Monday, May 31, 2010

Cardamom Mastic Gum Pistachio Cake (Kakuleli Damla Sakızlı Antep Fıstıklı Kek)

It is time for a new cake recipe! One day I felt like making a cake, a type of cake that I had never had before. So, I took a look at my pantry and refrigerator and got some ideas based on the ingredients I had on hand. I set out to make the cake without completely deciding what kind of flavor I wanted. As I made my cake, I made my decisions to add a little bit of this and a little bit of that. What came out was a cake with ground cardamom, ground pistachios and mastic gum! Yes, mastic gum. What is mastic gum? I get this question a lot…If you are not from the Mediterranean region or if you are not familiar with Mediterranean cuisine or if you haven’t traveled to the Mediterranean countries, most likely you do not know mastic gum. Mastic gum, ‘damla sakızı’ in Turkish is harvested from Pistacia lentiscus shrub, a native to the Mediterranean region which is from the pistachio family.

Liquid is bled from the trunk of the tree and then sun dried into hard, small, translucent pieces that secret a very distinct and pleasant aroma. It can be grounded using a mortar.

Mastic gum is mainly used in chewing gum in Turkey as well as the famous Kahramanmaraş Dondurması (Kahramanmaraş Ice Cream) and some other desserts and cookies. I bought the mastic gum a while back when I attempted to make Kahramanmaraş Dondurması which I will leave to talk about another time. Mastic gum can be found in Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern stores in the U.S.
The cake I made this evening, turned out crispy from the outside and soft and fluffy from the inside, exactly how I had envisioned. It is light and not too sweet, just perfect. I am actually eating a piece of cake as I am typing this post. My palates are dancing right now! This version turned out far more superior compared to my previous two attempts. I hope you enjoy it.

1 3/4 cups flour
1 ¼ cup sugar
1/2 cup yogurt
1 stick unsalted butter 4 oz. (melted & cooled)
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup ground raw pistachios
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground mastic gum
1 lemon zest
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

Unsalted butter for greasing the cake pan
¼ tsp of flour to sprinkle on greased cake pan

Note: All ingredients need to be at room temperature. To hinder the cake from cracking around the ring, cover with aluminum foil only for the first 20-25 minutes of baking time.

Using a Stand Mixer:

Place the eggs, the one egg yolk and sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Attach the wire whip to the beater shaft of the mixer. Using the wire whip of the mixer beat the eggs and sugar starting with the lowest speed and gradually increasing the speed to 8 until creamy. Once a creamy texture is attained, add the lemon zest, yogurt, cardamom, vanilla, baking soda and mix at speed 2. Add the pistachios and mastic gum and mix for 1 minute. Add flour and continue mixing at speed 2. Scrape down the ingredients sticking around the bowl with a spatula. Add melted butter gradually until a smooth batter is attained.


In a deep bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is creamy. Add the lemon zest, yogurt, cardamom, vanilla and baking soda. Continue mixing. Add pistachios and mastic gum and mix for 3-4 minutes. Add the flour mix with the rest of the ingredients. Finally, add the melted butter and whisk until a smooth batter is attained.

Set oven heat at 350ºF. Grease a cake mold or a Pyrex dish with unsalted butter. Sprinkle a little flour on the greased pan or cake mold. Pour the cake batter in the cake mold. When the oven is ready, place in the middle rack and bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. To check whether the cake is baked well or not, insert a toothpick in the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, that means your cake is ready, if it comes out with batter, that means it still needs baking.

When you remove the cake from the oven, let it rest for about 15 minutes before taking the cake out of the cake mold.

Enjoy with a hot tea or coffee.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Turkish Bread Loaf (Somun Ekmeği)

The significance of bread in Turkish meals cannot be overstated. Every Turkish meal includes some sort of bread; either somun loaf, flat, pide or lavaş bread. Most Turkish people living in Turkish cities do not spend time making bread at home due to the numerous bakeries on almost every corner. The smell of bread coming out of these bakeries that make bread twice daily overfill the streets in the morning and in the afternoon. The most prevalent types of bread that can be found in Turkish bakeries are the Turkish somun bread and flat bread. Of course the breads may deviate from city to city in Turkey as every region has its own traditional cuisine. In Turkish villages, women get together and make flat bread (sac ekmeği) on iron griddle lit with wood or lavaş bread which is made in a tandır; a clay oven.

The closest bread to Turkish somun bread is French bread which we (my husband & I and maybe other Turks too) consume in order to satisfy our cravings of Turkish bread while living in the States. I made somun bread once last year to attain a closer taste to what we had in Turkey and it turned out just okay, so I never published the recipe. I kept putting off trying it out again until recently and in the mean time I spent some time studying bread baking. This time I am much happier with the result except one insignificant thing. Instead of cutting a horizontal line on top of the loaf as it is done with Turkish somun bread, I made diagonal cuts and thus could not attain the same Turkish bread look, but the bread tasted so good could not resist publishing it now. When I put my bread in the oven, I realized something was missing and couldn’t figure it out until I got the bread out. It was the look of it. For this reason, I am also sharing my bread picture from last year with the right incision, however with a slightly different recipe.

Caveat: I baked my bread on a pizza stone and the pizza stone cracked while the bread was baking. I am guessing it cracked because of the contact between the hot baking stone and the water dripping from the top of the bread to the bottom of the stone while basting. In any case, I did not disturb the baking process until it was finished. You may choose to bake it on a baking tray or cookie sheet.

