Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Turkish sausage sandwich can be prepared in numerous ways. To create this sandwich, I used whatever I had on hand. It is easy to be creative in making a sandwich with Turkish sausage, so use your creativity. The best part of the sandwich is the sausage, so anything will go with it. Enjoy.
Note: Turkish sausage can be found in Turkish markets or Mediterranean stores.
1 Turkish sausage ring (1 lb package) or any other hard sausage
8 slices of kaşar cheese (pale yellowish sheep’s cheese) or any other hard cheese
4 hamburger buns or hoagies or 1 quartered baggett
2 green bell peppers (sliced thick)
2 tomatoes (sliced)
Pickled small peppers for garnishing
3-4 green onions for garnishing
½ tomato for garnishing
½ green bell pepper for garnishing
Cut the sausage ring in half right in the middle. Each half will make two sandwiches. Cut each half in 3-4 slices lengthwise in thickness of 1/3 of an inch. Some of the pieces may be smaller than others due to the shape of the sausage. You also may adjust the length of the sausages according to the bread you are using.
Heat a non-stick pan. Place the sausage slices in the hot pan for two minutes on each side. Do not add any oil or butter, as the sausage will be cooked in its own fat. Spread as much mayo as you want on the bread. Put the sausage slices on the bottom of the sandwich. Place the cheese on top of the sausage. Add the tomatoes and green peppers to the sandwich and enjoy with yogurt or cacık.
Serve with hot pickled small peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Similar to other seafood, lobsters also need extra attention as to how much they are cooked. When they are cooked too long, the lobster meat has a tendency to be rubbery and tasteless.
The seasoning for these lobsters is Turkish/Mediterranean style, but you may alter it anyway you desire.
4 lobster tails (any size)
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
Wash the lobster tails. Using a sharp knife cut the lobster tails lengthwise from the middle. Cut out the top portion of the shell with kitchen shears or with a knife so that the flesh of the lobster meat is exposed. Be careful not to leave tiny pieces of the shell on the meat.
Sprinkle the lobster meat with salt and paprika. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Broil for about 7-8 minutes. Serve with potatoes or rice and vegetables.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
For those of you, who have never shucked oysters, when shucking oysters, make sure you have a special oyster shucking knife along with a thick towel. The first time I purchased fresh oysters, I had the seafood guy in my market show me how to do it. Even with that, I found it very difficult to shuck oysters. It can be very dangerous if you hand with the knife slips while shucking the oyster. So, be careful.
You may add any other spices prior to broiling as it all depends on a person’s taste. Serve with lemon wedges and enjoy.
Pinch of salt
½ tsp paprika
Shuck the oysters. Sprinkle with salt and paprika. Squeeze lemon on top and broil for 3-4 minutes on the top shelf of the oven broiler. Enjoy as appetizers.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
This recipe was inspired by a cookbook that included recipes from Russia, Germany and Eastern Europe. If I recall correctly, the inspiration for this recipe came from the Russian part of the cookbook. The fennel and caraway seeds added an aroma that is out of the ordinary. The fresh dill used for garnishing purposes came out of my herbs in my small balcony.
This simple, yet healthy and delicious meal will keep you very satisfied.
1 lb salmon fillet
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
4-5 sprigs of dill for decoration
Heat your oven to 350º.
Place the salmon fillet on a Pyrex dish. Rub the fish fillet with the ingredients equally on each side. Cover with aluminum foil.
When the oven is ready, bake fish covered for 15 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 15-20 minutes uncovered. Place on serving plates and decorate with dill. Enjoy with rice pilaf or potatoes.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
In addition, I will be busy these days, so I may not respond to your comments or questions immediately. However, I will still be posting new recipes and checking my e-mails and comments as much as I can, since I really enjoy reading them.
Now about the recipe…If you like to indulge in seafood, this is the perfect meal that comprises of different types of seafood in one pot. If you desire, you may add a few other seafood such as scallops or calamari to the recipe. You may also adjust the spices to your liking as it may be too spicy for some. Enjoy with a nice piece of bread or pasta.
1 lb mussels
1 lb clams
1 lb shrimp (cleaned and devined)
¼ cup olive oil
4-5 bay leaves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
Dill for garnishing (optional)
Wash the mussels and clams with cold water thoroughly and discard the opened shells. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large pan. Place the mussels and clams with the salt and all the spices. Let them cook for two minutes. Then, add the shrimp, wine and water. Let it simmer for 4-5 minutes. Garnish with dill. Enjoy with just bread or pasta.
