Monday, September 8, 2014

Baked Eggplant Kebab (Tepside Patlıcan Kebabı)

This truly delicious dish comes from the city of Gaziantep, Turkey which is very famous with its cuisine. After Hatay (my Province), I like Gaziantep’s food next and then Adana which is about two hours away from my hometown. I have only passed by Gaziantep and have not been there to taste all the delicious food, but when I was very young we had a family acquaints who were from Gaziantep and would come to enjoy the Mediterranean beach for the summer months. As our families spent a lot of time together during their summer vacation, I have tasted some of their food.  One thing I still remember from those days was when we stopped by one day the lady was making stuffed eggplants. She insisted on us to try it before we left and we did. To this day, the taste of that stuffed eggplants is still in my mouth and have never forgotten it. It was hot, but extremely delicious and I must say I have not eaten any better stuffed eggplant than that. I have tried to recreate it in my adult life by asking my mom about the ingredients, but I have not been fully successful. Now that we’ve gone back to childhood memories, let’s get back to the eggplant kebab.

Gaziantep is known with its eggplant kebab which is normally made on a grill which tastes even better. But this one is also extremely good and probably easier cooking as you put it in the oven and forget about it. I made this twice so far; in the initial trial it is juicier than I would have liked and also I used the fat eggplants that I had in hand. In Gaziantep the long eggplants are know as “kebaplık patlıcan” meaning “eggplants specifically for kebap”. This version turned out better than the first one. The amount was perfect for two adults and two small children and we had leftovers. You can easily double the recipe for a larger amount.

1 lb ground beef
4-5 eggplants (long eggplants)
1 tomato (cut in half)
8 pearl onions
2 green peppers (any kind of long and thin peppers will work)
1 clove garlic (chopped fine)
1 small onion (grated)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 ¼ tsp salt

For the Sauce:

2 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 cup cold water

For Soaking Eggplant:

5 cups cold water
2 tsp salt

Mix ground beef, garlic, grated onions, red pepper flakes, black pepper and salt well. 

Pull a walnut sized piece and slightly flatten. 1 lb ground beef made 17 small patties. 

Cut the eggplants 1-1.5 inches wide. 

Cut as many pieces as the number of ground beef (in this case 17).  Soak the eggplants in the salted cold water for about 30 minutes to get out any bitterness that may exist. In a round pan, arrange the beef and eggplants by alternating with one piece of eggplant and one piece of meat starting from the edge of the pan until all the meat and eggplants are used up. In the middle of the pan, place the tomato halves and the pearl onions. 

Mix the salt, olive oil and tomato sauce with 1 cup of water. Pour it all over the pan. 

Add the green peppers and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake at 400º F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and continue to bake for another 15 minutes until the vegetables show signs of roasting. Five minutes of broiling also will work.

Enjoy with rice pilaf or just flat bread.

Note: If your pan is bigger and have a lot of room left in the middle, you may add more tomatoes, onions and green peppers inside. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Green Beans with Ground Beef (Kıymalı Yeşil Fasülye)

We have been really enjoying all the seasonal vegetables this summer: zucchinis, green beans, eggplant, okra, green and red peppers and of course a lot of tomatoes. Every week at least 3-4 of these vegetables are consumed in our households depending on the availability. I like to purchase them all organic and sometimes organic is not available. In that case, I purchase what is fresh and organic. Lately, organic, fresh looking green beans are available almost every week at the market I shop, so I have been purchasing them and cooking them either just with tomatoes or with tomatoes and chicken or beef. I have posted several green bean stew recipes in the past and I wanted to add another one as this is a versatile dish. This one is with ground beef. I also like it with stew meat but for my little boys, ground beef is easier to chew so I don’t have to cut the meat really small for them.

I cooked this in a Dutch oven but any type of pot will do. If you do not wish to put it in the oven, you may cook it on stove for about 1.5 hours or until the beans are tender. Traditionally, this is cooked on the stove top.

