Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cowboy Steak with Turkish Coffee (Türk Kahveli Kovboy Biftek)

It is time to post a traditionally not Turkish recipe, but with a little Turkish twist. As most Texans are aware, the annual ‘2009 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’ is currently going on and ending this Sunday March 22, 2009. So, you will see the rodeo theme or something related to it almost everywhere in Houston. When I was doing my grocery shopping a couple weeks back, I noticed the ‘cowboy steaks’ that were on weekly special. I purchased one (Each one was huge!).

While waiting at the check out line, I randomly grabbed a food magazine and just randomly opened it. The magazine turned out to be “Eat Smart with Ellie Krieger” and the page I opened had a recipe for cowboy steak! The most interesting part is this steak was with a coffee and chili rub. I had read about traditional cowboy steaks being cooked with coffee in the past, so it seemed very appealing. I skimmed through the ingredients and the recipe and a light went up in my head as to how to cook the steak. The coffee sounded too interesting so I could not pass it up, however I substituted it with Turkish coffee and used Turkish condiments for the recipe.

Turkish coffee deserves a post by itself, so I will post a Turkish coffee recipe sometime. If you are a coffee lover and if you have not had Turkish coffee, I bet you will like it.

Back to the recipe, it really turned out very good. The taste was so unique and delightful. The coffee flavor was not overpowering as I expected; it was just right. You may use any kind of steak you like; it does not have to be a cowboy steak. Note that leftovers can make great sandwiches with your favorite vegetables.

1 cowboy steak (or any other steak)
2 tbsp hot red pepper paste
1 tsp ground Turkish coffee
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (Leaves separated, approx. 1 ½ tsp)
1 tsp dried mint
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

Open 4-5 small slits on each side of steak. Rub the salt all over the steak. In a large bowl, add all the ingredients together except 1 tbsp olive oil which will be used for searing the steak. Create a thick paste by integrating all the ingredients. If you prefer, you may add 1-2 tsp water to make it a little runny. Rub this thick paste on the steak and let it marinate for about 30 minutes. The sauce will be able to flow inside the slits which will make the meat tastier.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sear the steak 10 minutes on each side. This depends on the thickness of the steak. The steak I bought was very thick so I had to cook it longer. Once both sides are seared, place the pan in the broiler. You may place the steak in another pan or a Pyrex dish. Broil each side for 10 minutes. This should cook the steak medium. If you prefer it rare or medium well, extend or reduce cooking time in the broiler accordingly. Serve with your favorite vegetables.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Dolma with Dried Eggplants (Kuru Patlican Dolması)

Have you ever had dried eggplants? Dried eggplants are very evocative of my childhood. My regular readers, may think that I have numerous foods that bring back my childhood memories. That is because I had not had most these foods since I was a young girl. Now that I am exploring cooking (especially Turkish cooking), I am recalling many foods that I have missed all these years. The first 10 years I had been in the U.S., I was almost completely removed from Turkish language, culture, people and hence the wonderful traditional food. A time comes when one does feel the reconnection with ones past; sooner or later. To me, this started when I started running into some very familiar Mediterranean ingredients in stores and got excited. Yes, I used to get excited when I saw Mediterranean foods or ingredients and was ecstatic when I saw Turkish brands. It was so rare or non-existent in most of the places I had lived.

Before I get off the subject, last summer when I visited home and was getting ready to come back to my other home, I asked my mother if she had any dried eggplants. It was the middle of the summer and thus fresh eggplants were everywhere; so no one had them.

I did leave home without the dried eggplants last summer and actually forgot about them, until recently when my sister visited home. My lovely mother had sent me bunch of dried eggplants with her. I had forgotten about them, but apparently, she had not. I guess that is how mothers are. I was very excited about them and did not take me long before I made dolmas with the dried eggplants.

Since ancient times, Mediterranean people dried eggplants, tomatoes, peppers and okra beneath the hot, intense Mediterranean sun during the summer in preparation for the winter. In the old times, vegetables were not always available throughout the year. Nowadays, we can find almost any vegetable or fruit year round due to agricultural advances; however, vegetables and fruits always taste the best when in season. In any case, the tradition of drying vegetables comes from lack of the vegetables during a certain season. The vegetables are salted and left on top of the roofs or balconies of houses in large trays or in long strings. This tradition still continues; not because of lack of vegetables, but because of that distinct flavor that comes out of dried vegetables. They are still sold in various markets in Turkey and maybe here in the U.S. too.

I have also seen eggplants cut in long pieces and dried for purposes of stew with tomato sauce similar to ‘Patlıcan Bastırma’. It would be cooked the same way by substituting fresh eggplants with dried ones. This recipe shows eggplants that are carved inside and dried to be used for making dolmas. This is what I was yearning for. So, here is the recipe.

Note: 50 eggplants may sound like as a large number, but they were very small. My mom said she particularly selected them small as they look cuter and easier to eat. If you have larger eggplants, you will need fewer than 50 for sure.

50 small dried eggplants
4 small tomatoes (cut up in small cubes to close the eggplants)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove
3 sprigs mint
2 cups water

Any stuffing; vegetarian (rice), beef or chicken will work perfectly. I used the stuffing with chicken from my Stuffed Bell Peppers recipe.

For the Chicken 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

Fill a large pot with water and boil. When it boils, turnoff the heat and add the dried eggplants. Let them soak for about 20-25 minutes. The eggplants will become soft after soaking.

