Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce – Salçalı Köfte

Meatballs in tomato sauce - Salçalı Köfte

Definitely a comfort food. Kids love it, so do the adults. These classic meatballs are not only a great companion to spaghetti or rice, but they also make a meatball sandwich to die for. Bread crumbs in the mix makes the meatballs very tender. I use day old bread to make breadcrumbs by either grating the bread or by soaking it with water and squeezing it very well to get the water out, then crumbling the wet bread into the mix. Original recipe is ground beef based, but feel free to substitute ground turkey (meatballs in the picture above are made with turkey) . You may want to use gloves while kneading the mixture to avoid smelly hands.
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 small to medium onion, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 table spoon olive oil to grease the pot
  • 2 heaping table spoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili pepper (optional)
  • 1 table spoon butter
  • Parmesan cheese to taste ( optional for meatball sandwich)

In a large bowl combine onion, garlic, egg, black pepper and salt. Mix with a spoon. Add meat and bread crumbs. Knead the mixture for about 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for about half an hour. Chilling the mixture will make it easier to shape the meatballs. If you are in a hurry, you can skip this step. 

Take a large pot, drizzle olive oil on the bottom of the pot.

In a bowl, combine tomato paste and hot water. Mix well with a spoon. Set aside.

Take out the meatball mixture, take a walnut size piece and roll the mixture between your palms to shape it into a ball. Place the meatballs into the pot. Repeat this until all of the meatballs are ready to be cooked.
Place the pot over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce you prepared. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat to low, let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Serve hot with spaghetti or rice. If you are going to make a sandwich out of it, you may want to sprinkle parmesan cheese over it.
Ingredients: ground beef or turkey, breadcrumbs, onion-garlic-egg-salt-pepper

Meatball mixture kneaded

Meatballs ready to be cooked

Meatballs simmering in tomato sauce

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pickled Beets - Pancar Turşusu

Pickled Beets

Another easy, healthy recipe. Like other colorful root vegetables, beets are very good for you. Beets are rich in folic acid, calcium, iron and fiber. They help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain types of cancers, expecially colon cancer. All the health benefits aside, I like pickled beets for the tangy taste they add to the plate. Pickled beets can be served as a side dish or could be added to salads to enhance the flavor. Enjoy!

  • 1 bunch of beets (6-7 medium pieces)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water

Cut off stems and leaves of the beets. Wash and place the roots in a pot. Add 4 cups of water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and let it simmer until beet are tender, about 30 minutes. You can poke with a small knife to see if the beets are cooked. Remove from heat, drain and let it cool to room temperature.

Peel the outer layer of the beets buy rubbing between your thumb and fingers. Depending on the size, cut each beet into 4-6 slices lengthwise. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine crushed garlic and salt. Pound with a pestle. Add vinegar and water, stir with a spoon until salt is completely dissolved. Add sugar and stir well, dissolving the sugar. (If you use rice vinegar, you may not need sugar for it is already sweet). Transfer the liquid into a jar. Add the slices of beet into the jar, put the lid on. Keep it at room temperature for a couple of days. Your pickled beets are ready. Store them in the refrigerator. If you like, you may want to cut them into bite size pieces before serving.
Fresh beets

Boiled Beets
Beets cut into pieces
Garlic and salt mashed
Pickled beets in jar

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Zucchini Fritters - Mücver

Zucchini Fritters - Mücver
Who knew zucchini tasted so good? Start with zucchini, add a bunch of herbs, add eggs and flour, then fry them to make these delicious fritters. Dip them into garlic yogurt and take a byte. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how good it tastes. This is one of my husband's favorite dishes. They are best when they are hot, but you can even eat them cold as left overs right out of the refrigerator.

  • 5 small zucchinis
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley (flat leaf), chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 3-4 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup feta cheese, grated or crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup olive oil for frying
For garlic yogurt:
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced


Wash, peel and grate zucchinis. Place grated zucchinis in a bowl. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over the zucchini. Let it stand for about 10 minutes. Zucchini will release its juice. Squeeze in your hand and place it in a large bowl.

