Monday, December 29, 2008

Eggplant in Tomato Sauce (Patlıcan Bastırma)

Even though this dish may not look appealing, it does taste great. It is also very healthy as it involves a nutritious vegetable; eggplant. This dish was one of my least favorite dishes when I was a kid. Now, I truly enjoy it.

Eggplants are not in season now, however they are still available in stores. This dish is a very popular summer dish, but there is no reason why you couldn't make it in the winter if you find the eggplants. This recipe has been waiting to be posted since this summer as it was competing with other scrumptious recipes. Now is its turn.

You have the option of making this dish with meat. Most of the time, I cook the vegetable stews without meat. If you choose to add meat, sauté the meat, prior to adding the rest of the ingredients. For this particular dish, the eggplant can be substituted with okra, zucchini, green beans and even potatoes.

5 medium eggplants
3 small tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
¼ white or yellow onion (chopped)
1 large garlic clove (chopped)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp tomato sauce
Pinch of salt and ground black pepper
1 cup water

Prepare a large pot filled with salty water for the eggplants. Peel the eggplants in half to one inch stripes leaving the peel lengthwise on four sides of the eggplant. The peeled section and unpeeled section of the eggplant will be alternating. Cut the eggplants in half. Take each half and slice diagonally in bite sized pieces. Immediately place in salty water to prevent discoloration.

In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add the chopped onions and garlic and sautee for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Dissolve the tomato sauce in the water and add to the pot. Sprinkle salt and pepper as much or as little as you want. Stir and cover. Cook on low heat for 40 minutes. The eggplants should be soft when finished cooking. Serve with rice or bulgur pilaf.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Stuffed Chicken Breast (Tavuk Göğsü Dolması)

I had the pleasure of making these chicken breasts for the first time for company we had a while ago. As I enjoy cooking, I enjoy sharing the food I cook even more. These chicken breasts turned out very flavorful and moist. This dish is made Turkish style even though one of the ingredients (Pepper Jack cheese) is not traditionally Turkish. I used this cheese since I did not want to add too many spices, but still have a nice flavor. This cheese already has some peppers in it, so the combination with mushrooms and parsley produces an exquisite taste. If you prefer, you may substitute the cheese with another type of cheese.

8 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 large white cap mushrooms
1 garlic clove
¼ cup parsley
½ lb pepper Jack cheese
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
Juices of 2 lemons

Cut the mushrooms in half and slice. Cut each slice in three pieces. It is faster to cut a mushroom in half and slicing each half and without separating the slices chopping it again.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add the garlic. Add the mushrooms, oregano and salt. Adjust salt to your taste. When the mushrooms become soft (after 5-6 minutes), add the parsley. Remove from heat and let cool.

Slice the cheese in ¼ of an inch in thickness and in the size of 1 square inch. Take each chicken breast and remove the fat that is around it. With a sharp carving knife slit an opening in the middle of the thicker side of the chicken breast. Using that opening, slowly and gently cut through the chicken breast without cutting an opening on the sides. Place 2 pieces of the sliced cheese in the breast. Add to a spoonful of the mushroom mixture until the chicken breast is full. Be careful not to overstuff as it may cause the meat to create an unwanted opening which will cause the cheese to leak out while cooking. Close the opening of the chicken breast with bamboo skewers. I cut the bamboo skewers in half in order to be able to use them.

Once all the chicken breasts are stuffed, place 1 tbsp olive oil, juice of 1 lemon and salt on one side of the chicken breasts. Turn over and add the same ingredients with the same amount to the other side of the breasts. Refrigerate overnight.

Turn on your oven broiler. Broil each side of the chicken for 10 minutes or when the breasts become light brown. Enjoy with rice, potatoes or pasta.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lemonade Award

Last month, I received a very generous award from lovely Sandra, the blog owner of Get to know Croatia & Always Curious who is one of my first and most loyal readers.

Now it’s time for me to pass this award to other fellow bloggers. They all have wonderful blogs. I hope you will get a chance to visit them too.

You just need to give this award to 10 other bloggers and link them in your blog along with the person who gave you this award. Simple and easy.

1. Mimi Cooks-Wonderful Arabic cooking blog with great videos
2. Organically Cooked- Great blog from a New Zeland ex-pat who lives in Hania, Crete
3. Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska – Mouthwatering Mediterranean recipes all the way in Alaska
4. Lisa is Cooking - In her own words; an addict of cookbooks, food writing and cooking and other stuff related to food with lovely recipes
5. Joie de vivre: An amateur gourmet’s guide- Someone who has adopted a diet after reading “French Woman Don’t Get Fat” and lost quite a few pounds as a result of this book
6. Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice –Again, more lovely recipes
7. Life Loves the Curious-A wonderful blog concentrating on Asian food
8. Passionate About Baking- If you love baked things, you must visit
9. Hommus and Tabbouli-Another blog concentrating on Mediterranean food
10. Zaayeka- A new blogger who has created a great blog only in two months!

