Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lamb Shank (Kuzu İncik)

Today’s recipe is lamb shank! I have never made lamb shank before, so I was proud of myself when it turned out delicious. The recipe is not labor intensive; once I browned the shank, I threw all the ingredients together in a pot, grabbed a glass of wine and sat on one of the two pieces of bar furniture I have on my kitchen island with a good book.

Before we get to the delightful recipe, I would like to express my pleasure on my upcoming product review with CSN Stores. In the past, CSN Stores offered a giveaway or a review and I chose the giveaway and one of my lucky readers won a 10” and 12” Calphalon Non-Stick Omelet Combo Set. This time however, I would like to actually review one of their products. CSN Stores has an amazing selection of products in their 200 plus online stores. Please stay tuned.

Now back to the lamb shank…

Note: 1 lamb shank can be enough for two people

1 lamb shank
4-5 cloves of garlic (sliced)
2 shallots (sliced)
2 portabella mushrooms (sliced)
2 potatoes (cubed)
3 small carrots (sliced 1 inch thick)
1/2 cup white wine
3 tbsp olive oil
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 cup water

Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large pot. Brown the lamb shank in the pot on all sides. Add sliced garlic and shallots. Stir for about 3 minutes until the shallots are transparent. Add the portabella mushrooms and stir. Add the white wine. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the potatoes, carrots and the rest of the ingredients including the water. Mix well and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. Then, turn heat to low and cook covered for 2 hours or until the lamb shank is tender. Serve with rice and salad.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Shrimp in Red Sauce (Salçalı Karides)

Here's a simple and very tasty dish!

1 lb shrimp (cleaned and deveined)
1 ½ tbsp red pepper paste (available at Mediterranean grocery stores)
¼ cup white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients except the shrimp and olive oil in a bowl. Add shrimp to the bowl and mix until all the ingredients are integrated. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Heat olive oil on medium heat. Add shrimp and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Enjoy with rice and salad.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Spinach and Spicy Cheese Bread Pockets (Katıklı Ekmek)

Katıklı ekmek is very popular in Antakya, Turkey. Some stuff the dough with spinach and çökelek mixture and some spread this mixture on top of a thin sheet of dough. The preparation of the dough is different than mine because in Antakya, Turkey, the mixture is sent to a bakery and the dough from the bakery is used. Then, it is baked in the wood ovens in the bakery which gives the bread/borek a very distinct and wonderful texture and flavor.

Katıklı can be served during breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a snack with hot tea.

For the Dough:

4 cups flour
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cups water

For Stuffing:

2 bunch spinach
3 çökelek balls
½ tsp salt

For Brushing:

2 tbsp olive oil

Preparation of the Dough Using a Mixer:

Combine all ingredients for the dough in the bowl of the mixer, except the water. Attach the dough hook to the mixer. Make sure to attach and remove it when the mixer is unplugged. Using the speed control knob, put the speed of the mixer to 2. Then increase the speed to 4. Pour the water gradually to the bowl while the mixer is working. Increase the speed of the mixer to 6. Mix for 3-4 minutes. Remove the dough from the mixer.

Preparation of the Dough Manually:

Combine all ingredients in a deep bowl except the water. Pour some of the water in the bowl and start kneading for 5-10 minutes. Keep adding water gradually while kneading until the dough becomes soft.

Let it sit for about 20 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 small pieces and make small balls with each piece.

Wash the spinach thoroughly so that there is no dirt in the leaves. Boil water in a large pot. Place the clean spinach leaves in boiling water for two minutes and remove. Immediately, run cold water over the spinach to stop the cooking process. Squeeze all the water out of the spinach. Chop the spinach coarsely.

Crumble the çökelek onto the spinach.

Add the salt. Set aside.

Grease two large baking trays. Place a ball of the dough on the tray and start stretching the dough with your hands until each ball is side enough to place some stuffing.

Place the stuffing one side of the dough and cover it with the rest of the dough.

The dough will stretch and the stuffing will become visible from the outside of the dough. Repeat this process for all eight pieces of dough. Brush some olive oil on top of these pockets.

Bake at 375º F in the middle rack of the oven for about 20 minutes. You may need to brush the top of the pockets with olive oil while baking once or twice. When the top portion is golden brown, turn around and brush the other side with olive oil and bake until golden brown.