Wash the inside and outside of the eggplant with hot water 3 times. Since the eggplants are dried, we want to make sure we get rid of any dust they have collected. Let the eggplants drain after washing.

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.

Stuff each eggplant 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 the eggplants with a small cube of the tomato.

Arrange in a large pot.

Squeeze the lemon on top of the stuffed eggplants and throw in the sliced garlic and the mint. Add the water and place two-three small plates to add weight on the eggplants so that they stay compact. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook another 30-40 minutes.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stuffed Collard Green Leaves with Bulgur (Bulgurlu Kara Lahana Sarması)

Since vegetables in the cabbage family are in season now, I am making an effort to post my recipes that involves cabbage or its cousins before the season is over. I am a believer of eating vegetables that are in season, although I do occasionally make exceptions.

Stuffed cabbage was another dish that I strongly disliked when I was a kid, especially, the kind with bulgur stuffing. Obviously, similar to many children, I did not understand good food. Instead of cabbage, I used collard greens in this recipe which are mostly popular in the Black Sea region of Turkey. You may also use cabbage with this stuffing. Since I also had a cabbage on hand, I did roll a few of the sarmas using cabbage as you can see in the picture.

For Stuffing:

2 cups bulgur (medium grain)
1 tbsp fresh mint (chopped)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp red pepper paste
4 cloves of garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp cumin
½ cup olive oil
2 tsp salt

1 ½ cup hot water (for soaking bulgur)

For Rolling and Cooking Sarmas:

2 bunches collard greens
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves (sliced)
1 tsp salt
2 cups water

For Garnishing:

1 roasted red bell pepper
3-4 sprigs parsley
½ lemon (sliced)

Soak the bulgur in a large bowl with hot water. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 15-20 minutes until the bulgur is soft. If it is not completely soft, that is fine as the bulgur will be cooking later.

Add all the stuffing ingredients to the bulgur. Mix well with your hands so that all the ingredients are married together.

Cut the stems of the collard greens and discard.

If the collard leaves are too large (most likely they will be), cut them in half or quarters. Half-fill water in a large pot and boil. Put the collard green leaves in the boiling water for 1 minute and remove. Shock the leaves under cold water to stop the cooking process. Gently squeeze the leaves to remove excess water. Let them drain completely.

On a cutting board or a plate, place a leaf the smooth side down.

The wider part of the leaf should be toward you. Place a spoonful of bulgur stuffing inside the leaf.

(I had a picture that displayed the stuffing inside the the leaf, but I must have inadvertently deleted it when I was editing the pictures. After wasting more than an hour trying to retrieve it, I still couldn't find it, so I gave up. You will just have to use your imagination!)

Close the sides and start rolling. This will hinder any of the stuffing to escape the leaf while cooking.

Follow this process for each leaf and arrange neatly in a pot.

When you are finished arranging the sarmas, sprinkle the salt on top. Arrange the sliced garlic on top of the sarmas. Drizzle the olive oil and add the water. Place a plate or two on top of the sarmas so that they do not float around during cooking.

Cook for 10 minutes covered on medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 more minutes. Be cautious not to cook the sarmas too long since the collard greens will be too soft and torn. Garnish with roasted red bell peppers, parsley and lemon slices. Enjoy cold or warm.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cabbage and Leek Soup (Lahana ve Pırasa Çorbası)

It was one of those days when I had cabbage and leeks on hand and just did not know what to do with them. It was a little cold that day, so I thought “Why not make a soup out of them?” I added whatever vegetables I had in the fridge to the soup.

Cabbage soup is common in Turkey, but I do not recall eating leek soups often. Now that I think about it, I do not recall eating much of cabbage soup either. Maybe it is because I hated cabbage when I was growing up. Nowadays, cabbage soup is more popular than ever back home, since many ladies believe eating cabbage soup will help them lose weight. I am not arguing with that, however I think if you eat only soup (any kind) every day, you will definitely lose weight! In my opinion, it is not the cabbage that allows you to lose weight; it is the reduced amount of food. If one had only tomato or lentil soup everyday, I bet that person will lose weight. Actually, I may have read in some health magazine about cabbage and weight loss here in the States too. My opinion still stands on this though. As I recall, the article did not state that cabbage soup by itself helps weight loss.

Anyway, that is a little background on the cabbage soup. If you like leek and cabbage, you probably will like this soup.

1 napa cabbage or regular green cabbage (chopped)
4 medium sized leeks (sliced)
3 carrots (sliced)
¾ lb mushrooms (quartered)
1 large yellow onion (cut in half and sliced)
3 cloves of garlic (sliced)
1/3 cup and 2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
Juice of ½ lemon
1 egg
4 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
7 cups water

Remove the outer leaves of the leeks. Before slicing the leeks, wash them thoroughly a couple times. Slice them and soak them in water for a few minutes. Triple wash them as they will store lots of dirt between leaves.

Heat the 1/3 cup of olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes before adding the leeks. Add the carrots and sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Add cabbage and stir the ingredients.

In the mean time, in a medium sized pan, heat the 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the flour and stir constantly. Pour in the milk gradually while continuing to stir. Add the egg and keep stirring vigorously so that the egg gets integrated with the rest of the ingredients in the pan. Add the lemon juice. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens (about 6-7 minutes).

Add this thickened mixture to the pot full of sautéed vegetables. Add salt, pepper and water. Boil on medium heat for about 20 minutes and then reduce to low heat for another 20-30 minutes. Serve warm.

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