Sunday, July 22, 2012

Walnut Stuffed Figs – Cevizli Kuru İncir Tatlısı

Walnut Stuffed Figs – Cevizli Kuru İncir Tatlısı

I grew up in the Western part of Turkey. The region we lived in (Aydin) is famous for its figs. When I was a kid, figs were never sold in the market or stores. Most everybody in our town had fig groves. For those families like mine who were not farmers, your neighbors would send you baskets full of fresh figs almost every morning. They were huge baskets (or maybe I was little), lined with grape leaves at the bottom to serve as a cushion for the fruits, a layer of grapes on the leaves and figs on the top. They only pick the very ripe ones and so early in the morning that there would still be dew on the fruit. 

Figs are very rich in fiber. For this reason I guess, adults used to warn us kids that if we drink too much water after eating figs, we would have diarrhea. Luckyly nobody ever listened to the advise. We did eat figs and drank water to our hearts' desire, and of course, nothing happened.

Come winter, we had dried figs. Most evenings, for dessert, people used to eat dried figs with walnuts stuffed in them. I call them fig bombs. They are delicious though not exactly your low calorie snack. 

Figs stuffed with walnuts: Fig Bombs!
My grandmother used to make this dessert with dry figs at least a couple of times every winter.

  • 1 lb dried figs
  • 2 cups warm water to soak the figs
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 table spoon unsalted butter
  • Handful of walnuts for garnish (optional)
Wash and drain the figs. In a bowl, let the figs soak in warm water for 30 minutes.

Put butter in a shallow pot. Heat the pot until butter melts. Spread the butter to the bottom as evenly as possible. Turn off heat.

Remove figs from water. Cut the tops. Open up a hole at the top. Fill each fig with walnuts. Place them in the shallow pot with the openings at the top.

In a separate pot, combine milk, water and sugar. Warm it, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add the milk mixture to the figs. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let it cool to room temperature. Transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with walnuts.
Dry Figs
Tops removed, ready to be stuffed
Coarsly chopped walnuts

Figs stuffed with walnuts

Stuffed figs cooking in milk-sugar mixture
Walnut Stuffed Figs – Cevizli Kuru İncir Tatlısı
 Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Shepherd's Salad - Çoban Salatası

Shepherd's Salad -  Çoban Salatası

Especially popular during summer, Shepherd's Salad (Çoban Salatası) is light, refreshing and easy to make. It is a combination of finely chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, onions and flat leaf parsley (optional) dressed in lemon juice and, of course, extra virgin olive oil.

Shepherds take their food with them every morning as they take the herd to the hills and valleys. They would take whole tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and onions with them. When they get hungry, they would chop all the vegetables, mix them together and the result is a delicious, light meal. The olive oil - lemon juice dressing mixed with the juices of cut tomatoes is delicious and perfect to dip your bread in.

This salad is similar to the Greek Salad. When I visited Greek Island, I saw that the difference between Greek Salad and Turkish Shepherd's Salad is that in the Turkish version, the vegetables are finely chopped whereas the Greeks cut them in larger pieces. Greeks top the salad with a big, thick slice of feta cheese. Turkish version does not have any cheese in it.


  • 2 large tomatoes, finely chopped (preferably skinned)
  • 2-4 small sweet green peppers, cored, seeds removed, finely sliced
  • 2-3 Persian cucumbers, skinned, finely sliced
  • 1 small onion, cut in quarters, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (optional)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl combine all ingredients, mix gently with a spoon. Transfer to a serving dish. Serve chilled.

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cucumber Salad with Yogurt

Cucumber Salad with Yogurt
Here's a refreshing salad for hot summer days that is easy to make. I use small cucumbers that are sold as Persian cucumbers. They have very thin skin, so if you wash them well, you can eat them without peeling the skin. Real authentic Turkish version of this salad is called CACIK, which is more like a cold soup than a salad. It has the same ingredients, but water is added to the yogurt to make it thinner. You eat "cacik" with a spoon. It accompanies many main dishes like kebabs, stuffed eggplants, cooked dry beans, etc. The recipe below is thicker than traditional "cacik". Since it is thicker, you don't have to have a separate dish to serve it and a side salad suits the Western taste better than a cold soup. Hope you enjoy it.

  • 3 Small Persian cucumbers (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Sprigs of fresh dill or parsley for garnishing

Clean and peel cucumbers. Cut in quarters lengthwise. Cut long pieces into thin slices. Combine yogurt, garlic(optional), dill and salt in a large bowl. Mix well with a spoon until smooth. Add cucumber and gently mix with a spoon making sure the yogurt mixture is well blended with cucumber. Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with fresh dill. Serve chilled.

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!