spice it up by adding vegetables, nuts, cooked chicken or meat to it. Here's the basic recipe. Let me know if you come up with a different version and how it turns out.

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2-3 table spoon olive oil
  • ½ cup bell peppers chopped (optional)
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped into small pieces or chopped in blender
  • 2 cups of no.3 bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • 4 cups chicken broth (if not, plain water is OK)
  • 1 table spoon tomato paste
  • 8 oz (1/2 bag) frozen green peas
  • salt to taste
In a heavy saucepan, sauté onions in olive oil. Add chopped bell peppers (optional) and sauté for a few more minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, let it cook for a few minutes. Add tomato paste and chicken broth (or water) to the pot, bring to a boil. Add bulgur, peas, salt and pepper. When it starts to boil, reduce heat to low, let it simmer until the water is absorbed and the bulgur is cooked, about 20 minutes.
You can add pine nuts, slivered almonds, or other nuts  if you like.
You can also add other cooked vegetables like mushrooms, lentils, garbanzo beans, etc. to spice it up.

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appétit!

Leeks with Bulgur Braised in Olive Oil

  • 2 lbs leeks
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 5-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarse size #4 bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 ½ cups hot water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt to taste
  • Remove tough outer leaves from leeks. Cut off the roots. Cut into ½ inch slices. Wash several times with plenty of water to remove all soil. Drain well. Peel and cut carrots into slices 1/8 inch thick.
  • In a heavy saucepan put oil, leeks and carrots. Cover the pot and sauté them over medium to low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add tomato paste, bulgur, water, salt and sugar. Simmer over low heat for 30-45 minutes until vegetables are soft.
  • Add lemon juice, remove from heat. Add salt and water if necessary. It should be in a sauce but not soupy. Serve at room temperature.

Bon Appetit!

Edamame a la Mediterranean

Japan meets Turkey!
Many vegetable dishes are cooked with olive oil and onions in Turkey, and most of the Mediterranean countries like Italy, Greece, Spain, France and Lebanon.
You typically start with sauteing the onions in olive oil and you add a few other herbs and spices to it depending on the vegetable. Though I was not introduced to the taste of soy beans growing up, I got to like edamame after I came to California. This "Japan meets Turkey" recipe is from my dear friend Zinnur. It is a very simple, but tasty dish. You can serve it as a vegetable dish by itself or you can add it to salads, pasta or rice dishes to "spice them up".


  • 1 12 oz. packages of frozen Edamame
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • salt to taste

  • Rinse and drain frozen edamame.
  • Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add chopped dry onions, saute them for a few minutes until golden brown.
  • Add edamame, green onions (optional), hot water and salt to the pan. Cover, reduce heat to low after it starts boiling. Cook until beans are tender (about 10 minutes).
  • Serve warm or at room temperature as a side dish.

Bon Appettit!

Walnut-Apricot Cheese Ball with Green Apples

At my friend Mary's party she had a log of delicious cheese with dried apricots. She served it with slices of green apples. I decided to make a cheese log with apricots at home and came up with this recipe. I ended up with a "cheese ball" rather than the log shape. So, when I placed the apple slices around it, it sort of looked like a green daisy right out of a Dr. Seuss book. It has been a favorite appetizer for many. It goes well with wine. Enjoy!


This makes 2 cheese balls, thus 2 flowers
2 small or 1 1/2 medium green apples
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup walnuts, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup dried apricots (about 5), cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon honey

Soften cream cheese in microwave for 20 seconds.
Add walnuts, apricots and honey. Mix well with a spoon.
Divide into two equal pieces. Using a spoon, place half in the middle of a flat plate, rounding into a ball.
Cut apple into this slices. Place apple slices around the cheese ball.
You can decorate the top with walnut halves or apricot halves.
Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

MUHAMMARA: Spicy Walnut Dip

MUHAMMARA - Spicy Walnut Dip from Antep, Southeastern Turkey

Muhammara with pita bread

This recipe is from my mother-in-law Nevzat Ari, a retired art teacher. She is a great cook, but like most traditional Turkish women, most of her recipes are only in her head. Since my American & Turkish friends all like muhammara and asked for the recipe, I decided to attach myself to her right hand one day. I had to stop her just before she put "a little bit of this and a little bit of that" into the mixture, carefully measured everything and wrote it down. It was no easy task, believe me, as she tasted it she would decide to "adjust the taste". 

