Saturday, January 28, 2012

Green Lentils in Olive Oil

Green Lentils with Carrots in Olive Oil

In Turkish cuisine, like throughout the Middle East, both red and green lentils are used quite often, especially in winter time. Red lentils are mostly used in soups and appetizer balls.Green lentils are cooked as main dishes. Lentils are the main ingredient in some of these dishes, while in others, they are mixed with other grains like bulgur. Some of these dishes are vegetarian, some has ground beef, lamb or chicken meat in them. I included ground beef in the recipe below, but you can skip the meat if you want. You decide!

  • 1/4 lb lean ground beef (optional)
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 4 table spoons of olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 cups dry green lentils
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon paprika or red chili peppers
  • 1½ cup boiling water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Soak green lentils in cold water for at least 1 hour. Do not soak overnight for lentils may start to germinate. 

Wash and peel the carrots. Slice them about 1/8 inch thick. Cut them at a 45 degree angle if you want the slices to be in an elliptical shape rather than a circle.

 In a large pot sauté chopped onions and ground beef (optional) in olive oil for about 3-5 minutes. 

Add carrots and lentils to the pot. Put the tomato paste in a small bowl. Add ½ cup water to it, mix with a spoon. Add the tomato paste, paprika (or chili powder), remaining boiling water, salt & pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let it simmer until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes.
Serve hot with some kind of pilaf like rice, bulgur or quinoa.

Afiyet olsun! Bon Appetit!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Simply Delicious Cake

Whenever I go to my sister Dilek’s house, one thing you can count on in the kitchen is their ever inviting home-made cake. This is more like a sweet bread. Simple and delicious! I say simple because I know that my nephew makes this cake sometimes. I know it tastes great because I am always tempted to get a second slice.  

  • You can add cocoa powder to some of the batter if you want to make it a marble cake. 
  • You can also add raisins and/or pieces of walnuts to add more flavor to it. Enjoy!
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1½ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup oil (I use olive oil, but you can use vegetable oil also)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (optional)
  • ½ cup walnut pieces (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift flour in a large bowl. Add baking powder and mix with a spoon.

In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients with a whisk.
Add them to the flour/baking powder mixture, stirring with a spoon until it is smooth.
Grease a tube pan with butter or oil spray. If you want the plain version, pour cake mixture evenly into the pan. But, if you want to make it a marble cake, pour 2/3 of the batter into the tube. Add the cocoa powder to the remaining batter, pour into the tube. Sprinkle the nuts over the batter. Gently stir in the nuts with a spoon.
Cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. About 45 minutes to1 hour.

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Artichoke Hearts in Olive Oil

In the Aegean region, when artichokes are in season, the most common way people cook them is to stuff whole heads of fresh artichokes with seasoned ground beef and onions. Cleaning and removing the outer tough leaves is a fairly labor intensive process, so I usually cook the meatless, olive oil based version. Besides, I prefer the taste of the vegetarian version better. I use frozen artichoke hearts and frozen peas, but fresh dills. Original Istanbul recipe calls for artichoke bottoms (no leaves, only the tender , flat bottoms) and fresh fava beans. I modified the recipe to a practical version for what’s available in the markets year round. Here it is:

  • 1 16 oz package of frozen artichoke hearts
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 8 oz frozen petit peas
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup fresh dills, chopped
Wash and drain frozen artichoke hearts, set aside. Place olive oil and chopped onions in a pot. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add artichoke hearts, lemon juice, salt and sugar (optional) to the pot. Add boiling water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat to slow, let it cook for about 15 minutes, until artichokes are tender. Add the frozen peas, cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer into the serving dish. Garnish with chopped fresh dill. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Eggplants and Peppers in Olive Oil


As I mentioned before, there’s supposed to be 41 different eggplant dishes in Turkish cuisine. This is one of the simplest ones. Though it is simple, I think it is very good as a side dish.

You can use any kind of eggplants for this dish, but I usually buy long Chinese/Japanese type eggplants since they have less seeds in them. Also, it is customary to add a teaspoon of sugar to most of the olive oil based dishes in Turkey, I leave it as “optional” depending on your taste.

  • 1 lb ( 3 )long eggplants (Chinese or Japanese type)
  • 1 bell pepper or 1 cup frozen cut bellpeppers. Sometimes I use frozen peppers that come in 3 different colors. This adds a nice color to the dish.
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 table spoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar (optional)
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • Salt to taste

Cut the top of the eggplants. Peel portions of it lengthwise as seen in the picture below. Wash and drain. Cut them in byte size pieces. I usually quarter the eggplant lengthwise and cut into 1 inch slices after that.

