Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stuffed Peppers with Chicken (Tavuklu Biber Dolması)



The first thing that came to my mind when I saw these peppers at the farmer’s market was “Stuffed Peppers”. The bell peppers were perfect for stuffing as they were small. Most of the bell peppers we see at regular markets are oversized and not a perfect fit for stuffing. I was very pleased.

A variety of stuffing can be used for this dish. If interested in different stuffing recipes, please see my Stuffed Grape Leaves with Olive Oil (Zeytinyağlı Yaprak Sarması) and Stuffed Mixed Vegetables (Karışık Dolma) recipes under Stuffed Dishes category. Currently, I only have two, but this list will grow eventually.

This dish uses ground chicken in the stuffing. My mother sometimes uses chicken instead of beef for stuffing dolmas. It really gives it a great taste. This is the first time I used chicken for dolmas myself and I am sorry I had not used it all this time.

Now let’s get to the recipe. It is not as complicated as it looks and does not consume a lot of your time. Give it a try and you will love it! No question.


Vegetables:

15 small bell peppers (you may also use eggplants, zucchinis or tomatoes)

For the Stuffing:

1½ cups short grain rice
1 lb ground chicken
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
1 large chopped garlic clove (or 2 small ones)
Juice of 1 lime
½ chopped onion
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp red pepper paste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

For Cooking the Pepper Dolmas:

1 large sliced garlic clove
1 lime
2 sprigs of mint
1 tsp salt
2 cups water

Mix all the ingredients for stuffing with your hands to make sure all the ingredients are integrated. Set aside. I always use first aid gloves for this as I do not want to make my hands take different colors.

With a sharp paring knife, cut square on the top portion of the pepper and remove the stems from the peppers. Then remove the seeds. Do not discard the stem that you removed as it will be used as a cap for the peppers after they are stuffed.


Stuff each pepper up to the top but leave a 1/2 of an inch of room so that when the rice expands after cooking, it will have room.

Close with the pepper cap your removed earlier.


Arrange in a large pot.


Once all the peppers are stuffed, sprinkle the peppers with salt. Squeeze the lime on top of the peppers, throw in the sliced garlic and the mint. Add the water and place two-three small plates to add weight on the peppers so that they stay compact. Cover and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook another 30-40 minutes. After turning the heat off, keep the lid closed for about 15 minutes so it still continues cooking with the heat inside the pot. Serve warm along with yogurt or cacık.


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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thai Style Shrimp with Oyster Mushrooms



A while back I bought a Thai cookbook and got really Thai food frenzy. I purchased any kind of Thai sauces and pastes that I could find in stores without thinking about the recipes I will be making which I admit was not very wise. I was experimenting cooking Thai food at home and my husband was experimenting eating it! He was not very open to different foods before we got married. Now, he loves trying foods from all around the world. Those Thai recipes from the cookbook were really good. I rarely attempted to divert from the cookbook as I was not very familiar with cooking Thai food. Now that I am still left with some sauces and pastes and other stuff, I am creating new dishes employing Thai ingredients. Sometimes they work, sometimes they do not.

This shrimp dish with oyster mushrooms turned out pretty well. Therefore, I am sharing it here. It is simple, yet delicious. I used the oyster mushrooms and the scallions I bought at the farmer's market. The spiciness may be lacking, but I did not have any chilies on hand. Feel free to add them.


1 lb jumbo shrimp
¾-1 lb fresh oyster mushrooms
2 large scallions (chopped)
2 red chilies (optional)
5 leaves of basil (preferably Thai basil)
2 cloves garlic (sliced)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp canola oil
Thai ginger peanut sauce
1 tsp salt

Cut the mushroom cluster in a way where each piece will have 3-4 of the mushrooms attached. Chop the chilies if you choose to add some spiciness to the recipe. Salt the shrimp. Heat the oil on medium heat in a large pan. Add the garlic and chilies. Sautee for 3-4 minutes, add the Thai ginger peanut sauce and the fish sauce to the garlic. Stir and add the mushrooms. Cook for 2 minutes before adding the shrimp. Add the dried and fresh basil. Stir for 3 minutes and add the scallions. Allow 2 minutes to cook after adding the scallions. Serve with plain rice. Garnish with fresh basil and red chilies if you wish.


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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Farmer’s Market Salad with Turkish Dressing




I am taking a break from regular Turkish food recipes and posting the dishes I made using the vegetables I purchased from the Farmer’s Market last weekend. Let’s start with a salad. This salad incorporates mizuna; a peppery mild salad green with feathery leaves, escarole, red and white radishes, tomatoes and green onions (all purchased from the local farmer’s market). I could have also added cucumbers that I bought at the market but we ate them before the salad was made. If you have them on hand, definitely throw them in.