2 lbs green beans
6-7 large ripe tomatoes (peeled and diced)
1 small red onion (chopped)
3 large cloves garlic (crushed)
2 lbs ground beef
1/2 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp ground black pepper
6 cups water

Cut the ends of each green bean and slit in the middle without cutting through the end. The beans will split in two and stay attached at the bottom.  Take the split beans that are attached at the bottom and cut diagonally around 1 ½ inch long. In addition to cooking faster, when the beans are split in half, all the wonderful juices go inside them which produce a delicious flavor.

Heat olive oil on medium heat. Add the ground beef and stir until no longer pink. Add the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the green beans and then the crushed garlic and stir. 

Continue to sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, paprika, cumin, ground black pepper, salt and water. Stir well.

Preheat oven to 420°F. In an oven safe pot or dutch oven, bake for 2 hours. Remove from heat and enjoy with rice. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Yogurt Drink (Ayran)

One of the most refreshing drinks, ayran is enjoyed throughout the summer in Turkey. It pairs very well with kebaps and bulgur dishes. You will find ayran in most Turkish restaurants in the States as it is very popular. I do not know any Turkish person who does not love it, but I think it is an acquired taste for most Americans. 

The yogurt used in this recipe is home made and whole milk is used. I am not sure if it will taste the same with low fat milk, but I think it still would be very refreshing.  Enjoy!

4 cups yogurt
1 cup cold water
1 tsp salt

Mix the yogurt, water and salt in a blender and blend until smooth (a couple minutes). Pour out in glasses and enjoy cold!

Zucchinis with Lentils (Mercimekli Kabak)

Another favorite summer time vegetable: zucchini. Without planning, I end up buying zucchinis every week in the summer since they are in season. Almost every time, I cook them in tomato sauce either with ground beef, with lentils or just with carrots and tomatoes. They’re delicious in my opinion. Although, I used to almost hate them when I was little. When I find myself with little time to cook, I slice them and broil them and they still taste great. So this recipe is one of my favorite ones with zucchinis. A side of rice would go perfectly with this light recipe.

4 zucchinis
3 carrots (shredded)
4 tomatoes (peeled and diced)
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 small onion (shredded)
¾ cup brown lentils (soaked for 1 hour)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 ½ tsp salt
2 cups water

Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. Then, cut each half in half again ending up in four pieces. Chop the quartered zucchini ending up in large dices.

Heat olive oil. Saute the onions for 3-4 minutes or until transparent. Add carrots and continue sautéing for 2-3 more minutes. Add garlic and lentils. Cook for 3 minutes while continuing to stir. Add tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes with lid covered. Add tomato sauce and water and cook for 5 more minutes. Add zucchini and stir well. Cover and cook for 45 minutes on medium to low heat. Add the parsley and stir just before removing from the stove.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Rose Pastry with Beef and Spinach (Etli ve Ispanaklı Gül Böreği)

I have made these boreks with potatoes, spinach and cheese filling separately in the past. This is the first time I am trying them with meat. All versions turned out really good. Anything with phyllo dough tastes wonderful; at least that’s what I think. The shapes of these boreks are attractive which makes me wanting to eat one more and one more…The filling is very easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time. These can be served as an appetizer, main dish or a snack. I had them with hot Turkish tea and it was delicious!

1 lb ground beef (95% lean)
1 bunch spinach (approx 1 lb)
1 medium onion (chopped finely)
2 cloves garlic (chopped finely)
¾ cup parsley (chopped finely)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes or paprika
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black ground pepper

1 package (1 lb) phyllo dough

½ cup milk
½ cup olive oil
1 egg

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the ground beef and cook until the beef is no longer pink and releases its water. Pour out the water and add the olive oil. Stir. Add the onions and sauté until onions are transparent. Add the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and the black pepper. Saute for a couple of minutes and turn off heat. Add the chopped parsley and stir again. Let it cool.

