Monday, August 17, 2015

Kebab Stuffed in Eggplant Pots (Saksı Kebabı)

I could not resist posting another eggplant recipe before the summer season is over. By chance, I found these beautiful looking, organic eggplants and I had to buy them. There are so many Turkish recipes with eggplants, so I like to try something different each time. This recipe I have not made before, but after tasting its deliciousness, I will make it more often. It goes excellent with crusty bread or rice or both!

5 large eggplants (black beauty found in most grocery stores works perfect)
Pot of salty water
2 cups olive oil for frying

For Kebab Stuffing:

1.5 lb cubed beef
8 shishito peppers (or 2-3 long, slim green peppers)
4 medium tomatoes (peeled and diced)
1 large onion (diced)
2 large cloves garlic (chopped)
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp thyme
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 cups of water

For Sauce:

2 cups water
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt

For Garnish:

2 sliced tomatoes (optional)
10 shishito peppers (or 2-3 long, slim green peppers)

Heat a pan and place beef cubes. Cook until they release their water and remove from heat. In a pot, heat up olive oil. 

Add onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add peppers and diced tomatoes. Saute another 3-4 minutes. Add beef and garlic to the pot. Add two cups of water. Add salt, cumin, black pepper, thyme. Stir, cover and cook for 1 hour or until the beef is tender.

Wash and dry eggplants. Cut in half and clean inside to create a pot from each half. 

Add to the salty water and let sit for 1 hour. 

Wash eggplants and sprinkle the inside and the outside with salt. Dry and fry until all sides take a golden color.

Place all eggplants in a baking dish with the openings facing up. Fill each pot with stuffing. 

Garnish green peppers and if desired with tomatoes.

In a bowl, whisk the water, tomato paste and salt. Pour over the eggplants. If there is any juice left from the stuffing, pour it over the eggplants also. Bake at 350º F for 1 hour or until the eggplants are completely tender. Serve hot with rice.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Eggplant with Green Lentils (Mualla/Yeşil Mercimekli Patlıcan)

Eggplant is one of my favorite summer vegetables. I don’t seem to be cooking with it as much now since my kids don’t love it. One day, I really craved eggplants so I decided to make something saucy with eggplants. This recipe is traditionally made in Hatay/Antakya (Antioch) region and it is just incredibly delicious. The pomegranate molasses gives it such a good kick. It is particularly delicious with flat bread, but I served it with rice, instead of bread.

2 large eggplants
3 large tomatoes (peeled and diced)
3-4 green peppers (cut in fourths and sliced)
1 large onion (cut in fourths and sliced)
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 cup green lentils
1 tbsp red pepper paste
2 tsp crushed red peppers
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp sumac
2 tsp salt
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
½ tsp thyme
¾ cup olive oil

Peel the eggplants in stripes. Cut each eggplant in eights and slice diagonally. 

Fill a large pot with cold water and add salt. Place the sliced eggplants in salty water and let sit for an hour.

Wash the lentils and place in a small pot. Add two cups of water and boil for 35-40 minutes or until the lentils absorb all the water and are soft.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked lentils, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, sumac, mint, crushed red pepper, red pepper paste, thyme and pomegranate molasses. 

Drain the eggplants and set aside. In the bottom of a large pot place half the lentil mixture. 

Place the eggplant slices on top of the mixture and pour the rest of the lentil mixture on the top. Drizzle with olive oil.


Cook on stove top for 15 minutes on high heat and then turn down the heat and cook for 1 hour. Enjoy with rice.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Spicy Cookies from Hatay (Hatay Kömbesi)





These delicious, spicy cookies are traditionally made in the Hatay province right after Ramadan, during Şeker Bayramı which translates to “Sugar Feast”. Almost every household in Hatay region makes these cookies in very large amounts which usually involves friends, relatives and neighbors getting together to make them. They are either baked at home or at the local bakery. Trays and trays of kömbe are sent to local, wood-fired bakeries during this season and the delicious smell just swifts through the air in the neighborhoods. Some bakeries stay open all night to keep up with baking these cookies. During the “Sugar Feast”, people visit each other and these cookies are served for the guests.
In other regions of Turkey, “kömbe” is the name for a pie/börek, so it can get confusing for people who are not from the Hatay region.

When I was growing up and eating these cookies during the holidays, I didn’t care much for them as they were abundant during this season.  In the past 20 years that I have been here, I probably have eaten them only several times. Mainly when my mom would sneak them in my suitcase when returning to the U.S. after a visit or send them over with someone. Certainly, I have not had them the past 5-6 years at all. Recently, I saw them at a cousin’s Facebook page during the “Sugar Feast” and remembered them. Then, I craved them!  I called my mom and got her recipe for it as I never attempted to make it before. I followed my mom’s recipe, except I added milk. I have never seen my mom put any milk in them, but some recipes call for it. Some people also stuff them with dates, or walnuts. I am not fond of the stuffed version. Traditionally, these cookies have special wooden molds for them. Since I do not have these molds, I used my mini tart shells to make the molds. I also made round cookies, flat cookies and even animal shapes for my kids.