I hope you'll like the recipe below. It is not low calorie, but definitely tasty and healthy. If you want to reduce the oil, I suggest that you add a couple of spoons of non-fat yogurt to keep it moist.

  • 2 cups coarsely grated walnuts
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (whole grain bread works best, but store bought ready crumbs OK too)
  • 1 heaping table spoon dry mint
  • 1 heaping table spoon dry oregano
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 tea spoon sugar
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed (minced)
  • 1 table spoon lemon juice
  • 1 table spoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • red chili pepper (to taste)
  • salt (to taste)
Mix all ingredients. May need to add more water to get desired consistency. Serve with pita bread wedges or crackers. Can be prepared a few days in advance. Will stay in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
Afiyet olsun! (Bon Appetit!)

BOREK: Savory Cheese Pastry Squares

Savory Pastry Squares: BOREK

This is a recipe from my dear late father-in-law, Vakif Ari who had many "signature dishes" from borek to omlettes, salads, and of course his famous "çiğ köfte".

We miss him and our family dinner conversations where his grandchildren would start asking him how he won "grandma's heart". He would tell the story (especially after a drink or two) with every detail with his eyes still sparkling after all these years.

His original borek recipe called for butter and 6 eggs. Over the years, I modified it to make it healthier by replacing the butter with olive oil and reducing the number of eggs. I noticed that he too modified his recipe for a healthier version over time.

Although the most popular version has cheese filling, you can use your favorite filling including ground beef, chicken, spinach and other vegetables you like. I've included recipes with ground beef and spinach filling at the bottom.

  • 20 sheets of fillo dough
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill weeds
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 4 eggs (seperate and save one yolk for glazing the top layer)
  • 2 cups shreaded cheese (Original Turkish recipe calls for feta cheese, but if you don't like it Monterey Jack cheese works great. I use mostly Monterey Jack cheese with some crumbled feta sprinkled over it )
  • 2-3 table spoons of sesame seeds or black caraway seeds optional
You would need a 1/2 size cooking pan.

1-Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2- Grease the bottom and the sides of a half sheet oven tray or a 19x14 pan with oil or non-stick spray,
3- In a blender mix oil, milk, yogurt and eggs.
Egg, oil, milk, yogurt mixture
20 sheets of fillo dough will be used

4- Put 2 sheets of fillo dough on the pan. Sheets will be flat if you use the half sheet size pan, however, if you use a pan smaller than the sheets, then they will be wrinkled as you lay them down. This is OK.
5- With a spoon, pour some of the solution from the blender over the fillo dough. No need to use a brush, it does not have to be even.
Spread mixture over fillo dough
  • Repeat steps 4 and 5 three more times
  • Repeat step 4 only. Spread the grated cheese over the fillo, sprinkle with dill weeds
Sprinkle grated cheese over fillo dough

  • Repeat steps 4-5 four more times
  • Spread the last 2 sheets of the fillo dough over the pan, no wrinkles this time. If the sheets are larger than the pan, fold them under on the sides so that the top layer looks smooth.
  • With a knife, gently cut thru the borek. You don't have to cut all the way thru, this is to make a scar so they puff up in the oven

Cut the borek into squares
  • Add a table spoon of water or milk to the egg yolk you saved aside and mix it. This makes it easy to brush. Brush the egg yolk over the borek.
tablespoon of water or milk is added to the egg yolk

using a brush, spread egg yolk over the borek

  • Sprinkle sesame seeds and/or caraway seeds over the borek
  • Place it on the middle rack of the oven. Bake until the top is golden brown. Takes about 30-45 minutes.
Savory Pastry Squares: BOREK

If you like, you can use different fillings other than cheese. Some examples:
Spinach filliing:
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bag fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese or grated jack cheese (optional)
  • 3 table spoon olive oil
Saute onions in olive oil for 5 minutes, add tomatoes, cook for another 3 minutes, add uncooked spinach and the cheese
Spinach filling
Borek half with cheese, half with spinach filling

Ground beef filling:
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Table spoon olive oil
Saute onions in olive oil for 5 minutes, add the ground beef & tomatoes, cook for another 5 minutes, add salt and pepper to your taste.

Notes: If you want to limit the eggs you use, you can cut it down to 2 eggs, it will taste fine. You can also cut the oil down to 1/2 cup. If you cut the quantity of eggs and oil, you may want to increase the yogurt (non-fat) to make sure the borek will be moist enough. The original recipe had 6 eggs and 1 cup of melted butter :)

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!