Thursday, January 30, 2014

Collard Green Soup with Corn and Beans

Collard Greens Soup with Corn and Beans
My friend Nur is is a master chef in the kitchen. She is from the Black Sea region of Turkey. I have tasted many great dishes for the first time at her house. This morning we got together at another friend's house and she taught us how to cook a few of her Black Sea specialties. Here's the first one: Collared greens soup with corn and beans. It was easy to make. Though it is a vegan soup, it tasted like it was cooked with some kind of broth. It is a hearty, very nutritious and a very tasty soup. Hope you enjoy it too.
  • 3 table spoons olive oil
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 small potato
  • 4 cups collard greens (about 1 ½ bunch)
  • 1 cup corn
  • 6+ cups boiling water (or broth)
  • 1 small can white beans
  • salt and pepper to taste

Wash collard greens. Cut leaves lengthwise in the middle. Do not remove the stems.Then cut the leaves and stems in ½ in thick slices. Set aside in a large bowl. If you are using frozen corn, rinse and drain and add to the greens in the bowl. Peel the potato. Cut it into small cubes.
Place oil in a pot. Add onion and sauté them for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add potatoes, continue sautéing while stirring gently for another 3 minutes. Add tomato paste, mix it in with a spoon. Add collard greens and corn to the pot. Mix all vegetables with a spoon. Add boiling water, salt and pepper to taste. Cover with a lid and let it simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add more boiling water if necessary. Add the beans to the soup, let it simmer over medium low heat until collard greens are tender, about another 20 minutes. Remove from heat, serve hot.

Bon Appetit! Afiyet Olsun!

Sauté onions in oil

Collard greens and corn

Rinse and drain white beans

Add tomato paste to onions and potatos

Add greens and corn to the pot

Add water and simmer

Add beans and simmer


Collard Greens Soup cooked

Afiyet Olsun! Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Freekeh Pilaf with Garbanzo Beans

Freekeh Pilaf with Garbanzo Beans
Firik (freekeh) pilaf is from the Southeastern part of Turkey. It is an ancient dish originated around 2300 BC in the Middle East . Most commonly it is cooked with lamb, however, often it is cooked as a pilaf to accompany other meat dishes like lamb, beef or chicken. Firik (or freekeh, frikeh, farik) is a grain made from young, green wheat. Wheat grains are harvested while wheat is still full of moisture, soft and green. It is sun dried before being burned or roasted over an open fire. This process burns the straw and chaff around the grains, however, high moisture content of the seeds protects the grains from burning. The process gives the grain a nutty, smoky flavor. The grains look like bulgur (cracked wheat), expect they are green. It is high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Typically in Turkey, freekeh pilaf is made with 2 parts freekeh, 1 part bulgur so that the smokey flavor of the freekeh is not over powering the flavor of the dish.

Thanks to uncle Meray for the recipe. I cherish his wonderful lessons on Antep and Kilis specialities when his contagious passion for family and food shapes memories of a lifetime for me.


  • 1 cup green Firik (Freekeh, Frikeh, Farik)
  • ½ cup size 4 (coarse) bulgur
  • ½ cup onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water (or chicken or beef broth)
  • 8 ounces cooked garbanzo beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tea spoon crushed red pepper for garnish (optional)

Place freekeh on a tray. Remove any chaff or straw mixed with grain. Add bulgur to it. Rinse and drain, set aside. Rinse garbanzo beans, drain and set them aside as well.

Finely chop onions. Place olive oil in a pot, sauté onions in oil over medium heat until onion pieces are translucent. Add boiling water (or broth). Add mixed grains and salt to the pot. When it starts to boil, cover the pot with a lid, reduce heat to slow and let it simmer until grains are cooked, about 10-15 minutes. Add garbanzo beans and black pepper, gently stir and remove from heat. Serve hot. Sprinkle crushed red pepper on the pilaf (optional).

Bon Appetit! Afiyet Olsun!

Remove chaff  (long, brown grains in the picture) from the freekeh

Chopped onions

Canned garbanzo beans are used 
Coarse bulgur

Freekeh and bulgur mixture 
Sautéed onions

Grains added, simmering in the pot 
Cooked freekeh pilaf
Freekeh pilaf with garbanzo beans

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rice-Meatball Soup Seasoned with Lemon

Rice-Meatball Soup Seasoned with Lemon - Terbiyeli Ekşili Köfte

  • 3 table spoons all purpose flour
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small-medium onion, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup rice
  • 5 cups boiling water
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
For Seasoning:
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 egg yolk
For garnish:
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • A few sprigs of parsley
Put the flour on a tray, spread it evenly forming a thin layer of flour on the tray, set aside.