Several years ago, I had a reader named George who had been to Antakya/Hatay and had purchased these molds and asked me for a recipe where he could use these molds. I had promised that I’d post it some time, but never got to it. I am not sure if I did lose that reader as I have not been actively posting on my blog, but if you are reading George, here is the recipe!

7 cups white flour

16 oz butter

1 whole nutmeg

1 small stick cinnamon

12 cloves

7-8 small pieces of mastic

½ tsp mahleb grounded

1 ½ cup sugar

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup milk

Lots of sesame seeds

Grind the nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, mastic and mahleb. Combine them. The combination should amount to 1-2 tbsps depending on the desired strength of spices. Melt the butter. Add the sugar to the butter and mix until the sugar dissolves. Add the olive oil and milk and continue to mix. Add the spices and stir well.

Place the flour in a large bowl. Slowly add the butter, sugar, milk, olive oil and spice mixture. Mix until a dough forms.
Make walnut sized balls with the dough. Spread the sesame seeds in a flat plate.


For tartlet shell mold:

Take the ball and press one side onto the sesame plate.
Press into tartlet shell making sure the sesame part of the dough in the bottom.
Turn the tartlet shell upside down on the sesame place to coat the top of the cookie with sesame.
Place on a baking sheet.

For a flat cookie:

Take a ball and flatten with hands.
Cut with cookie cutter of your choice or a glass.
Coat both sides with sesame.


For circle shaped cookie:

Take a ball and start rolling back and forth to create a few inches long stick with the ball.
Roll the stick into the sesame plate.
Join the ends.
Place on the baking sheet.

Heat oven to 350 F° and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cookies start to take a golden color.
Enjoy with hot Turkish tea.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Rice with Carrots (Havuçlu Pirinç Pilavı)

This rice dish is extremely simple. I have been purchasing colorful (orange, yellow, light purple and dark purple) carrots almost every week. Each time, I make something different with them. One week roasted, one week sliced for salads, shredded for carrot salads, sautéed and etc. I shredded some this week to add to salads and other meals and wanted to add to rice. It really turned out great. The best part is one of my boys who does not like to eat carrots, kept asking for more rice. I may try ‘cacık’ (yogurt soup) with carrots and see how that turns out.

Enjoy warm.

1 cup white rice
1 cup shredded colorful carrots (or one color)
¼ medium onion chopped finely (or a very small onion)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 cups water

Heat the olive oil in a small pot. Add the onions and carrots together and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Wash the rice with cold water. Add the rice to the pot and stir for one minute. Add the water, salt and parsley. Cover and cook on high heat until the water boils. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 30-35 minutes or until the rice is soft. Serve warm.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Turkish Style Potato Salad (Türk Usulü Patates Salatası)


Here is a simple, light and delicious potato salad: Turkish style.  There is no mayonnaise or eggs in it, but if you would like it a little creamy, both ingredients can be added. Instead of green onions dried red onion and instead of green garlic a garlic clove can be used. The green onions and green garlic are from my small garden so I preferred to use them. The pictures show more green onions and garlic than what the recipe calls for. The last minute, I decided not to use them all in the recipe and left them for other types of salads. For two medium potatoes, I think the amount of the greens is perfect. Enjoy!

2 medium russet potatoes
½ cup chopped green onions & green garlic (3 green onions and 1 green garlic)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
¼ cup olive oil

Place the whole potatoes with skin in a sauce pan and fill water to cover them. Boil for about 45 minutes or until tender. This can be checked with a fork.

Let them cool. Peel the skin. 

Cube the potatoes and place in a deep bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss. Enjoy alone as a snack or a side dish. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cigaratte Rolls (Sigara Böreği)

Sigara böreği takes its name from the shape of cigarettes. Although I truly loathe cigarettes, I love cigarette rolled boreks! Addictive is the right word to describe these little rolls. In Turkey, they are usually served as appetizers, for breakfast and as an afternoon snack with a hot Turkish tea. I have tried making these numerous times using whole fat Turkish white cheese and each time the cheese would leak during frying and ruin their appearance and taste. I have tried rolling them differently, adding an egg white to keep the cheese together but it kept leaking. Then I realized I was using cheese with whole fat which was causing the leaking. Since I couldn’t find low fat Turkish white cheese, I used low fat feta and for the first time I prepared rolls that did have leaked cheese during frying. They were so good to look at I was hesitant to eat them (no, not really) J I do not normally purchase anything low fat or diet so I had to make an exception for this. They tasted incredibly good but I know that they taste even better with whole fat white cheese.