Friday, November 27, 2009
When the tomato shaped persimmon is firm, usually the outer peel has a bright orange color or sometimes still greenish color while its flesh contains numerous super tiny, dense, brown spots which make the color of the persimmon flesh brownish. The denser the brown spots on the flesh, the sweeter the fruit. The fruit also may have from 4-8 brown seeds, although in some varieties, the seeds maybe non-existent or so small and fresh that they are unnoticeable. I think it depends on the variety of the fruit. This type can be consumed while firm or after softened.
The heart shaped ones can look ripened on the outside with a bright orange color, but still astringent inside. In order to lose its astringency, it has to become extremely soft. Similar to unripe dates, if you keep the unripe persimmons at room temperature or under the sun, they will ripen off the tree. In my opinion, the tomato shaped persimmons with the brown spot flesh are the best ones.
Persimmon branches and persimmon fruits also can make beautiful centerpieces at your home. I personally would never pay money for the branches with the fruit for my vase, but if I had a tree, I certainly use them to make my home beautiful.
In the area I grew up in Southern Turkey, persimmon trees grow easily. My father has many trees in his garden (again, I never had the chance to taste them). Persimmons were abundant while I was growing up and enjoyed them very much. I can eat many persimmons and never get sick of them. They are harvested between October and December in the Mediterranean region.
Persimmons also grow in Texas; in fact we went persimmon picking last year with some friends at a persimmon farm. My initial plan was to write about it last year, but since we found the owner of the farm really grouchy and rude to his customers (other customers too) I changed my mind, so I created this post instead.
Similar to figs and pomegranates, they are very expensive in the United States. However, since persimmons are very popular with Asians (and persimmons probably originated in Asia), Asian markets sell them at a much cheaper price. Instead of paying from $2.50 to $2.99 per persimmon at regular markets, at Asian stores you can find them at $1.50 to $1.95 per pound! Even here in Calgary, I went to Chinatown one day during lunch hour to search for persimmons. I found them at a very reasonable price.
Personally, I have never attempted to cook or bake with persimmons. Occasionally, I plan for cooking with them, but we end up eating the fruit raw as they are which I really enjoy. Probably the nutrients in the fruit are maximized when the fruit is raw. They are rich in antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron and may contain many other health benefits.
If you are not familiar with this fruit and never had it, do not miss any opportunity to taste it. Enjoy.
Note: The persimmons in both pictures are different. The persimmons in the first picture were purchased last year at the farmer’s market in Houston. The other ones with lighter color and cut in half are purchased from Calgary’s Chinatown. The persimmons purchased at the Chinatown were more delicious.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Similar to other kebabs, patlıcan kebab tastes much better when cooked on charcoal grill. This kebab can be placed in thin and wide bread and wrapped or can be eaten with rice or bulgur pilaf along with a bowl of cold plain yogurt. Grilled green peppers and tomatoes would be a perfect complement to this kebab.
½ lb ground beef
½ clove garlic
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
3 long and thin eggplants
1 tsp olive oil (optional)
½ clove garlic
¼ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
To prepare the meat, all the ingredients for the meat (garlic, cayenne, salt and black pepper) in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until all the ingredients are integrated. Let the meat sit for 30 minutes. This can also be prepared the night before.
Cut the eggplants in about 1 inch length. Place in a bowl and add the olive oil (if you desire), garlic, cayenne, black pepper and salt. Mix thoroughly and let them sit for 10 minutes.
If you are using bamboo skewers, soak the skewers in water for 30 minutes prior to cooking. When soaking the skewers is finished, oil the skewers slightly so that the meat does not stick to the skewers.
With your hands, pick about 1.5 tablespoons of the meat and roll with your hands to create a small meatball. Place one eggplant piece on the oiled skewer and follow with a piece of meatball. Alternate the meatballs and the eggplant pieces, until the skewer is full 3/4s of the way.
In your indoor oven broiler or outside grill, cook for about 8-10 minutes on each side. This can vary from oven to oven, so keep watching the cooking process in order to make the meat is not overcooked.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Hello from Calgary! I have been away from my blog for a while and I apologize to those of you whom I left your e-mails unanswered for a long time and/or published your comments late.
Many things have been going on in my life (in a good way), so I have not been able to dedicate much time to my blog since this summer. The biggest change is my husband and I are in Canada now. Due to my husband’s work situation, he has moved temporarily to Calgary, Canada recently. Luckily, my company also has an office in Calgary which allows me to work from the Calgary office. I will be traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Canada for a while. Yes, from one extreme to another, in terms of weather. Both of us look forward to this adventure while we’re still young and with no kids.