I had never tasted mizuna or white radishes before. As the name suggests, mizuna is a Japanese salad green and used mainly for salads, but can also be used in soups and noodles. I enjoyed the taste of this green, healthy vegetable. Red radishes are very common in Turkish salads, however not white ones. One noticeable observation was that the red radishes are white inside and the white radishes are red inside. That got my attention, but also created a colorful appearance to my salad.

The integration of all these veggies with the classic Turkish dressing was a perfect match. I will be making this salad again.

20 escarole leaves
20 mizuna leaves
4 white radishes
6 red radishes
3 tomatoes
3 green onions
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp salt

Chop the escarole and mizuna leaves and place in a large bowl. Cut the radishes in half and slice. Slice the green onions and chop the tomatoes. Add to the bowl. Sprinkle salt. Add olive oil and then the vinegar. Toss and serve.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Adana Kebab (Adana Kebabı)



Adana kebab comes from the city of Adana located in Southern Turkey. It is the fifth largest city of Turkey and very rich in food culture. Aside from kebaps, it is also famous for other types of scrumptious food.

Adana kebab consists of ground lamb (beef may also be used but original Adana Kebab is made with ground lamb) and various spices. Skewers of minced meat are created using long wide skewers and grilled on a charcoal grill. Adana kebab is served with an onion salad called “zerzavat” on a bread similar to pita. If you only had a chance to try this bread, you would certainly love it. Unfortunately, I have not seen this bread here in the States with the same taste acquired in Turkey. I think the reason for that is that this bread is cooked in a special oven made from clay using wood fire in Turkish bakeries. The bread is thin, long and oval shaped. If you are familiar with Turkish bakeries, you probably know what I am talking about. Just passing by a Turkish bakery will make you hungry due to all the aroma filled in air.

One can find many different versions of Adana kebab in Turkey as well as abroad; however, I can assure you that the best one is made in Adana, Turkey. When you go to a Turkish restaurant, you will most likely see Adana kebab on the menu. It may not be as good as Adana’s original kebap, but it will still be very good. If you feel like making Adana kebab at home, here is a recipe (my version).


1 lb ground beef or lamb
3-4 cloves of garlic (chopped finely)
½ cup parsley (finely chopped)
½ small white or yellow onion (chopped finely)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 ½ tsp salt

10 bamboo skewers
6 green cubannelle peppers
6 roma tomatoes

Mix all the ingredients and knead for 5 minutes to make sure all the ingredients are mixed well. Let the meat sit over night in the refrigerator or for a few hours. Soak the bamboo skewers for 30 minutes prior to cooking the meat. Take an egg sized amount of the meat and place on the skewer and keep pressing so that the meat occupies 3/4s of the skewer evenly.


Heat the oven broiler and place on a pan that allows dripping. Cook the meat for 5-6 minutes on each side. Serve with rice pilaf, grilled/broiled green peppers and tomatoes. You may also serve inside flat bread (i.e. pita) with zerzavat which is an onion and parsley mixture.

Zerzavat (Onion Salad):

2 red onions
¼ cup fresh parsley (chopped finely)
1 tsp sumac
½ tsp salt
Lemon wedges

Cut onions in half lengthwise. Slice thinly. Add the sumac and parsley and mix well. Add salt just before serving so that they do not become soggy. If you like it with lemon, squeeze one of the lemon wedges on top.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saturday Produce Shopping



As I went to bed on Friday night, I had planned to get up early and go to the local farmer’s market on Saturday morning. The farmer’s market is literally 2-3 minutes away from where I live. A couple years ago, I had visited this farmer’s market when I used to live a little further; about 10-15 minutes away, however I was very disappointed with the limited number of stands and produce. With that disappointment, I never went there again. Although since I moved closer, I have been meaning to check it out again, but for 2 years now I have not, even though I am only a couple blocks away.

This week I was conversing with a coworker who has a farmer friend who brings his vegetables to the local farmer’s market. This reminded me again about the farmer’s market and motivated me a little more to go there. The farmer’s market is open between 8 a.m.-12 p.m. on Saturdays and 3p.m.-7 p.m. on Wednesdays. Wednesdays never work for me as I am beat after a long work day and feel like only going home and just relaxing.