If you are using fresh peppers, cut the top of the bell pepper, remove the seeds. Cut in slices lengthwise. Wash and drain. Skip this step if you are using frozen cut peppers.
Place olive oil, onions and garlic in a heavy sauce pan. Sauté for 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
In a small bowl, mix tomato paste and boiling water. Add eggplants, peppers, tomato paste mixture, sugar (optional) and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer into a serving dish. This is served at room temperature as most olive oil based dishes. In the Aegean region of Turkey it is often a main dish for lunch, served hot with yogurt.

Afiyet olsun! Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stuffed Eggplants - Karniyarik

Stuffed Eggplants - Karniyarik

Karniyarik word by word translates as "split belly". Eggplants are stuffed with seasoned minced meat. This is a very Turkish recipe which is cooked in all regions of Turkey. This happens to be my husband's favorite dish.

When we invite our American friends to dinner for the first time, I usually don't choose a very authentic dish like this one. One time, however, my husband insisted that his colluege was very adventurous with his taste and I should cook his favorite dish as the main course...and I did... hour before they are supposed to arrive, we both started to wonder "what if they did not like eggplants" and we almost panicked. We decided to have an "alternate choice" ready at hand, just to make sure the dinner didn't end up being a fiasco. He went out and got some "Shish Kebabs" from a local Iranian restaurant. We tucked away the kebabs in the oven away from eye sight "just in case". Our friends came, we served dinner. We were carefully watching their faces as they ate to see if we should bring in the alternate dinner. It all went well. When his friend finished his plate and asked for seconds, we both bursted out laughing. My husband went to the kitchen, brought out the big container of kebabs and we had our confession.

In the original "karniyarik" recipe eggplants are fried before stuffing them. To avoid frying, I have modified the recipe. I cook the eggplants in an oven cooking bag instead of frying. It tastes just as good. Hope you like it too.


  • 4 Japanese/Chinese eggplants
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 bellpepper, cut into strips
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 cup boiling water

Use Japanese/Chinese eggplants

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and dry the eggplants. Remove tops, peel eggplants lengthwise as in the photo below, cut the eggplants in half.

Peeled eggplants

 Place them in an oven cooking bag. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until eggplants are soft, but not fully cooked. Depending on the size of the eggplants you may need to bake them more than 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let it cool down to room temperature.

Eggplants in an oven cooking bag

Sauté onions in olive oil in a pan for about 3 minutes. Add ground beef and saute for another 3-4 minutes. In a small bowl, mix tomato paste in 1 cup of boliing water. Add chopped tomatoes and half of the tomato paste, salt & pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat. Add chopped parsley and mix with a spoon.

Seasoned minced meat filling

Reheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove eggplants from the bag, place them in a Pyrex dish. Using a knife, scar and open up the bellies of the eggplants, but do NOT cut all the way through.

Open up the bellies of eggplants to be filled

Using a spoon, stuff the eggplants with the ground beef filling. Place sliced tomatoes and slices of pepper to garnish the tops. Pour the remaing half of tomato paste mixture around the eggplants.

Filled eggplants ready to be baked

Cover the tray with aluminum foil, place it in the oven. Let it cook for about 30 minutes. Again, depending on the size and the type of eggplants used, you may need to cook them for longer. Please check for doneness. When checked with a fork, eggplants should be tender when fully cooked. Remove the aluminum foil, let it bake for 5 more minutes to let it brown on the top. Remove the dish from the oven.

Cooked "karniyarik" ready to be served

It is usually served with rice.

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Strawberry Preserves

I grew up in a small town called Atca in the Aegean region of Turkey. I was lucky to be born in a beautiful place with beautiful people where life was simple and pure.

With Menderes river going thru the region, crops were plenty: Olives, cotton, all sorts of fruits- figs, grapes, peaches, you name it!

In September cotton is ready for harvest

 Famous golden figs from Aydin region
Traditionally, season's first olive oil is tasted with dry figs...

Sweet, aromatic Mandarin oranges

Strawberries were mostly wild. They were small, sweet and incredibly aromatic. Yes, we  had strawberries, but, they were not one of the major crops of the region. Over the years, however, my hometown became famous for its strawberries. Now, they have an annual “Strawberry Festival” complete with parades, games, pie contests and even a beauty contest where a cute local belle is crowned with a basket of strawberries in her hand.

Here’s my recipe for Strawberry Preserves. Enjoy!

  • 1 lb of fresh strawberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Wash, hull and drain strawberries. Cut each strawberry into half. Place them in a large bowl. Pour sugar over the strawberries, set aside for about 2 hours. Strawberries will release their juices.

Strawberries covered with sugar in a bowl

Strawberries release their juices

Place the contents of the bowl into a pot, bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat to slow and let it simmer until the berries are translucent. When white foam forms on the top, remove it with a spoon. Add lemon juice, stir and cook for another minute. Remove from heat. Let it cool to room temperature. Put the preserves in jars, keep in the refrigerator.