I have been here a few weeks and have not been doing much cooking yet. I have had the chance to browse and shop lightly at grocery stores in Calgary and all I can say is I miss my specialized upscale grocery store in Houston very much (sorry if I sound like a food snub). Not only the food is very pricey here (I pay almost double in Canada for regular food compared to what I used to pay in Houston for organic food), but also the variety of natural and organic food is very limited. This was no surprise as a Canadian colleague of mine had warned me prior to coming to Calgary about the food not being as good as in Houston. Although, there is one supermarket that sounds similar to my favorite Houston supermarket, but I have not explored the supermarket portion of it. Their prepared lunches were impressive though and what I would call, good quality.
When I first arrived to Canada, my husband’s solution to food was to eat sandwiches everyday! I thought he was joking, but no, he was not. Eating sandwich everyday? No way… I did stock up my pantry on basics and started cooking a little. Although I love my new kitchen very much, no heavy cooking will happen here since all my kitchen tools are in Houston. Mostly, I miss my knives. Someone who loves cooking has to have a decent set of knives. So far, my husband seems to enjoy the practical food I cook occasionally, but I know that once I go back to Houston, he will go back to his sandwiches!
Before I go on further, I would like to add that the next few months will be also eventful and I will not be blogging as much. After that, I look forward to starting blogging regularly. I miss reading my favorite blogs and as soon as I am completely back, I will have to check what I have missed. Now, I leave you with a post on another fruit of the autumn season.
Fall is the season for my favorite fruits. Pomegranates, were so abundant in my both late grandparents’ and neighbor’s gardens, I was taking them for granted, until I came to the U.S. For the past few years, my father also has been growing some pomegranate trees in his garden in the mountains, but I have not had the pleasure of tasting them since I usually visit in the wrong season. Pomegranates had not caught my eyes in grocery stores until the past few years in the States.
Pomegranates are grown and harvested from September to February in the Mediterranean region. Pomegranate fruit is made up of many small, pink/red juicy sacks containing tiny seeds forming tight clusters which are lined with a thin, soft, light yellow and bitter tissue. The tissue and the leathery skin of the fruit are bitter (yes, I’ve tasted them!). The size of a pomegranate can vary from a small apple size to a large grapefruit with a small crown on the upper part of the fruit. The outer part of a pomegranate can be yellow, pink or red.
Pomegranates grow on a tree with small leaves that have a glossy feel. The bright red flowers of the pomegranate tree can be a beautiful centerpiece at your table as can the branches and the leaves, not to mention the pomegranates themselves. Pomegranates can make an excellent centerpiece as they last long and do not spoil easily. My grandmother used to burry pomegranates under the soil in her garden for a year and they survived without spoiling!
In Turkey, pomegranates are used not only as fresh fruits, but also as sauces. The pomegranate sauce made from pomegranate juice is a wonderful tasty replacement for lemon or vinegar. Pomegranate sauce (or molasses) can make an incredible difference in the taste of ‘Kısır’ and ‘Dolma’.
Pomegranates are very rich in antioxidants, prevent blood clots, lower cholesterol and reduce various types of cancers just to mention a few.
If you do see pomegranates in your store and have not tried them before, give them a try! I have met some people who have never seen or heard of pomegranates. So, if you do not know how to eat a pomegranate, just follow these steps.
1) Slit a square around the narrow crown of the pomegranate with a sharp knife without removing the crown
2) Slit the pomegranate from the upper to the lower part from the four round corners of the fruit
3) Remove the crown
4) With your hands, separate the cut sections of the fruit
5) If you desire, you may remove all the seeds from the fruit and place in a bowl
6) You may also eat the seeds right out of the fruit
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Originating in the Middle East, these sweet fruits sit on top of date palm trees along with branches of feathery looking, hard, green leaves which are long and sharp. The thick, long stalk extending from the trunk of the tree carries the fruit in clusters, on long, yellow strands on its tip, resembling a broom. The fruit is oval shaped and varies in length approximately from 1-2.5 inches with a pit residing inside its flesh. The variety of the date palm determines its shape, size and color which range from yellow to red to brown.
Dates are astringent until fully mature and taste extremely sweet when ripe. The ripening process occurs during various stages and a different taste emerges with each stage. Unripe dates taste bitter, when fully ripened the skin of the dates will get wrinkly and soft allowing the skin to be removed effortlessly. The taste will be syrupy or honey-like when dates are completely ripe.