Zucchini peeled and grated

Grated zucchini sprinkled with salt in bowl

Juice squeezed out of zucchini
Discard zucchini juice left in bowl

In a small bowl, whip eggs with an egg beater. Add beaten eggs, chopped greens, feta cheese and paprika to the zucchini in the large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix with a spoon. Slowly add flour, stirring with a spoon. It should be a lumpy batter. Depending on how juicy zucchini is, if the batter feels runny, you may have to add up to 1/2 cup more flour.
Use fresh parsley, mint and dill

Fresh cut herbs, green onions, and grated feta cheese

Zucchini batter before flour added
Zucchini batter after flour added

Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Drop a scoop of the batter in hot oil. Add more scoops to the pan, but make sure they don't touch each other. Fry them on both sides until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Place them on paper towels to drain excess oil.
Tablespoon full of batter dropped in hot oil to fry

Place fried patties on paper towel to get rid of excess oil

Dry fried patties on paper towel to get rid of excess oil

Serve them hot or at room temperature with yogurt or garlic yogurt.

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quinoa Salad with Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Quinoa Salad with Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomatoes
This is a simple summer salad that I make with Quinoa and other grains. You can use cooked bulgur or wild rice and it will come out delicious either way. Add pieces of cooked chicken or shrimp and it will make a great lunch. Enjoy!

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (1/2 cup dry quinoa will yield 1 cup when cooked)
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard – Gray Poupon or similar
  • 1 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh mint, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh dill, finely chopped
Cook quinoa per instructions on the package. 1/2 cup dry quinoa will yield 1 cup when cooked. Set it aside, let it cool to room temperature. A lot of the times, I cook quinoa in larger quantities. Some will be used as pilaf with meals, some I use in salads. 

In a large bowl combine olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Whip until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir with a spoon to mix evenly. Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with sprigs of fresh herbs. Serve chilled.

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Swiss Chard Rolls with Bulgur Stuffing – Bulgurlu Pazi Dolmasi

Swiss Chard Rolls with Bulgur Stuffing

  • 2 bunches of Swiss Chards (about 12 leaves)
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 ½ cup No1(fine) or No 2 bulgur
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 heaping table spoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce:
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • Dash of salt
Wash the Swiss chard leaves. Cut out the ribs from the leaves. In a large pot, bring 3 cups of water to a boil, remove from heat. Place leaves in hot water for 10 minutes to soften for rolling. Remove leaves, drain in a colander, set aside.

Place bulgur in a strainer, rinse and let it drain.

Swiss chard
Swiss chard leaves with ribs removed
In a pot, sauté onions in olive oil until golden brown. Add garlic and bulgur, sauté for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

In a small bowl, combine tomato paste and 1 cup of boiling water, gently stir until smooth. Add tomato sauce, salt and pepper to taste to the pot. Stir for a minute, remove from heat, set aside with lid closed, letting bulgur absorb the sauce. Add chopped parsley, dill and mint to the pot, stir with a spoon. The filling is ready.
Bulgur filling with fresh herbs

Drizzle some olive oil to the bottom of a pot. Now you’ll roll the leaves and will put the rolls into this pot and cook.

Take each half leaf, put it on a flat surface with rough side up. Place a teaspoonful of the filling to the bottom portion of the leaf. First fold the bottom over the filling, then fold the sides and start rolling it up like a burrito. Place the roll in the pot with the seam at the bottom. Repeat this for each half leaf until all of the leaves are rolled. 
Wrapping the leaves

For the sauce, mix the tomato paste and the boiling water, add a pinch of salt. Pour the sauce over the rolls. Place a small, flat plate over the rolls. Cover the pot with the lid. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat to low, let it simmer until leaves are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, let it cool to room temperature. Transfer to a serving plate, garnish with slices of lemon.
Stuffed Swiss chard cooked, ready to serve

Swiss chard rolls
 Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chocolate Pudding with Tea Biscuits & Coconuts

Chocolate Pudding with Tea Biscuits and Coconuts

This is one of my mother in law Nevzat Ari's signature desserts. She added a twist to the good ol' chocolate pudding by letting the pudding set on tea biscuits. She has a version of this dessert in her refrigerator almost all the time. Although she would mostly garnish it with coconuts, occasionally she would use grated pistachio nuts or walnuts as garnish on top. Sometimes she would make it in individual pudding dishes, but she would mostly make it in a large Pyrex dish as described below. Regardless, with so many grandchildren around, it moves quickly and before you know it, she is in the kitchen making some more. It is a very light dessert, especially if you use non-fat milk. You can experiment with using a bit less sugar if you like. Enjoy!