Wash the spinach several times. Remove the stems and steam for about 3 minutes. Let it cool. Chop coarsely and add to the meat mixture.

Mix the milk, olive oil and egg until everything is integrated well.

Lay one phyllo dough sheet on the working surface (long side towards you). 

Brush the all the phyllo dough sheet with the milk/olive oil/egg mixture. 

Lay another sheet on top of it. 

Add 3 tbsp of the stuffing along the edge of the sheet (approximately 1 inch from the edge). 

Roll the sheet gently and brush with the milk/olive oil/egg mixture before rolling on top of the upper edge. 

Place in a greased baking tray and brush with the milk/olive oil/egg mixture again. 
Start with one end and roll it circular to give it a rose like shape. 

Brush the borek roll with the milk/olive oil mixture so it sticks together well.

Repeat until all the phyllo dough sheets and stuffing used up.

Bake at 350º for about 50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and enjoy warm.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Nightingale’s Nest (Bülbül Yuvası)

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A cousin of the baklava, this dessert is equally delicious but with a different style. The nightingale’s nests look very appealing and hard to resist. I made these about a month ago and loved them. They tasted so delicious that I decided to make them again with a few little adjustments. Instead of pistachios, you may use hazelnuts, almonds or any other nut you may favor, but for me nothing beats pistachios. I think it is the most delicious nut so it is always my number one nut to use in desserts. Also, traditionally, I believe these are made with pistachios so I do not want to change that. For some reason, I love traditional foods the way they are and do not like to make a lot of changes to them.

In making this dessert, a thinner roller pin (oklava) is used to roll these pastries in Turkey, but since I do not have one I used a thermometer’s storage sleeve. See picture.

Below is the recipe.

For the Pastry:

1 lb phyllo dough
8 oz pistachios (finely grounded)
8 oz (2 sticks) butter

A thin rolling pin or a stick

For the Syrup:

3 cups sugar
1½ cups water
1 tsp lemon juice

For Garnish:

1 oz pistachios (finely grounded)

Add the sugar and water in a pot. Stir until the sugar melts. Let it boil for 2 minutes and add the lemon juice. Let it simmer for 3-4 minutes and remove from heat. Cool syrup.

Melt the butter slowly in a pan. Remove the foam and discard. Let it cool.

Grease a baking tray with butter. Take one sheet of phyllo dough and lay it on a flat working surface with the short side towards you.

Dip a pastry brush in the butter and spread all over the phyllo sheet. 

Lay another phyllo sheet on top of the buttered sheet. 

Lay the rolling pin at the bottom of the phyllo dough and sprinkle the 2 tbsp pistachios on top of the phyllo dough leaving about an inch without pistachio on top section of the phyllo sheet. 

Start rolling the phyllo sheet over the rolling pin leaving the 1 inch on top. 

From both sides crinkle the phyllo dough while the rolling pin is still inside. 

Pull the rolling pin gently and close the ends of the dough leaving the 1 inch section in the middle of the circle.

Butter the phyllo dough immediately and place on the baking tray. 

Repeat until all the phyllo dough sheets are used up. Pour any remaining butter on top of the nests.

Heat the oven to 350º F. Place the tray in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. The longer it bakes the crispier it gets. Remove from oven and pour the cooled syrup on top of each round immediately. Cover with aluminum foil and let it cool. Distribute the 1 oz pistachios inside each of the nests. Enjoy with a hot tea or coffee.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Fried Dover Sole (Dil Balığı Kızartması)

My 17 month old twins love this fish. Ever since they were 8 months old, they have been eating this fish. I think the reason is because the fish is so delicate, it is very soft and doesn’t require a lot of chewing. Since this fish falls apart easily I usually sauté it in a pan for them, however I would like a little more texture to the fish so I decided to fry them since it was the family dinner. They actually had several rolls and normally each eats one filet only (they are very thin filets). When the dover sole is rolled up like this it can be fried or baked. I have tried it baked and I didn’t even need to hold it together with a toothpick. Enjoy!