Enjoy warm with hot tea.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Swordfish Kebab (Kılıçbalığı Kebabı)

Swordfish is perfect for kebabs because of the texture and thickness of the fish. Any type of sauce with olive oil, lemon and spices will go very well with this fish. Enjoy with rice pilaf and salad.

1 1/3 lb swordfish filet
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp red pepper paste
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
2 tbsp chopped shallots

Wash and pat dry fish with paper towel.

Cut the fish filet in bite sized cubes.

Mix all the ingredients except the fish in a large bowl. Add the fish and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Slightly grease the skewers and skewer each piece one by one. Leave enough space on the end of the skewer in order to hold it.

Grill on an out door grill or broil in the oven for 10 minutes on each side or until fish is completely cooked. Serve with rice pilaf and salad.

Note: If bamboo skewers are used, they need to be soaked in water for 30 minutes prior to grilling in order to prevent them from burning.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Eggs with Turkish Sausage (Sucuklu Yumurta)

Finally, I am publishing another recipe on my blog. Although I promised more blogging in my previous post, I became unexpectedly busy and could not deliver on my promise. Hopefully, this time I’ll be posting more recipes than I have been in the past few months.

This simple, yet delicious egg and Turkish sausage omelet is perfect for a lazy Sunday breakfast along with warm bread, white cheese, olives and hot Turkish tea. Eggs and Turkish sausage complement each other very well creating a delicious taste. Enjoy.

Note: Turkish sausage can be found in Turkish/Mediterranean grocery stores.

4 eggs
8-9 slices Turkish sausage
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper

In a small bowl add the eggs, black pepper and salt. Mix vigorously until the eggs whites and yolks are integrated.

Heat oil on medium heat and cook the sausage slices for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Pour the eggs on the sausage. Leave on heat until eggs are cooked. To cook eggs faster, cover the pan for a couple minutes.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Eggplant Lamb in the Pan (Kuzu Etli Patlıcan Tava)

After a nice, long and rejuvenating vacation, I am back to my regular blogging and my home cooked food. We stocked our refrigerator with lots of fruits and vegetables and the pantry with legumes as soon as we returned since we intend to eat vegetarian for the next couple of weeks. Eating out can be fun and adventurous; however in my and my husband's case we lose appetite when eating out every day for a long time. We tend to eat more heavy foods such as meats, fried foods and rich desserts when we order at a restaurant. The good looking and smelling food can be very tempting and hinder us from making the right food choices.

Immediately upon my return, I made grape leaves stuffed with rice and green bean stew with tomatoes. Since I already have the stuffed grape leaves and green bean stew on my blog, I am publishing a recipe that I made a couple months ago that I never got the chance to publish. The lamb can be omitted for vegetarians or substituted with beef for beef lovers.

This eggplant dish is very tasty especially when served with rice pilaf and yogurt on the side.

1 lb london broil lamb or any type of meat (cubed)
3 large eggplants
2 green cubanelle peppers (sliced lengthwise)
1 medium onion (sliced)
3 cloves garlic (sliced)
4-5 peeled ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp paprika

Peel eggplants lengthwise in stripes like a zebra. Cut the eggplants in fourths and cube. Place in a pot full of salty, cold water to prevent discoloration.

Heat a small pan. Add the cubed lamb and cook until the juices and blood in the meat is released. Drain the meat and set aside.

Heat olive oil on medium heat in an oven proof pan. Add onions and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent. Add the meat and stir. Drain the eggplants and add to the pan. Sprinkle salt, cumin, black pepper and paprika and mix. Arrange the sliced tomatoes and green peppers on top. Cook covered for 30 minutes on the stove.

Preheat oven to 400º F. Remove pan from stove and bake uncovered for 15 minutes in the oven. Enjoy with rice pilaf and plain yogurt.

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Turkish Food Culture

According to many culinary experts, Turkish food is considered to be among the top three greatest cuisines in the world along with French and Chinese. Some may agree with the French and Chinese but find the Turkish one debatable. When looking back at Turkish history, the reason for Turkish cuisine being ranked among the top three cuisines in the world can be understood better. Let’s take a look.