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Rice Pilaf with Carrots and Peas (Havuçlu ve Bezelyeli Pirinç Pilavı)

One of my favorite pilafs is with peas and carrots. Rice is so versatile; it can be cooked in different ways with various ingredients.

I use frozen peas for this recipe (the only frozen vegetable that I ever purchase) since good quality peas are not available fresh. Sometimes, I do find the large pods, but the peas inside are too small. If I could find good quality fresh peas, I would use them. My mother makes rice pilaf with carrots and peas pretty often. It is a good way of putting vegetables in starchy foods.

2 cups white rice
3 carrots (chopped in squares)
½ cup frozen peas
3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp olive oil

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add carrots and peas and mix together for 2 minutes. Add rice and mix again. Add the chicken broth and salt. Adjust the salt to your taste. Cook on medium heat until it starts boiling and then turn to low heat. Cook until all the water is absorbed. No need to stir while cooking. Serve with meat or vegetable dishes.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Roast Lamb (Fırında Kuzu Budu)

One day I was strolling through the isles of a famous local fish and meat market when I was living in the Northeast and was trying to decide what type of lamb I should purchase. I saw an already marinated, packaged leg of lamb and was trying to figure out its ingredients. Another shopper informed me that she had tried it the week before and it was ‘out of this world’. I had to try it. It was excellent!

Now, I do buy the same leg of lamb, except without marinate since I prepare freshly made marinate. If cooked correctly, the lamb can be very tender and flavorful. I like my meat to be cooked thoroughly, but if you prefer it rare or medium rare, cook it a a few minutes less than instructed.

½ lb leg of lamb
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh oregano
3 cloves garlic (sliced)
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 tbsp olive oil
Ground black pepper
Sea salt

With a sharp knife, make 10-15 slits around the lamb. Place the lamb in a deep container. Rub with sea salt and freshly grounded black pepper. Start placing the sliced garlic in the slits on the lamb. Remove the leaves of rosemary and the oregano from the stems. There is no need to chop. Place the leaves of the herbs in the slits beside the garlic. Squeeze the lemon and add the olive oil. Make sure the lamb is coated with the lemon juice and olive oil. You may close the container and shake it up to make sure the ingredients mix together. Marinate in the refrigerator over night.

Preheat oven to 350º F. Place in a Pyrex dish and bake covered for 1 hour. Remove cover and cook for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy with rice pilaf or potatoes.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Leeks with Rice (Pirinçli Pırasa)

I have to admit that I do not know many recipes with leeks. My mother seldom cooked leeks. I do not recall her cooking it as the main dish but only as an ingredient for another recipe.

This dish is known in most parts of Turkey. This recipe is inspired from the Leeks with Carrots recipe from the Turkish cookbook called “Anatolian Feast” which is published by the American Turkish Association of Houston a non-profit organization.

4 medium leeks (sliced in ½ inch thick)
1 cup carrots (sliced thick)
1 red bell pepper (sliced lenghtwise)
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 cup rice
1 tsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups water

Wash the leeks thoroughly. Clean underneath each leaf with lots of water. There will be dirt sticking between the leaves. Therefore, after washing and slicing them, I soak them in a pot full of water and triple wash them.

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add garlic and stir for one minute. Do not let them burn. Add leeks and carrots. Sautee for 3-4 minutes or until the leeks are soft. Add rice, tomato sauce, cumin, pepper and salt. Lastly, add the water. Stir well and cover the pot. Cook on low heat for 45 minutes. You may stir a few times during cooking to make sure the rice cooks well. Serve warm or cold as the main dish.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Roasted Chestnuts (Kestane Kebabı)

A popular winter snack, chestnuts date back to pre-historic times. Mainly grown and consumed in the Mediterranean countries, chestnuts are a major staple in Southern Europe, Asia Minor, Southwestern and East Asia. They are also grown here in the States.

In Turkey, it is cultivated in the Marmara Sea region and the Black Sea region mainly in the mountainous areas. The most famous chestnuts (kestane) in Turkey is in the city of Bursa which is around the Marmara region. They grow in trees where the brown colored nut is enclosed in greenish spiny round burs. The nuts are harvested around October.

When I saw them in stores recently, my memory awakened for another joy of the winter. I grabbed a bag of the chestnuts and was looking forward to a cold night for roasting. I recollect seeing numerous chestnut carts in Turkey during winter months where the aroma of the roasted chestnuts fills the whole street. Resisting the temptation of the roasted chestnuts caused by inhaling the wonderful aroma is extremely difficult. The chestnut vendors can also be seen in the streets of Philadelphia and New York City during the winter months.

At home in Turkey, we used to roast them on wood fire which gives it a better taste. It has been years since I have had this experience. Since my visits to Turkey are always in the summer months, I have not had the chance to enjoy some of the roasted chestnuts over there. I compensate for it by roasting them myself in my oven. Although not the same, it does give a similar pleasure to the palates.