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, grated onions, chopped parsley, rice, salt & pepper. Knead well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Chilling the mixture will make it easier to shape the meatballs. You can skip this step if you are in a hurry.

Take a small piece of the mixture, roll it between your palms, forming a ball about ½ inch in diameter. These meatballs with be considerably smaller than those in "spaghetti & meatballs". Place rice-meatballs on the floured tray. Repeat this until all of the mixture is formed into rice-meatballs. Gently move the tray horizontally in a circular motion. This will make the balls roll in the tray, covering them with flour without having to roll each ball in flour.

In a large pot boil 5 cups of water. Add all the rice-meatballs into the pot. Gently stir with a spoon. When it starts to boil, lower the heat to slow, cover the pot and let it simmer until the meatballs are tender and the rice in them are cooked, about 45 minutes. It will be a thick soup, however, if it looks too thick, you may need to add more boiling water to obtain desired consistency. Remove from the heat, set aside.

In a small bowl, mix egg yolk and lemon juice with a whisk. Take two spoons full of the liquid part of the soup, slowly add to the egg yolk-lemon juice mixture as you continue to whisk. Then, add this mixture to the pot, as you continue to stir the soup.

In a pan, melt butter over medium heat, add the paprika stirringly. When it starts to foam, set aside.

Pour soup into bowls; drizzle paprika butter on top with a spoon. Add a sprig of parsley to garnish.

Bon Appetit! Afiyet Olsun!

Rice-Meatball Ingredients in a bow
Flour spread over a tray
Rice-Meatballs placed on floured tray

Rice-Meatballs rolled in flour
Rice-Meatballs placed in boiling water

Rice-Meatballs simmering in the pot
Paprika butter

Rice-Meatball Soup Seasoned with Lemon

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Savory Kataifi Balls with Cheese

Savory Kataifi Balls with Cheese - Peynirli Çıtır Kadayıf

Couple of years ago we were in the small Greek Island of Leros. We enjoyed many delicacies at Mylos restaurant by the windmill. Most of the appetizers were familiar tastes of the Aegean, however, this one was a pleasant surprise. Typically kataifi (shredded dough) is used for desserts in the Turkish cuisine, very few savory versions exist. This one was quick fried, very light, savory with a drizzle of honey on top. My award winning friend Oya ( has successfully deciphered the recipe when the owner refused to share his secret with her. She has the recipe on her blog. I've tried it at home in California with fresh mozzarella cheese and we loved it. Then, I tried a baked version. Although it was delicious, by the time the dough was baked to golden brown, some of the cheese oozed out of the dough and hardened on the tray. I decided to try it in a different format and came up with this recipe where I rolled the dough into a ball not allowing the cheese to melt and ooze out. It turned out great. Enjoy!

Variation: If you like kunefe, a kataifi dessert with cheese in the middle, you can place the cooked balls in a deep dish and pour over hot sugar syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, boiled for 5 minutes) over the balls and this will be a dessert very similar to kunefe.

  • 24 small balls of fresh mozzarella, drained
  • 8 oz kataifi dough (shredded fillo), about half a box. You can buy this at Middle Eastern Markets where you can find regular fillo dough.
  • 2 Table spoons butter, melted
  • 1-2 table spoons honey to drizzle on top (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt butter. Using a brush, grease a mini muffin tray with melted butter.

Take out the kataifi dough. On a clean, flat surface, loosen the strand of dough. You may need to cut the strands in half. If the dough is very dry, you may need to sprinkle some water on it to soften it. This will make it easy to work with. Take a few strands, place 2 small balls of fresh mozzarella on one end of the dough. Start wrapping the dough around the cheese by rolling it. Form it into a ball in your palm. Wet your fingers to make sure the ends of the dough will stick to the ball. Place the ball in a mini muffin hole. Repeat making balls until you full the mini muffin tray.
Bake until golden brown. About 20 minutes. Remove from the muffin tray, place on a serving dish. Drizzle some honey on the balls (optional). Serve hot or warm. 

Bon Appetit! Afiyet Olsun!

Kataifi dough out of the box
Loosen up the dough on a flat surface
Place cheese on the dough
Start rolling into a ball
Kataifi ball
Place balls into a mini muffin tray greased with butter
Ready to be baked
Baked until golden brown

Serve them hot or warm
Honey drizzled over the savory balls