You may substitute the filling with other types of cheeses, minced meat, chicken, potatoes or even spinach. Enjoy hot right after you fry them. They will be so crispy and delicious!

2 cups crumbled low fat white cheese (or feta)
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 package triangle pastry leaves (about 20 leaves)

4 cups sunflower or canola oil

Place the white cheese in a bowl and add the parsley. Mix well.

Place one triangle pastry leaf on the counter and brush the edges with water. 

Add a table spoon of cheese in the wide section of the triangle pastry leaf. 

Fold from both sides and start rolling. 

Dip hands in water when sealing. 

Repeat the same process until all the triangle leaves are used up.

Heat up the oil. Add a few of the rolls and start frying. 

It should take only a few minutes. As soon as the rolls start taking a golden color remove and drain on paper towel. It is better to fry as little as possible; that way they will fry faster. 

Note: If you cannot find triangle shaped pastry leaves available in Turkish or Middle Eastern stores (ucgen yufka) and able to find regular Turkish yufka, you could cut the large round piece of yufka into eight triangles. If you cannot find yufka, you may substitute regular (thinner) phyllo dough for it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Baked Pastry with Leeks and Chard (Fırında Pırasalı ve Pazılı Börek)

With winter comes, my favorite winter vegetables: chard and leeks. I started buying chard and leeks because of their nutritional value which I feed my little kids on a weekly basis. I grew up eating chard which I was not fond of but my mother only made it with a yogurt soup with grain which is eaten cold. I don’t recall eating it any other way. For böreks, my mother only used spinach and never chard. After I learned cooking many years later, I tried böreks with Swiss chard and regular chard and I was very happy with the results. This time I wanted to add leeks since I had them on hand and really it was so light and delicious!

I prepared the stuffing ahead of time and froze it as it is almost impossible for me to make everything the same day with two little kids and work.  I made the dough the same day I made the böreks and the stuffing tasted as if fresh. We all enjoyed them; especially my boys. They kept wanting more and more. Even though I was in a hurry when making them and didn’t take very good pictures, I think the pictures are acceptable and will explain the steps pretty well.

Caveat: You will most likely have leftover dough. I could have adjusted the proportions for the recipe, but I did not want to do that without really trying it. You can use the left over dough for any type of stuffing you like or even a small pizza.

Now it’s time for the recipe.

For the Dough:

6 ¼ cups white flour
2 ½ cups warm water
1½ tsp yeast (optional)
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp red pepper paste (optional or red pepper can be substituted)
1 tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup olive oil for brushing boreks
½ cup flour for rolling

For the Stuffing:

2 bunches of chard (around 10 chard leaves)
2 leeks
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 ½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp black pepper
1 ½ tsp salt

Prepare the Dough:

Let yeast sit in warm water for 25-30 minutes until it bubbles.

Using a Stand Mixer: 

Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer. Add the flour, salt, red pepper paste and olive oil in the mixer bowl and run it on stir. Gradually add the yeasty water. Change the speed to 2 and let it knead the dough until it is soft. It should take less than five minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let it sit for two hours.


Add the flour, salt, red pepper paste, olive oil and half of the water and start kneading. Add the rest of the yeasty water gradually and continue to knead until soft dough is attained. It should take about 15-20 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let it sit for two hours.

Prepare the Stuffing:

Remove stems of chard from leaves.  

First steam stems of chard until soft as they will take longer to cook than the leaves. Remove and steam chard leaves until wilted. Chop both stems and leaves small.

Slit leeks in half and wash thoroughly several times to remove all the dirt between the layers. 

Chop finely. Heat olive oil in a pan. Sauté leeks first for 4-5 minutes. 

Add chopped chard, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper flakes and black pepper. Stir for a couple minutes and remove from heat and cool.

Prepare softball size dough balls and sit aside. 

Take about 2 tbsp of flour and place on the dough rolling surface. Take one of the balls and place it on top of the flour. Add another 2 tbsp of flour on top of the dough ball. 

Flatten with your fingers and start rolling. 

Make the pastry 9-10 inches in diameter, smaller if smaller pastries are desired. 

Add 3 tbsp of the stuffing in the middle of the rolled dough and fold the outer 1 inch from the left, right and the bottom to create a triangle. 

Place on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Repeat until all the dough and the stuffing are used up.

Heat up oven to 375º. Bake for 15-25 minutes or until the böreks take a golden color. 

Enjoy with hot tea or with cold yogurt or yogurt drink.