Harvest time for dates starts in September and continues during the following few months. They can be harvested prior to being fully ripe and ripen at room temperature.
Dates mainly grow in the Arabic countries where they are exposed to plenty of sun which is essential for their growth. In Turkey, the Mediterranean and Agean Sea regions have adequate climates to grow dates; therefore, date palm trees are very common in my province Hatay (Southern Turkey). My late grandparents had a date palm tree in their garden which bears red dates that are longer and sweeter than the yellow ones. The inner part of date is white regardless of the skin color. In my opinion, red dates are far more delicious than their yellow counterparts and my favorite stage is the crunchy and sweet stage. I recall a classmate in grade school bringing dates with her regularly from her family’s many date palm trees and sharing with me. If I am remembering correctly, she used to bring red and yellow ones, although the yellow dates were similar to the red ones in terms of shape. They looked different than what I have shown in the picture above.
This is another fruit that I had never seen outside Houston in the U.S. Although dry dates are widely available in the U.S., fresh dates are mainly sold at some Middle Eastern stores in states where large Arabic population exist, such as Michigan. This is the first time I have ever purchased dates. When I saw them the first time a few years ago, I thought they were not ripe enough and had forgotten the fact that they would ripen when left at room temperature! I just wish I could find red dates; then, I would purchase them regularly.
If you, like me, also develop a curiosity on the health benefits of fruit and vegetables you eat, you probably wonder about the health benefits of dates while reading this post. Dates are full of fiber, carotene, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, iron and antioxidants. They are also good for digestion, sore throat, colds and protection against heart diseases.
If you see fresh dates in your grocery store’s produce department or anywhere else, give them a try!
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The day I was shopping for eggplants, I did not find the regular long and thick eggplants that are usually used in Turkey for this dish at my grocery store, so I substituted with Chinese eggplants. The ideal eggplant is not the Chinese eggplant, but still works well. The short eggplants can also be used for this recipe; however I prefer the long eggplants.
6 long eggplants
1 cup olive oil
2-3 green long peppers (cut lengthwise)
2 tsp salt
For the Stuffing:
1 lb ground beef (96% lean)
3 ripe tomatoes (peeled and diced)
1 green long pepper (chopped)
½ onion (chopped finely)
2 cloves garlic (chopped finely)
¼ cup parsley (chopped finely)
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp salt
For the Sauce:
1½ cups water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp tomato paste
Peel eggplants in stripes as shown below without removing the stems.
Heat oil in a large frying pan and half fry the eggplants. The eggplants should be fried enough to be easily slashed, but not too mushy. Let the eggplants cool.
In the meantime, prepare the stuffing. Heat the 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan and place the ground beef. Cook the ground beef until it takes a brownish color. Add the onions and green peppers. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir. At the end, add the parsley and stir. The diced tomatoes can also be added inside the stuffing however this recipe will add it on top of the ground beef.
Let the stuffing cool. Slit each half-fried and already cooled eggplant from its belly lengthwise from the top, without detaching it. Salt the inside and the outside of the eggplants.
Stuff each slit eggplant with the ground beef stuffing.
Mix the diced tomatoes with the chopped garlic in a separate bowl. Place a couple spoonfuls on top of the ground beef.
Place a piece of green pepper on top and arrange in a deep baking pan.
Monday, September 7, 2009
For the longest time, I have been thinking about introducing various fruits that grow in Turkey in my blog. Procrastination can no longer continue and I am going to start with one of my favorite fruits, figs.
Figs come in variety of skin colors such as green, yellow, brown or red. The inner part of the fruit is full of tiny seeds that are sitting in a pink or red flesh. The size of this fruit can also vary. I have seen figs that are as small as a small apricot and as big as a peach.
Figs grow all over the Mediterranean region. Culinary usage of figs is pretty common in some Mediterranean countries. The fruit are hard with a dark green skin color when they are immature and become soft when they are harvested around late July, August and early September. Ripe figs are soft when touched, although when they are extremely ripe, their skin will break just with a single touch due to their fragility. Select figs that are soft, but not mushy. The firm ones are usually not ripe, hence will not be sweet.
Picking fruit from the fig tree needs caution as the milky white substance that is stored inside the leaves or the stem of the fig, can irritate and itch the skin. Another caveat is that fig trees can attract snakes, which actually prevents me from going to a fig farm and pick figs! I am not sure if this is a myth or not, but I have heard about it since I was little.