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Sautéed Mushrooms in Olive Oil

Sautéed Mushrooms in Olive Oil

This is one of the rare olive oil dishes from my kitchen that the directions does not start with "sauté onions in olive oil". My original recipe did not call for cumin, but on a trip to Southern Spain years ago, we ordered a few "tapas" at a bar. Mushrooms had cumin in them and we really liked it. I have added cumin to my recipe as "optional" after that. You decide!

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb of fresh mushrooms
  • ¼ cup tomatoes, crushed
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Clean mushrooms, cut into slices or into quarters.
In a skillet heat olive oil, add crushed garlic, cook for 2 minutes stirring continuously to make sure the garlic does not burn. Add tomatoes, cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms, cumin (optional), salt and pepper to taste.  Sauté until mushrooms are tender. Place in a serving dish, garnish with chopped parsley.

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Turkish Coffee

I decided that the New Year’s first entry should be a simple but a classic Turkish recipe. I couldn't think of anything more authentic than the Turkish Coffee.

I’ll start with a Turkish Proverb:
“ A cup of coffee commits one to forty years of friendship"

There’s even an old saying that goes like this:
“Heart wants neither coffee nor a coffee house,
Heart wants just a friendly chat, coffee is merely an excuse.”

"Gönül ne kahve ister, ne kahvehane,
  Gönül sohbet ister, kahve bahane"

Drinking Turkish coffee is a thing of pure pleasure. Normally speaking, you should not be in a hurry “to get some caffeine down”. Rather, for most regular coffee drinkers, it is sort of a ritual. 

I have very fond memories of how my grandmother and her neighbor used to do this every day. Around mid morning, Ayse hanim, the next door neighbor would come over. They would settle in their comfortable places in the kitchen. Grandma would get a handful of raw coffee beans from a big jar over the fireplace. It would be placed in a handheld coffee roaster. This was a cylindrical gadget made out of metal with a little lid on the side. Grandma would roast the beans over wood fire. I can still hear the comforting crackling sound the beans would make as she used to turn the roaster over the fire. When the beans are roasted, she would place them in a mortar made out of stone. This was a pretty big gadget, which was placed by the fireplace almost like a piece of furniture, never moved around. In this morter, she would pound the beans to a perfect grind as the two friends would get deeper in their conversation. Subjects would range from their daily chores to what they are going to cook for dinner, then to various aches and pains and what they do for their maladies. Later, they would go into more serious subjects for the day like their stubborn husbands or the difficult daughters-in-law or sister-in-law, etc.  As they take turns in pounding the coffee and their troubles away, at one point it is decided that the coffee is ready for brewing. Grandma would step out to the yard, would come back with a few sprigs of sweet marjoram to add to the coffee pot for added flavor. They would go yet deeper in their conversations as they sip their sweet and strong coffees. 

After they finish drinking their coffees they would turn the little porcelain coffee cups upside down on the saucers as they utter some words like “let my fortune show up as is in my cup”. They would wait for a few minutes for the cups to cool down. Then, they would take turns reading each other’s fortune by looking at the patterns formed by coffee grounds at the bottom of their cups. This used to be the most fun part for me as a child. Surprising good news would be on its way…how an important conversation between a man and a woman is about to bring happiness into their lives…a small surprise package to arrive in 2 days…or 2 weeks…maybe 2 months…the enemy in the form of a wolf is behind you but is very powerless, unable to do any harm… These little “thousand year old” lies would take away all the worries and bring hope into each other’s hearts… Shortly after they reassure each other that all will be fine soon, Ayse hanim would say goodbye and leave, only to repeat this again the very next day either at my grandma’s house or at her house. 

These visits had great therapeutic value and were almost as good as a nice massage for their tired souls. One of the best outcomes of their coffee rituals was everlasting hope that kept showing up in their coffee cups. That’s why I wanted to start the New Year with a recipe for Turkish Coffee which I hope will bring good luck, good fortune and hope for all your dreams for the New Year…

Turkish Coffee:

  • Extra finely ground medium roast coffee. Request Turkish coffee grind at the coffee shop
  • Water
  • Sugar (optional)
You need:
  • Turkish coffee pot called “cezve”
  • Turkish coffee cups called “fincan”


Measuring one cup of cold water for each cup you are making, pour in cold water in the coffee pot. Add a heaping teaspoonful of the ground Turkish coffee per cup in the water. If you like your coffee sweet, add sugar and stir. All ingredients should be added while the water is still cold.

Heat the pot over slow heat It will start foaming at the top. Be careful not to boil it. Boiling will spoil the foam. Remove from heat just before it starts to boil. Pour small quantities into each cup. Make sure to divide the foam equally into the cups. Then place the pot over the heat again until it starts to boil. Remove from heat and distribute the rest of the coffee between the cups.

Traditionally, Turkish coffee is served with a piece of Turkish Delight (lokum), a starch and sugar based confection with nuts in it. You can serve it with a cookie or a piece of chocolate as well.

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!