  • 5 cups milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 heaping table spoons corn starch
  • 2 heaping table spoons cocoa powder
  • 8 oz (about 35) Tea Biscuits or Petit Beurres
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
You would need a heat resistant dish (Pyrex) approximately 14 in x 10 in. 


In a large bowl, combine sugar, starch and cocoa powder. Slowly add 1 cup of milk, stirring with a whisk to make it a smooth mixture. Set aside.
Milk, starch and cocoa mixture
Break tea biscuits into pieces, place them in the Pyrex or other heat resistant dish, making sure pieces are evenly spread.
Tea biscuit pieces placed in a heat resistant dish
In a large pot heat 4 cups of milk, stirring occasionally over medium heat. When it starts to boil, slowly add the chocolate mixture. Continue to stir until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat.

Slowly pour 3/4 of the pudding over the tea biscuit pieces in the Pyrex dish. Gently stir with a spoon making sure pieces are submerged in the pudding. 

3/4 of the chocolate pudding poured over biscuit pieces
 Then add the rest of the pudding to the top, making sure the surface is even and smooth. 

Chocolate pudding is spread over the biscuit pieces
 Let it cool to room temperature. Sprinkle coconut flakes over the set pudding. Chill in the refrigerator for at least ½ hour before serving.

Coconut flakes are sprinkled over the chocolate pudding

Cut into squares to serve on individual plates.

Chocolate Pudding with tea biscuits and coconuts

 Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fava Beans in Olive Oil – Zeytinyagli Bakla

Fava Beans in Olive Oil – Zeytinyagli Bakla
Fava Beans in Olive Oil - Zeytinyagli Bakla
  • 1 lb fresh fava beans
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 heaping table spoon flour + 1 teaspoon flour
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup fresh dills, chopped
  • Yogurt to serve
Remove the strings of fava beans by cutting out the strings on each side or pulling the strings out. If a piece of bean is too big, remove the beans from inside, discarding the outside. Wash and drain.

Place 1 table spoon flour in a large bowl, slowly add water, dissolving the flour at first, then add the rest of the water and lemon juice. Put the beans into this water, set aside. Lemon and flour in the water will preserve the fresh color of the beans, avoiding darkening of the color.

In a large pot, sauté onions in olive oil for about 3-4 minutes. Drain the beans, discard the flour water. Add beans to the pot. In a small bowl combine 1 teaspoon of flour with 1 1/2 cup boiling water, stirring to dissolved the flour. Add the flour water to the pot. Add sugar and salt to taste. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Then reduce the heat to slow, let it simmer until the beans are tender, about 30-45 minutes depending on the size and freshness of the beans. When cooked, remove from heat, sprinkle fresh dill on it. Serve at room temperature with yogurt.
Fresh Fava Beans

Fava beans with strings removed

Fava beans in water with flour and lemon juice

Fava beans in olive oil served with fresh dills and yogurt

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Yogurt Dip with Walnuts & Herbs - Haydari

Haydari - Yogurt Dip with Walnuts and Herbs

Haydari - Yogurt Dip with Walnuts & Herbs

Haydari is a typical meze (appetizer) made with strained (thick) yogurt.  You can strain regular yogurt and keep it in the refrigerator to be used for dips and mezes. To make strained yogurt, first place a cheese cloth or muslin on a sieve. Place the sieve over a large bowl.  Put a tub of yogurt into the sieve. Let it drain in the refrigerator for at about 12 hours. If you let it drain for 24 hours, yogurt will be very thick, a bit softer than cream cheese. I started with 2 cups of yogurt, after leaving it in the fridge overnight, I ended up with 1 1/2 cups of strained yogurt. If you don't want to wait, then substitute Greek style yogurt for this dip.
  • 1 1/2 cups strained yogurt (or Greek style thick yogurt)
  • 3 tablespoons feta cheese, grated
  • 2 table spoons fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 table spoon lemon juice
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon paprika for garnish
Mix all ingredients with a spoon until well blended. Place in a serving dish. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with paprika. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint or dills.

Strained Yogurt

Strained yogurt and grated feta cheese

Walnuts, mint, dill and minced garlic
Haydari - Yogurt Dip with Walnuts and Herbs
Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!