My grandparents used to have a few trees of figs one of which gave unusually large figs with a firm and dark green skin. The inside of the fruit had a vivid red color and a very sweet flavor. My recollection of the figs picked from my grandparents’ tree is still so alive. Albeit, I have no recollection of any snakes around the tree! My father also has a couple fig trees in his garden. Every year, he advises me to come home during the fig season (sometimes around the pomegranate and persimmon seasons, since he has these fruit trees too), but I usually end up going too early to pick any ripe figs or persimmons or pomegranates. I think I only made it home once during the fig season.
I have lived in quite a few states in the U.S. and I do not recall seeing figs anywhere until I moved to Texas. I only started to see figs in the past few years, in my grocery store which carries specialty foods. Not only do they sell figs, they sell brown Turkish figs. Hence, we regularly eat fresh Turkish figs during the summer for the past few years. Personally, I prefer them, plain, as a fruit. I have never attempted to cook with figs or eat them with honey. If the fruit is ripe, they are as sweet as honey, so I do not understand the addition of honey. I would however, like to try cooking with figs sometime.
Figs can also be dried. Most grocery stores in the U.S. carry dried figs. Dried Turkish figs are very popular and I have run into them often in the U.S. If I am not wrong, I think Turkey is the biggest producer and exporter of dried figs. A post on dried figs will be prepared sometime in the future.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Purslane is a wild, edible, succulent weed that is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. The nutritional richness of this vegetable was not known to me until recently, when I read an article about its nutritional facts. It tastes a little sour and kind of salty and with gooey substance inside its green leaves which are small and clustered around its pinkish stem. Purslane is perfect for culinary uses prior to blooming flowers. It is usually picked from gardens where it grows wild.
Since I was very little girl, purslane was always on the menu in the summers as a side dish, usually in the form of ‘cacık’, yogurt with purslane and garlic. Turkish cooks use purslane for salads, cacık, sauté (similar to spinach) and even soups. I have not had the chance to experiment with different recipes of purslane, however my two favorites are: purslane salad and cacık with purslane.
This purslane was purchased from the Greek farmer at the farmer’s market and this summer was the first time I came across purslane. I had never seen it in the States previously, although when I walk, I see some tiny purslanes coming out of cracks in the sidewalks! If I had a garden, I would be all set for purslane…
1 bunch purslane (about 3 ½ cups when chopped up)
2 green onions (sliced thinly)
1 medium tomato (diced)
1 small green pepper or half of a long pepper (sliced thinly)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sumac
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white vinegar
Remove and discard the thick stems of the purslane. Choose and cut the fresher stems about an inch in length. If some of the purslane is blooming, remove that portion. Wash thoroughly and drain. Place in a salad bowl. Add the tomatoes, the green peppers, salt, sumac, cayenne, olive oil and vinegar. Toss and serve.
Monday, August 24, 2009
This stew is very popular in Turkey in the summer months. Depending on your preference, you may cook it with beef or lamb. I did not add any meat, since most of the time I prefer to have my vegetable dishes without meat. Turkish cuisine also includes grilled or fried okra which also can make a delicious meal.
Although he is not a picky eater, my husband loathes okra, so okra is not cooked frequently in our home. For the sake of my blog, I decided to cook okra before the season was over. I do have a tendency to lag in posting my recipes, but this time I managed to get it out before the summer is gone. I purchased these this weekend from the farmer’s market and they turned out to be very fresh. The stew was soft, light and tasty with a rich tomato sauce. As for the lifelong okra hater, he manifested his dislike by not even tasting the okra since his favorite green bean stew was also on the menu.
1½ lbs okra
3 medium ripe tomatoes (peeled and diced)
1 small green pepper (sliced)
¼ yellow onion (chopped)
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
3 tbsp tomato sauce
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ tsp black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 ½ tsp salt
2 cups water
Wash and drain the okra. Peel the stem of the okra in the shape of a cone rather than cutting it flat in order to hinder any gooey substance escaping the okra. Heat olive oil in a deep pot. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until the onions are transparent. Add the green peppers and the tomatoes and sauté for a few more minutes. Dissolve the tomato sauce in the 2 cups water. Pour into the pot. Add the lemon juice, salt, black pepper and let it simmer for a few minutes. Add the okra and stir well, so that the okra absorbs all the flavors. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes and then turn to low and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Serve hot with rice pilaf.