2 lb dover sole filets

1 tsp salt

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp sumac

Juice of 1 lemon

For Frying:

1½ cup white flour

4 cups canola oil

In a large bowl, mix the lemon juice, salt, red pepper flakes and sumac. Add the dover sole filets and mix to coat the fish with all the ingredients. Roll each dover sole filet starting from the thicker side of the filet towards the thinner end. Place a toothpick in the middle to keep the roll together. Repeat this and place in a plate that has higher edges so that all the juices from the fish will drain to the middle of the plate. The juices then can be cleaned up with paper towel. Let them rest for 10 minutes so that all the water drains out from the rolls. 

Heat the oil. Coat the dover sole rolls in flour and put in the oil. Fry until golden brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Serve with lemon wedges and rice.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Etli İçli Köfte (Stuffed Bulgur Shells with Beef)

İçli köfte is also known as “oruk” in Turkey and in the Hatay/Antakya (Antioch) region where I am from, it is called “kibbeh” a word that comes from Arabic. İçli köfte is very popular in the Middle East and each country may have a different version of it. Even within Turkey or within Hatay, there are many different versions. This recipe is the içli köfte that I grew up with which my mother makes. I have posted another recipe “Stuffed Bulgur Shells” in the past however the shells had boiled potatoes instead of meat.

Since this version includes meat in the shell, it can be boiled instead of fried. I did both this time as I like both boiled and fried but if I had to choose, I would choose the fried ones. 

As this is a very time consuming meal, it is not made often. I think it has been several years since I have made it, although the last time I ate it was 1.5 years ago when my mother was visiting for the birth of my twins. She made it for us several times and the day before she left she made quite a bit for the freezer. Although, I rarely had time to even cook the ones in the freezer after the babies, they stayed in the freezer a few months. If using a stand mixer, the time to make this decreases dramatically. My 17 month old kids loved it so much that a couple days later, I decided to make it again. I prepared two batches of the shell and the stuffing and froze them. When I want to stuff the shells, I will just remove them from the freezer one day before and just make enough for dinner.

This particular time, I prepared the stuffing and the shell one day and stuffed them another day and cooked them the day after. Preparing ahead of time will save a lot of time. Although I am a big advocate of fresh foods and not fond of freezing at all, sometimes it is inevitable due to time constraints, especially with these types of foods.

The illustrated pictures show how the shape is given; however just for fun I did a different (easier) shape for the last four köftes. I also had a little bit shell dough left over so I shaped this into small balls and boiled them and poured some of the olive oil/red pepper paste/garlic sauce to make bulgur balls. See my previous post for “Bulgur Balls with Spinach and Garlic (Sarımsaklı ve Ispanaklı Bulgur Köftesi) ”. This shell dough also can be used for this recipe.

As mentioned in my previous “Stuffed Bulgur Shells” post, an easier version of the stuffed shells can be by making it in a pan. You would spread a thin layer of the bulgur dough on a greased pan, add the stuffing and cover the top with another layer of the shell dough, drizzle with olive oil and bake it. See a couple pictures below from a while back.

I also once shaped the shells like a scoop and fried them. Then the stuffing was scooped with the shells. See a picture below from a while back. 

The other version I tried was making them in the shape of bulgur balls and fried them and added stuffing and mixed them together. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture for this but you can refer to my bulgur balls post.  So as you can see you can be creative to make these.

I would like to add that the ladies who are expert in making these, like some of the older ladies in my hometown, are able to make the shells very thin. Mine were thicker than I would like but I think I am getting better at it each time I make them.