While curled up in bed reading late on Friday night, I realized how exhausted I was and not sure if I could make it to the farmer’s market in the morning. I wanted a good night sleep. I woke up around 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning after a good night sleep with no disruptions, but I still felt tired. I decided to forget the farmer’s market and continue sleeping! That’s what I did. Then, I woke up again just before 11:00 a.m. and still felt tired. This time though, I knew I could not fall asleep again. Rolling out of bed was a little easier this time. I got ready and drove to the farmer’s market as my husband was still in bed!

With the cool, crisp air outside, I would have liked to walk there, but I was not sure I could carry all the bags of produce. When I arrived there, I had a shock when I saw the crowd, the variety and abundance of fruits and vegetables and other stuff. They had grown tremendously since I had visited the market 2 years ago. I realized how much I had missed all this time living just a couple blocks away from it!

There was a lovely band playing nice music so people could listen to while shopping. A very enticing coffee stand was around the corner and you could buy a cup of coffee with free refills. I never get refills as one cup of coffee is plenty for me, but it is nice to know free refill is available. You could buy bags of your favorite coffee. A good variety from light to strong coffee from different countries existed. If you prefer, they grind it for you. After sampling a cup, I did get some of that coffee.

The farmer’s market also carried soap bars, desserts, breads, flowers stands and some other stuff. I only purchased produce though.

I found the perfect small bell peppers which are very suitable for stuffed peppers. Usually it is difficult to find small bell peppers here in the States. In Turkey, we use them for stuffing. I was preparing this week’s menu in my head as I was sipping my coffee and strolling through each stand. There were also very nice looking oyster mushrooms which I have not decided how to cook. They looked too good not to buy. I also found radishes, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, salad greens, grapefruit and persimmons full of vitamins. As I am very health conscious, this shopping experience at the market made me very happy. I do purchase a lot of vegetables and fruits in my local supermarket too. In fact, on many occasions other customers have commented on how I have only healthy stuff in my cart. My cart lacks any kinds of sodas, preserved, frozen, canned foods, as well as junk food. The only thing that I cannot resist to buy at any market is chocolate.

The prices at the market were a little more expensive than where I usually shop, but definitely worth it. The farmer’s produce is brought from their farm to the market the same day. The supermarket where I do my weekly shopping does also buy produce from local farmers which I enjoy. Their prices are a little expensive compared to other stores, but they do support local farmers. It looks like I will be visiting the farmer’s market weekly from now on.

I came home happy with all my shopping. I spread all the produce on the counter and took a few pictures. Maybe I have more pictures than needed, but the produce is so colorful and beautiful, I couldn’t send the pictures to the recycle bin. These looked to good to pass up and not write about on my blog. I had to share. It looks like there will be lots of veggie dishes in the menu this week. I will post the recipes on my blog in future dates.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sauteed Okra (Sotelenmiş Bamya)



Have you ever eaten okra? For those of you who have not eaten okra, you are missing out! Okra is made of a green pod that contains small seeds and a gooey substance. The dislike of okra by some people can be explained by the mucilage (sticky juices) that is stored inside each pod as well as the soft texture of cooked okra.

My husband is one of those people who hate okra. He is not a picky eater, but since he was very little, he says he hated okra. The reason for this hatred towards okra is due to its soft texture attained after being cooked in a stew. I do purchase okra every once in a while. Each time, he eats just a little bit of it.

Okra is a very common vegetable in Turkish cuisine. It is cultivated in areas with warm temperatures. In Southern Turkey, I have seen vast fields of okra as the temperature there is very suitable for growing this vegetable. Also, it is very easy to find okra in Southern of the U.S. In fact, while living in the Midwest and the Northeast for so many years, I do not recall seeing this vegetable up there. It was very pleasing to be able to find okra and so many other veggies and fruits here in Southern part of the country.

In Turkey, okra is usually cooked with tomato sauce as a stew and that is my favorite. Okra can also be fried, grilled and sautéed. This recipe is very simple and does not take a long time to cook. It is perfect for a work night.

¾ lb okra
1 small yellow onion (sliced)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
Pinch of Salt

Wash and drain the okra. Peel the stem of the okra in the shape of a cone rather than cutting it flat. If you cut the head of the okra flat, the mucilage of the okra will come out and make it mushy while cooking. Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add the okra and sautee for 5 minutes stirring continuously. Add the sliced onion, the ground black pepper, paprika and salt. Sautee for another 5-10 minutes until the okra is slightly soft, but also crunchy. Serve warm with rice pilaf.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Red Lentil Fingers (Mercimekli Köfte)



This dish is made all over Turkey and served as an appetizer, main course, side dish and as an afternoon snack. My first attempt to make this dish was not successful. Neither were my second or third attempts. The reason is because you have to get the measurement of water, lentils and bulgur just right. If you make this recipe and it turns out runny, just put it in the oven for 10-15 minutes before adding the green onions and parsley. You may even use the microwave instead of oven. This is what I did when I encountered this problem during my prior attempts and it worked perfectly.

