Monday, October 27, 2008

Portobello Mushroom Sautee (Sotelenmiş Portobello Mantar)

2 large Portobello mushrooms (sliced)
2 green bell peppers (sliced)
1 red onion (sliced)
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add the mushrooms and sautee for 3-4 minutes. Add peppers and sautee 2 more minutes. Finally, add the onions along with salt and pepper. Serve as a side dish or a main dish if you prefer.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Broiled Flank Steak

I got introduced to flank steak by my uncle who very often turned on his grill and grilled different kinds of meats and vegetables after he got back from work, even on snowy, cold days. He grills everything from asparagus to shrimp. He marinates the flank steak differently than I did in this recipe.

Flank steak is actually a long muscle that is located in the belly of a cow, below the rib cage. It is very lean and is tougher than other meat cuts. If cooked correctly, it can be quite tasty and flavorful. Avoid cooking the steak too long as it will become hard and chewy. I don’t believe this part of the cow is eaten in Turkey, but times have changed, I could be wrong.

1 lb flank steak
¼ white onion
2 garlic cloves
5-6 sprigs parsley
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup olive oil
2 lime juices
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tbsp chopped parsley for garnishing

Vegetables For Serving:

4 long green peppers
1 large tomato (quartered)
1 onion (quartered)

Let’s start with a delicious marinate. Except the steak, place all the ingredients in a food processor or a blender. Puree the all the ingredients. You may adjust the salt and pepper based on your taste. Place this newly created marinating sauce in a large bowl, on top of the steak. Make sure the sauce touches every part of the steak. Refrigerate 24-48 hours. Before cooking, remove from fridge and let sit in room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat the oven broiler or a grill if you have an outside grill. If broiling, put the steak in a Pyrex dish and place on the top rack of the broiler. Sometimes when I can afford longer cooking time, I place it under the 2nd top rack. Keep the broiler slightly open when broiling to avoid any fire dangers. Cook each side of the steak for 7-8 minutes depending on how you like it cooked. If you like it rare, I would cook it less than that, put I prefer my meat cooked medium well to well, so usually I can acquire that level within 7-8 minutes. Again, if you’re using the 2nd top rack, it will take longer to cook.

For Broiling the Veggies:

Place all the veggies in a large tray. The soft parts of the tomatoes should be up and the skin side down. Sprinkle some salt on the onions and tomatoes. Broil until the skin of the peppers are blackened. By that time, the tomatoes and the onions should be ready too.

Slice the steak thinly against the grain of the meat, garnish with parsley and enjoy with potatoes or rice.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fish Sandwich (Ekmek Arası Balık)

These sandwiches are perfect for a quick, week night dinner after work. Preparation takes less than 30 minutes. You may substitute the bread based on your preference.

2 lemon sole filets
1 baguette bread
1/2 of red onion
½ tsp sumac
3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1 small cucumber (sliced)
2 roasted long green peppers (peeled & seeds removed)
1/2 avocado (sliced)
½ cup thinly sliced romane lettuce
1-2 tbsp olive oil
½ lime
Salt and pepper

In a large Pyrex dish, place the fillets of fish. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the fish. Drizzle the olive oil and squeeze the lime on both sides. Broil each side for 4-5 minutes.

While the fish is cooking, cut the baguette in 3 equal pieces one of which will not be used since we will make only two sandwiches. Cut the middle of the bread pieces lengthwise without detaching the back. Set aside.

Now, it’s time to prepare the onion mixture. Slice the onion thinly. Add the sumac, parsley and a pinch of salt to the onions. Set aside.

Open up the bread and spread mayo on both sides of the bread. On the bottom part of the bread, add the fish; one fillet to each piece. You will need to cut the fish lengthwise since the baguette is thin. I use French baguette since it tastes very similar to Turkish bread. Add the cleaned and peeled peppers; one pepper to each sandwich. Add the onions, sliced avocados and cucumbers and the lettuce to the sandwiches. Cut in half and serve with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes sprinkled with salt.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fennel in Olive Oil (Zeytinyağlı Rezene)

One of the most healthy and nutritious vegetables, fennel has a crunchy texture and aromatic flavor. Fennel comprised of a white bulb with layers, green stalks similar to celery and feathery leaves similar to dill. This vegetable has very powerful amounts of antioxidants, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin C and many other nutrients. It has been used in cooking since ancient times in the Mediterranean region. Its medicinal uses are not limited to digestive disorders, anemia and respiratory disorders. There are numerous health benefits to this tasty aromatic vegetable.