Enjoy with "Cacık" (yogurt with garlic and cucumbers) and salad or any salad greens. As you can see in the pictures above, we had them with the onions, garlic, radishes and arugula from my little garden as well as a "Shepard Salad" and "Yogurt".
For the Shell Mixture:
3 cups red bulgur or white (fine grind)
1 lb ground beef (95% lean)
1/2 cup semolina
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp red pepper paste
2 tsp salt
2 ½ cups cold water
2 cup oil for frying (or as much as it takes)
For the Stuffing:
1 lb ground beef (95% lean)
1 medium onion (chopped finely)
2 cloves garlic (chopped finely)
¾ cup parsley (chopped finely)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black ground pepper
For Boiled Köfte Sauce:
2 fresh stems garlic (or dried if fresh not available)
1 tbsp red pepper paste
½ cup olive oil
To Prepare the Stuffing:
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the ground beef and cook until the beef is no longer pink and releases its water. Pour out the water and add the olive oil. Stir. Add the onions and sauté until onions are transparent. Add the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and the black pepper. Saute for a couple of minutes and turn off heat. Add the chopped parsley and stir again. Let it cool. This can be prepared one day before and refrigerated.

To Prepare the Shell:
Using Stand Mixer:
Pulse the ground beef in a food processor several times. Set aside.

Slip the flat beater attachment to the beater shaft of the stand mixer while it is still unplugged (for safety reasons). Place the bulgur, semolina, flour, red pepper paste, salt and the beef in the stand mixer bowl.

Set the speed to stir and add water gradually. Once all the ingredients get wet, set the speed to 2. Let it mix good for 4-5 minutes and then set the speed to 4. Keep adding the water gradually as the stand mixer is running. Let it run for 10 minutes.
You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl in between. The bulgur dough should get soft enough to be workable (give a shape). Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cheese cloth.
Below is a picture of how the end result of the shell mixture should look like.
Add all the shell mixture ingredients including the pulsed ground beef and 1 cup of water and start kneading. Gradually add the rest of the water while kneading. Keep kneading for 30 minutes (longer if necessary) until all the ingredients are mixed well and the bulgur dough is soft enough to give a shape. The reason for this length of time is because the bulgur is not soaked ahead of time. To reduce the kneading time, soak the bulgur in hot water for about 10-15 minutes. See previous recipe for Stuffed Bulgur Shells (İçli Köfte) .
When the shell mixture is ready, follow the instructions below to create the köftes. Below is a picture that shows how the process works starting from number 1 on the left side:
  1. Take an egg sized piece and put it in your left palm (if you’re right handed; otherwise put in your right palm). Make sure your hand is dipped in water before starting to shape the shells.
  2. Wet your right index finger and stick it into the egg sized piece and make a hole in the shell.
  3. Make a half circular movement clockwise and counter clockwise with your index finger into the shell while it is still on your palm to create a thin shell (as thin as possible).
  4. Fill the shell with stuffing and close gently.
  5. Soak your hands in the water and gently pat the köfte to make sure it is smooth and any tears are patched.
  6. The final shell should look smooth and intact.

While you are working with the shells, keep the remaining mixture covered with a damp cloth. As the mixture tends to dry out, make sure you roll each ball in your hands (make sure your hands are dipped in water) before shaping the shells.

If for some reason the bulgur dough is too soft and cannot be shaped, add some flour and that should solve the problem.
For Frying:
Heat the oil in a large pan. When the oil is hot, add the stuffed shells and fry both sides until they take a brownish color as shown in the picture below. This should take only a few minutes.
For Boiling:
Boil half of a large pot of water. Once the water boils, gently add several köftes depending on the size of the pot. Let them boil for 5 minutes. Remove gently. Drain and place in a serving platter.
Sauce for Boiled Köfte:
Chop the garlic if using fresh stems. If using dried, crush them. Mix the garlic, red pepper paste and olive oil until all ingredients are integrated.

Drizzle over the köftes. Also serve the sauce with the köftes.  Drizzle the sauce over the stuffing in the köfte with a small spoon after each bite.