Original Turks lived a nomadic life style and migrated from the Far East Asia, (mainly Western China Tibet and Mongolia regions) to the current geographic location of Turkey and surrounding areas. As they moved from the Far East to Asia Minor (current Turkey), the Turkish ancestors adopted various foods from various cultures along the way which led to a very diverse although developed and refined cuisine. For instance, ‘mantı’ which is small pieces of dough stuffed with minced meat and spices topped with yogurt sauce is supposedly adopted from Chinese dumplings. It is said that the idea of ‘dolma’ (stuffed vegetables) came from ‘mantı’. Due to their nomadic lifestyle, the nomadic Turks’ diet was mainly based on animal products such lamb, goat and game. Different techniques of preserving food were invented in order to prevent food from spoiling. Perhaps ‘pastırma’, which is dried cured beef mainly made in the city of Kayseri in Cental Anatolia region came about from the need to preserve meat without spoiling. It is no secret that the integration of nomadic Turks with other civilizations, geographic locations and weather had influenced their culinary traditions which brings us to food culture of the Ottoman Empire. The vast Ottoman Empire which covered three continents for a length of almost 600 years and controlled the spice road, influenced food culture from North Africa to Eastern Europe (up to Vienna, Austria) and most of the Middle East leaving a trace of similarities in the current Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and Middle Eastern cuisines. The Imperial Palaces had enormously large kitchens that had separate cooks for each kitchen specializing in one single type of dish that was developed and perfected over time. For example, each cook specialized in ‘pilav’ (pilaf), ‘dolma’, ‘baklava’, ‘kebabs’, ‘desserts and so on. Dried fruits such as apricots, raisins, currants and the best quality spices frequently were employed in cooking. Through development and improvisation, the Ottoman Cuisine evolved to be the current Turkish cuisine. After the end of Ottoman Empire, the modern Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 adopted the same delicious cuisine and cooking techniques.1

The importance of food during the Ottoman days and now in the current Republic of Turkey cannot be overstated. It is a significant part of the culture and daily life. This solid sense of food culture can be found in every single part of Turkey albeit the food itself is very heterogeneous. Although some dishes are prevalent throughout Turkey, every region, even province has its own type of cuisine that may not be recognized by other regions.

Almost every region or province is renowned with one or more types of foods. The South/Southeast region encompassing mainly Adana, Mersin, Hatay, Gaziantep, Kilis, Şanlıurfa provinces is known for its spicy and versatile foods. Red pepper paste and many types of spices are frequently used in its food such as ‘kısır’, ‘dolma’, ‘kebaps’, ‘stews’ and many other dishes to enhance flavor of a dish. Mersin is known for its ‘tantuni’ (sauted minced meat with spices placed inside bread), Antakya is renowned with its delightful dessert ‘künefe’, Adana with ‘Adana kebap’, Gaziantep with ‘baklava’, ‘antepfıstığı’ (pistachios), Şanlıurfa with ‘çiğ köfte’ (fine bulgur mixed with raw ground meat and spices) and Central Anatolia with ‘keşkek’ (meat and wheat or barley stew). When ‘hamsi’ (anchovies) is mentioned, the first place that comes to mind in Turkey is the Black Sea region which is located in Northern Turkey. This area is also known for its ‘kara lahana’ (collard greens) dishes, black tea and hazelnut farming. Kayseri province which is in the Anatolian region is known for the best ‘mantı’ and ‘pastırma’ (pastrami). The Mediterranean region in southern part of the country and Aegean region in the west part of the country are popular with vegetable and olive oil dishes and the list goes on.

The variation of Turkish food from region to region is as a result of a diverse weather, lifestyle due to geographic location and ancestry. Turkey is composed of people from different ancestries who carry on their food traditions for centuries allowing a wide range of foods to be served in Turkey. Thanks to the diverse weather, numerous types of crops grow in Turkey enabling a rich cuisine to form. The wheat farming that started with the nomadic Turks for centuries has given a focus on doughy foods such as ‘ekmek’ (bread) which is a main staple throughout the country, ‘böreks’ (stuffed pastries) and ‘bulgur pilafs’. Due to proximity to the seas, fish and other seafood are a crucial part of the Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara and Black Sea region diets.