A few years ago, when I was developing my new interest in cooking, I found this vegetable that was not familiar to me previously at a market. Not knowing what to do with it, I bought it anyway as I love discovering new things. With the suggestion of a friend who was visiting, we cooked it in olive oil. That was my introduction to fennel. Since then, I’ve managed to create different types of recipes with this vegetable.

This particular dish was one of our survival foods during Huricane Ike. While expecting Ike to hit the coast of Galveston, we were aware of possible power outages and food going bad in the refrigerator. I decided to cook some of the veggies that I had on hand that could survive to be in the fridge for some time after the power goes out. I had a large bulb of fennel sitting in the fridge, so I cooked it in olive oil. It lasted 3-4 days and did not go bad without refrigeration.

My husband was teasing me that even in the aftermath of the hurricane we were eating “fancy” food. He was lucky that we did not have to resort to his canned food that he lived on when he was single. Thankfully, we had enough of good food for almost a week which was equivalent to the time we were without water and power. We were also lucky to have good friends who received power and water way before we did and who were very welcoming in their home when we used their showers and ate their food. Thank you Selma and Selim.

1 large fennel bulb
¼ white or yellow onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
½ lime
2 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch of ground black pepper
Pinch of salt

Cut the fennel bulb in half and slice each half. Heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Sprinkle the red pepper flakes. When the onions and garlic are soft, add the sliced fennel bulb. Add salt and pepper. Squeeze a half lime on top and sautee for 3-5 minutes. Serve as a warm or cold side dish.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Damascus Dessert (Şam Tatlısı)

Şam Tatlısı is a wonderful, syrupy dessert made of semolina (farina) that deserves some praise. The name ‘Şam Tatlısı’ literally means ‘Damascus Dessert’. It is widely known in Southern Turkey and eaten all around the country.

When I was a kid, there was a man who used to pass by our neighborhood trying to sell this dessert in a cart yelling “Şam tatlısıııııııııı. Şam tatlısıııııııııı”. Every time he passed by and we heard his voice, I and the other kids in the neighborhood would call our moms to buy us Şam tatlısı. My recollection of the Şam tatlısı he sold is just out of this world. His dessert was neatly cut in rectangular shape and topped with one or two peanuts on each piece. To this day, I do not know if the dessert was home-made or if he purchased it commercially and resold it. In any case, it was delicious.

I am grateful that my mother also makes an unbelievable Şam tatlısı which I had plenty of when I visited home this summer. She gave me the recipe which I had a great difficulty making correctly. I also tried my mother in law’s recipe a few times which did not help me either. After 5-6 failing attempts trying both recipes that were given to me more than once, I finally managed to make it! It worked. Not as good as my mother’s or the cart man’s but it was pretty good! Both my husband and I were excited like kids when it worked. My husband has a weakness to dessert which hinders me from making dessert too often so that he does not gain weight and clog his arteries! If I let him, he finishes the whole thing in a couple of days. Usually, I end up taking most of it to work or send it with him to his work. Hopefully he really shares with his co-workers rather than eating it on his way to work. But in any case, people always appreciate free dessert!

I also shared my joy of finally being able to make this wonderful dessert with my dear friend Brenda who is a dessert addict. She was waiting for me to get this dessert right, so that she could make it and take it to one of her endless social activities. After successfully making the dessert a couple weeks ago, I informed her that I would post it on my blog in a few days. After bringing the city of Philly upside down, she was able to find semolina (farina) and ready for the dessert, but apparently my blog did not have the recipe posted as promised. I read an e-mail from her the next morning complaining to me that she wanted to make the dessert the night before but the recipe was not on my blog! Since my recipe was ready, I e-mailed it to her immediately and finally I am able to post it the blog! Thanks Brenda for following and actually making my recipes.

Note: After I posted this recipe and blogged about it, I found out Brenda's adventure with this dessert. Even though I said she brought the city of Philly upside down and found semolina (farina), she informed me this afternoon that she had bought the wrong thing! She bought the small, round semolina pasta. She got suspicious when she was making the dessert as it did not become smooth and the cake looked pretty different when she took it out of the oven. She checked it out on Wikipedia and confirmed her suspicion. I had a great laugh when I heard this and had to add this paragraph to what I wrote previously. Hopefully her next attempt to make Şam tatlısı will be better...