During grad school, the Turkish professor at the university used to make these lentil koftes when she invited the few Turkish students to her house. They tasted so good. I loved them so much that I couldn’t help but fill up on these koftes while other excellent foods were waiting to be eaten.

If you ever feel like having a light lunch or dinner, these are very easy to make. This finger food also can be perfect for taking to a pot luck dinner. Wrap in lettuce leaves and enjoy!

2 cups red lentils
2 cups bulgur (fine grind)
5 ½ cups water
2 bunches green onions (chopped)
1 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
½ - ¾ cup olive oil
2 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp red pepper paste
1 ½ tsp salt

5-6 leaves of romaine lettuce

Wash the lentils and place in a large pot with water. Cook on medium heat until the red lentils are cooked and soft. Usually about a half hour should be sufficient for the lentils to be soft. Add the bulgur to the lentils, mix thoroughly and cover for a half hour. The bulgur will become soft from the moisture in the pot. The mixture of the lentils and bulgur will thicken. Place in a deep bowl and let it cool.

In the mean time, heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the onions and sautee or 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the tomato paste, red pepper paste and stir until the pastes dissolve. Add the parsley and stir for 1 minute. Pour this sauce on the lentils and bulgur. Sprinkle the salt on it. Once the oil cools, knead the contents of the bowl. Mix thoroughly to avoid lumps and to make sure ingredients are integrated well.

Prepare a large plate and place the lettuce leaves on it. Pull an egg sized amount of the mixture, hold it in your palm and press it gently with your fingers. Place it on the lettuce bed. Keep doing this until the lettuce bed is covered with the lentil fingers. You may create a lettuce wrap with the red lentil fingers by placing a red lentil finger in a lettuce leaf and wrapping it. Serve at room temperatures.

Tip: Whenever I make any food that involves kneading or mixing with hands, I use gloves to protect my hands and nails. If you knead bulgur dough that involves tomato or red pepper paste, your hands will take a reddish color. Therefore, I started using regular gloves that are used for First Aid or the ones you see at your doctor's office. At first they may feel uncomfortable to cook with, but they do help protect your hands and nails. I think they come in one size so if your hands are small, the gloves may not fit well. In this case, I tie them at the wrist so they fit correctly.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Chicken in the Pot (Tencerede Tavuk)




1 ¾ lb skinless boneless chicken thighs
1 lb cherry tomatoes
1 large red bell pepper (sliced lengthwise)
5 small white potatoes (quartered)
½ lb cremini mushrooms (cut in half)
1/3 lb pearl onions
5 garlic cloves
7 sprigs fresh oregano
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add the chicken. Turn the chicken pieces over when they take a brownish color. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on both sides of the chicken. Feel free to adjust salt and pepper according to your liking after adding the rest of the ingredients. I always taste the food before deciding if it needs more salt or not. Add potatoes, pearl onions, red bell pepper and mushrooms. Stir all the ingredients in the pot. Cook for three minutes and add the rest of the ingredients except parsley and stir again. Cover pot and cook for 50 minutes on low heat. Turn the heat off and add parsley to the pot and cover again for five minutes. Remove the fresh oregano and rosemary sprigs before serving.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Bulgur Pilaf with Almonds and Pine Nuts (Bademli ve Çamfıstıklı Bulgur Pilavı)



Bulgur is a versatile staple in Turkey which is cooked in pilafs and many other dishes such as Stuffed Bulgur Shells, Bulgur Salad (Kısır) similar tabouleh and etc. Bulgur pilafs are widely consumed in Turkey using very diverse ingredients. This is another dish that comes from the times of the Ottoman Empire era.

Bulgur pilafs are usually served with meats, vegetables and stews. Using your creativity, it is very possible to create numerous bulgur pilaf recipes. This recipe is using bulgur pilaf with almonds and pine nuts which are common ingredients for pilafs.

2 cups bulgur (medium grain)
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup slit and peeled almonds
4 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt

Heat olive oil in a medium pot. Add the slit and peeled almonds along with the pine nuts. Sautee until both the pine nuts and the almonds take a brownish color. Add the bulgur and sautee 2-3 minutes. Add the water and salt. Adjust the salt to your liking. Cook on medium heat until the water boils. Once the water boils turn the heat to low and simmer until the water of the bulgur is evaporated (about 20 minutes).