Chestnuts can also be boiled, cooked in food and used in a number of desserts. My favorite is though the roasted chestnuts. When the weather is cold and you feel like hanging out at home with family, roast some chestnuts and enjoy them warm.

1 lb chestnuts

Heat oven to 350º F. With a sharp knife, cut an X on the back of each chestnut. See picture below.

Arrange chestnuts on oven tray and roast until all the chestnut open up and the flesh of the chestnuts is exposed.

Let them cool to make sure you do not burn yourself. Peel and enjoy warm.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Borek with Ground Beef (Kıymalı Börek)

I made and took this borek for the last day of our Spanish class. Everyone was supposed to bring Mexican or Spanish food for the cultural experience, however I was volunteered into bringing Turkish food. I prepared it late on a Sunday night and the next day I left work early and placed it in the oven while I was getting ready. We took it to class warm, just out of the oven. The smell of it was very tempting. It got a lot of praise. This was my first time making this borek and I will make it again soon, this time for us.

For the Filling:

1 lb ground beef
1 medium white or yellow onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
½ cup parsley (chopped)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp paprika
½ tsp ground black pepper

For the Outer Part of the Borek:

1 package phyllo dough sheets
1 cup yogurt
½ cup olive oil
1 egg

Preparation of Filling:

Heat olive oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the onions and sautee for 3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and the ground beef. Cook until the beef takes a brownish color stirring constantly. Add the parsley, salt, black pepper and paprika and sautee for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Putting All Ingredients Together:

In a deep bowl, add the yogurt, olive oil and egg. Mix vigorously until all three ingredients are mixed well.

Using a brush, spread a small amount of this newly created mixture in a large Pyrex dish. This is to prevent the Phyllo sheets sticking to the Pyrex dish.

Open the Phyllo dough package. Place a damp cloth on top so that the Phyllo sheets do not dry out. The Phyllo dough sheets can be found in the frozen section of most markets. These are the same dough sheets that are used for baklava.

Place one sheet of the Phyllo dough in the Pyrex dish on top of the yogurt, olive oil and egg mixture spread. Dip your brush in this mixture and brush the Phyllo sheet. Do this one by one until half of the Phyllo sheets are used up. (Some people brush the yogurt-olive oil-egg mixture on every 3-4 Phyllo sheets, but I have found that it turns out better if you do it one by one). After you have layered half of the phyllo dough, spread the meat filling on top of the Phyllo dough. Add another sheet of the phyllo dough and butter it. Continue the process of brushing each Phyllo dough sheet and placing them on top of each other until all the Phyllo sheets are used up. If you have any of the yogurt-olive oil-egg mixture left over, pour it on top and spread it evenly with a brush.

Bake at 350º in the middle rack of the oven for 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Let's Have Some Fun!
A couple weeks ago, I was tagged by Pixen. As a result of being tagged, I am supposed to reveal 7 facts about myself and tag 7 other bloggers. I had previously been tagged through e-mails but these things never got my interest, so I have never followed up. I will however follow up with this one. Here we go…7 facts about myself:

1. I never thought I’d ever have so much interest in cooking when I was young. I always thought my mom would be cooking for me for the rest of my life. Although, if I had lived in Turkey, she probably would. My mom’s food would be great but, I am also very pleased with discovering my new hobby.

2. Snakes? Keep them away; I have a snake phobia which developed in the past couple years. I cannot even stand to see a snake on TV. Therefore, I cannot spend any time in forests hiking during the summer, something I really used to enjoy. I am even getting goose bumps right now just as I write these words involving the S…. word!

3. The first and only time I flew to Turkey with a non Turkish Airlines was when I was a student and that airline offered options for a meal. Just out of curiosity, I ordered the “muslim dinner” (whatever that was supposed to mean) and I was so disappointed even though I didn't know what to expect. Not to mention, my food tray came much earlier than everybody else’s! It was weird.

4. I love reading, but I only read non-fiction books. I do not remember the last time I read a fiction book. Maybe I take life too seriously, but I like to learn things when I read. I know that kind of takes the fun out of it... Although, I enjoy learning.

5. I used to work with someone who did not even own a stove because she thinks cooking is a waste of time! (I know this is not a fact about me, but it’s a fact that I knew this person) Does that count?

6. I have written some things in the past with the intention of creating a book, but I lost interest and left it alone. Not sure if I’ll get back to it, but I also found out that I like writing poems.

7. I am more of a listener than a talker. Although if you ask my husband, he’ll probably tell you just the opposite. I have to admit, he may be right sometimes.

Here are the 7 bloggers I am tagging (I won’t be offended if you do not play, but I hope you have some fun):

Get to know Croatia
Mimi Cooks
Organically Cooked
Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

The Rules for Being Tagged:

1. Link to the tagger (my blog) on your blog
2. Reveal 7 facts about yourself
3. Tag 7 other bloggers, list their blogs and let them know they have been tagged
4. Have fun!

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