With the great help of technology, I always set my recipes on automatic posting for the next month, but this one will not wait. Desserts cannot wait. Here it is...

2 cups semolina
1 tbsp flour
1 cup ground sugar
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 small lemon rind
½ tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp ground raw pistachios (for decoration)

For the Syrup:

2 cups water
2 cups ground sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp fresh lemon or lime juice

First prepare the syrup. Place the water and sugar in a small pot. Stir and cover. When the water and sugar mixture boils, add the honey and the lemon/lime juice. Boil 1-2 minutes and remove from heat. Cool.

Add all the above ingredients for the cake. Whisk all the ingredients in a large bowl until you obtain a smooth mixture. Allow the mixture to relax for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven at 350º F. Grease a Pyrex dish with butter. Pour the mixture into the Pyrex dish and bake for 35 minutes. This may vary depending on the oven you are using, but make sure the top takes a brownish color before removing it from the oven. Start checking it after 25 minutes of baking.

Remove from the oven and slice diagonally, in squares or rectangles. Pour the cooled syrup on the hot cake. Make sure that the syrup is cooled and the cake is hot.

Sprinkle with ground pistachios, walnuts or place whole peanuts, filberts or almonds on each piece. If you choose to place peanuts, filberts or almonds, do this before putting the cake in the oven.

Enjoy cold.

Note: You may also place the nut mixture in the middle of the cake as a layer. In this case, pour half of the cake mixture in the Pyrex dish, sprinkle with 1 cup of ground nuts (either pistachios or walnuts) and then pour the rest of the mixture over it. This is the way my mother-in-law makes it and it can also be very delicious.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Spicy Gumbo

Gumbo is a type of soup or stew that originated in Louisiana, but widely cooked in Southern of the United States. It is made out of either seafood or various kinds of sausages as well as bell peppers, celery and bunch of spices including a thickener which is called roux. This dish is usually served over rice. The first time I came across Gumbo was when I went to New Orleans for a business trip a few years back. I first did not like gumbo but after almost moving there I tried gumbo in numerous other places. There was this small restaurant that served incredibly tasty shrimp Po-boys in Baton Rouge. One day, I decided to try the gumbo and that’s where I really enjoyed it.

One Sunday when I felt like cooking something different, so I decided to try gumbo. I created my own gumbo recipe and it was so yummy! My husband also really enjoyed it and he claimed that I made the best gumbo he had ever eaten considering that he had lived in Louisiana for six years. Ok, this was my first time and I am sure that there are chefs and cooks that make gumbos much more delicious. Some people add okra to gumbo, so feel free to play with the ingredients as you may discover something even tastier.

2 lbs shrimp
1 lbs scallops
1 lbs crab claw meat
½ lbs leg of lamb (chopped)
3-4 ribs of celery (chopped finely)
2 ½ onions (chopped finely)
4 garlic cloves (chopped finely)
2 large roasted and peeled tomatoes (diced)
5-6 roasted and peeled green peppers (diced)
2 cans of beer (dark beer preferable)
4 cups of chicken broth
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp mace
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1-2 tsp hot sauce
2 tbsp fresh parsley (chopped)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup flour

For Roux

1 cup flour
¾ cup canola oil

Roux Preparation:

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil. Add the flour slowly while whisking constantly so that there are no lumps in the flour. Do this for about 20 minutes until that mixture thickens and takes a brown color. Preferences may differ on how brown the roux should be. I prefer it medium brown. If you would like to use the roux at a different date, you could cool it and freeze it.

Gumbo Preparation:

Once the roux is ready, add the onions and celery and stir. It may get a little lumpy, but keep mixing them together for 5 minutes. Add the olive oil on the mixture. Most people prefer butter, but since I do not use butter in my cooking, I used olive oil. Add garlic, roasted peppers and the tomatoes. Also feel free to add all the juices that come out from roasting the peppers and tomatoes. In a separate pan, cook the lamb slightly and drain the water that comes out of the meat. Add the lamb to the pot with the roux and vegetables. Add cumin, paprika, mace, celery seeds, thyme, black and cayenne pepper, bay leaves, salt and the hot sauce. Add the chicken broth and the beer and stir well. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes and then cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes on low heat. Add the shrimp, crab claw meat and scallops to the soup. Feel free to add salt to the shrimp and scallops before adding them to the soup. Cook for 5 more minutes after adding the seafood. Garnish with fresh parsley before removing from heat. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve over rice or as a regular soup.