The foundation of Turkish food is based on the freshness of the ingredients. In rural areas the vegetables come right out of people’s garden just before cooking, the meat comes from a farm or local butcher. As society changes and more and more women participate in the work force, naturally many urban dwellers are adapting the modern conveniences eagerly leaving behind some of the food traditions. Although, there are still some people who are living in cities and perform the routine of grocery shopping daily to get the freshest available ingredients. In smaller cities and less populated areas, fresh ingredients are still the biggest factor in cooking.

Some of the main ingredients used in Turkish food can be stated as follows:

Tomato paste, red pepper paste, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, yogurt, olives, cheese, cumin, sumac, red pepper flakes, paprika, black pepper, lemon, oranges, parsley, mint, dill, garlic, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, zucchini, green beans, cucumber, cabbage, fish, chicken, beef, lamb, yufka (phyllo dough), kadayıf (shredded phyllo dough), chick peas, dried beans, lentils, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds.

Turkish food can be divided into the following groups:

1) Mezeler (Appetizers)
2) Dolmalar (Stuffed vegetables with rice or meat)
3) Çorbalar (Soups)
4) Salatalar (Salads)
5) Baklagiller (Legumes)
6) Zeytinyağlı Sebzeler (Olive oil vegetable dishes which are usually served cold)
7) Pilavlar (Rice or bulgur pilafs)
8) Etli Sebzeler (Vegetables with meat)
9) Börekler (Stuffed pastries with meat, cheese or vegetables)
10)Pideler (Flat bread with cheese, meat or vegetables)
11)Kebaplar (Kebaps which range from kebabs cooked in a pot to skewered kebaps)
12)Balık ve Deniz Ürünleri (Fish and other seafood items)
13)Tatlılar (Desserts)
14)İçecekler (Drinks such as Turkish coffee, Turkish tea, rakı, ayran)

Turks love eating and relishing food. As a result, feast-like meals are not out of the ordinary in a Turkish home. If you are present in a Turkish home for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the variety and the effort put into preparing the table will be very evident. In Turkey, having people over for dinner or a tea party is a very common and frequent tradition which involves socializing. It is part of the society, the culture and tradition.

Note: If you live in Houston or surrounding areas and interested in Turkish food or culture, there will be an annual Turkish Festival taking place on October 16-17, 2010 that will have delicious food, music, dancing and etc. This is sponsored by the American Turkish Association of Houston which is a non-profit organization. For more info visit the following website: http://www.turkishfesthouston.com/

1- Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Culinary Culture

Friday, August 6, 2010

Turkish Kunefe (Künefe)

Künefe is considered to be one of the most delicious Turkish desserts, especially in the city of Antakya (Antioch) located on Mediterrenean Sea, in Southern Turkey. Although künefe shops are very common throughout Hatay, Kilis, Adana, Mersin and Gaziantep provinces, the city of Antakya in Hatay is known for the best künefe in Turkey. What distinguishes Antakya’s künefe from others is the daily made fresh, elastic cheese that is only made in Hatay region. The kadayıf (shredded phyllo dough) is also made from scratch at small künefe shops in almost every corner in Antakya which I find very entertaining to watch.

The künefe shops in Antakya serve the künefe topped with cream or ice cream. Every time I visit home, I go to Antakya which is about two hours from my hometown and have künefe with ice cream. One of my favorite places to eat künefe is in Harbiye (known as Daphne from Roman times) which is in the outskirts of the city in a valley surrounded by plenty of trees and streams of water. Many restaurants and cafes in Harbiye serve künefe, however I opt for eating künefe at Hidro restaurant that overlooks a man-made pond.

Very few people choose to make künefe at home in Antakya since this delightful dessert is abundant, however people who do choose to make künefe at home buy the daily made fresh kadayıf from the künefe shops. Even homemade künefe in Antakya is very tasty which probably is due to the fresh kadayıf.

As you may guess, künefe is not widely available in the States except the packaged, prepared kind found in Middle Eastern stores; therefore I wanted to make my own künefe. I spoke to both my mom and my mother-in-law on how each one makes her own künefe to get a general idea. As a result, I created my own with trial and error. This dessert was made 4-5 times in my kitchen until I acquired the right taste, texture and appearance. I did not publish it until it turned out perfect to me. Of course it is still not like the künefe in Antakya, but it turned out a very good homemade one.

This elegant looking and delicious dessert should be consumed hot, right after the kadayıf absorbs the syrup for the best taste. The cheese will be very stringy, so a knife will be needed when eating this luscious dessert. In Hatay, Adana, Mersin, Kilis, Gaziantep and in adjacent regions, this dessert is very often served for guests after the dinner or at women’s tea gatherings.

Note: If you would like your künefe to be thinner, use a larger pan or Pyrex dish for baking the künefe. Also, I like this dessert a little on the darker side so I let it bake a little longer. Once it turns golden brown it should be ready.

For Syrup:

2 cups sugar
2 cups water

For Künefe:

1 lb shredded phyllo dough
½ lb unsalted, shredded mozzeralla cheese or any other white, stringy, unsalted cheese
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
½ cup milk (optional)

For Decoration:

2-3 tbsp finely ground pistachios

In a medium pot, combine sugar and water and put on the stove. Let it boil and remove from heat. Let it cool.

Remove shredded dough from package.

Shred it in a food processor or chop it up with a sharp knife until the shredded phyllo dough pieces are very small.

Melt butter in a non-stick pan. Add the shredded phyllo and mix continuously.

Add the milk and continue mixing until the butter and milk are completely incorporated into the shredded pyhllo. Remove from heat.

In a round pan or a Pyrex dish, place half of the buttered phyllo dough and press with a spatula or your hands.

Distribute the shredded, unsalted cheese evenly on top of the buttered phyllo dough and press with a spatula or hands.

Add the rest of the buttered phyllo dough on top of the cheese and distribute and press evenly.

Heat the oven to 375º F. Place the künefe pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and pour the cold syrup on the hot künefe. Let the künefe absorb the syrup for about 5 minutes.

Serve hot immediately.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Green Bean with Olive Oil (Zeytinyağlı Taze Fasülye)

In my opinion, cooking vegetables in season makes a big difference in the taste of a dish. I try to purchase vegetables and fruits in season because I believe they are fresher and taste better. One of those vegetables that I prefer in season is green beans. There are already a few other green bean recipes posted on Turkish Food Passion and here is one more! It’s light, delicious and healthy green which is usually eaten cold or at room temperature. It can be served as a salad, appetizer or a side dish.

1 lb green beans
2 large ripe tomatoes (peeled and sliced)
2 shallots (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp salt
¼ cup water
¼ tsp ground black pepper

Remove the ends of the beans and cut in thirds. Heat olive oil in a large pan. Sauté garlic and shallots until shallots are transparent. Add beans to the pan and mix. Cook for 5 minutes stirring a few times. Add salt, black pepper, vinegar and water. Arrange the tomatoes on top of the beans and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat. Lower heat and cook another 30 minutes. Let it cool and serve cold.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cookies with Pistachios (Antepfıstıklı Kurabiye)

Recently, Turkish Food Passion has been attempting to broaden its dessert repertoire due to its limited number of published dessert recipes. Today, Turkish Food Passion presents its first cookie recipe. The cookies are made with ground pistachio nuts which are commonly used in Turkish desserts. Hazelnuts or almonds may be substituted for pistachios. These cookies will go perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea any time of the day. Enjoy.

Yield: 18-20 cookies

1 cup flour
1 stick softened unsalted butter (4 oz)
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup finely ground pistachio
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking powder

Using a Stand Mixer:

Combine softened butter, egg, vanilla and sugar in the stand mixer bowl. Using stand mixer wired whip attachment, whisk until all ingredients are integrated. Start with speed 2 to and gradually increase to speed 8.

Change the wire whip attachment and replace with the flat beater attachment (make sure the mixer is turned off and unplugged when doing this). Fold in the rest of the ingredients except the pistachios and mix at speed 4. Once all the ingredients are married, add pistachios and mix again for 1-2 minutes until pistachios are distributed evenly.


Combine softened butter, egg, vanilla and sugar in a bowl. Whisk until all ingredients are integrated. Fold in the rest of the ingredients except the pistachios. Once all the ingredients are married, add pistachios and mix again for a few more minutes until all pistachios are distributed evenly.

Grease a cookie sheet. Take spoonful of the cookie dough and drop on the greased cookie sheet with no particular shape.

Bake at 350° F for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool for 2-3 hours. The cookies can be stored in air tight jar to keep them fresh. Enjoy with hot tea.

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