The bread’s crust turned out crispy just as I had envisioned and the inner part soft. I was very pleased with the result and happy to share it with you.

For the Dough:

3 ¾ cups all purpose organic flour
1 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1¾ cup warm water

For Baking and Basting:

1 tsp cornmeal
1 tsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp black sesame seeds
Water for braising

Using a Stand Mixer:

Place the water a small bowl. Add yeast, stir and let it sit for 30 minutes.
Sift the flour and salt and place in the stand mixer bowl. Add the water with the dissolved yeast to the mixer bowl and place the mixer speed on stir for about 2 minutes. Run the mixer at speed 2 and gradually increase to speed 4 until the dough is soft and elastic (about 5-7 minutes). The dough can be tested by cutting a small piece and stretching it until it is transparent. If the dough stretches without breaking, then it is ready.


Place the water a small bowl. Add yeast, stir and let it sit for 30 minutes.
Sift the flour and salt and place in a deep bowl. Add the water with the dissolved yeast to the flour and start kneading until the dough is elastic. Usually this will take about 15-20 minutes. Follow the same testing in order to make sure the dough is ready.

Making the Bread:

Cover the dough and let it sit for 2 hours in room temperature. The dough will rise.

With hands, push the dough down and let it sit 2 ½ hours.

Let it rise again.

Sprinkle baking sheet/stone with cornmeal. When the dough is ready, place the dough in the baking sheet or stone and give it an oval shape. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Run a knife horizontally on top of the bread or a few diagonal cuts.

Let the shaped dough sit for 1 hour.

Heat oven at 450 º F and place a small, empty iron pot inside while the oven is heating. When ready, place the baking sheet or baking stone with the bread in the oven and add 2 cups of water in the empty pan in order to generate some steam for the bread baking.

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. While baking, baste with water every 5 minutes. Enjoy warm!

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Eggplant Salad (Patlıcan Salatası)

Today, I almost published a delightful, new cake recipe that I came up with last week. However, the pictures of the cake could have turned out a little better, so I will have to make this cake again sometime soon since there is no more cake now to photograph again. Instead, I will leave you with a common Turkish appetizer; eggplant salad. Since the summer has started to show its signs in most places, the markets are now full of seasonal vegetables, such as eggplant which is widely employed in Turkish cooking.

This salad is mainly served as an appetizer, but I don’t always follow rules, so eat it as you wish. You may eat it as an appetizer, as a side dish or even as a main meal.

4 medium eggplants
2 Anaheim peppers
3 small tomatoes
1 shallot (chopped)
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
¼ cup parsley (chopped)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 ¼ tsp salt
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp ground black pepper

Puncture the eggplants and peppers with a knife. Place in a baking tray along with the tomatoes and broil until both sides of each vegetable are soft.
Remove and cool. Peel eggplant, tomatoes and peppers and dice after removing the seeds from the peppers.
Heat olive oil in a medium pot. Add the shallots and garlic until onions are transparent. Add the diced eggplants, green peppers and tomatoes. Stir and add salt, red pepper flakes and ground black pepper and cook on low for about 30 minutes. Just before removing from heat, add the chopped parsley and stir. Cool and refrigerate for at least five hours before serving. Enjoy with a warm piece of bread as an appetizer, salad or side dish.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Artichoke Salad (Enginar Salatası)

Here is a light and tasty salad with one of the most work intensive vegetables. Artichokes taste wonderful, but cleaning out the outer, tough leaves to reach the edible part takes some time. This is one of the reasons why I choose not to cook with artichokes often. In addition, you buy two huge artichokes and end up with a little edible part. I do not purchase frozen or canned vegetables, so when I want to cook with artichokes I buy them fresh and go through the hassle of cleaning them and deciding which leaves are edible and which are not. Therefore, I have only cooked with artichokes only several times. Do you like cooking with fresh artichokes?

For Boiling Artichokes:

2 large artichokes
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
For Salad Dressing:
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil

Fill a large pot with water. Add juice of 1 lemon and 1 tsp salt in the water. In the mean time, wash and trim the artichokes. Remove the hard ends of the leaves and add the artichokes to the cold water so they do not take a brownish color.

Boil the artichokes for 30 minutes. Remove and cool. Remove the hard outer layers of the artichoke and select the softer parts of the leaves and the hearts. Place in a plate. Sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Enjoy with pasta.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sweet Fried Dough (Lokma)

Time flies by so fast that sometimes we cannot keep track of everything going on in our lives. One of those things that I have neglected to keep track of is Turkish Food Passion’s 1st and 2nd anniversaries! In the first week of April 2008, Turkish Food Passion came to life one of those mornings when I used to get up at 6:00 a.m. every day even on the weekends. As much as I like sleeping, I sometimes feel like it is a waste of time (especially naps) since I feel that I could be doing something productive instead of sleeping. In any case, this is how my blog started. This certainly is not the reason for starting Turkish Food Passion however it was a big motivator as weekend mornings would be reserved for blogging before my husband would wake up late in the morning.

Despite the fact that I have been unmindful of Turkish Food Passion’s 1st anniversary and almost forgetting the 2nd anniversary which has past by a month, I am actually elated by what has developed into a rather large collection of Turkish recipes. It has gone much further than what I initially intended for and has gotten more attention than I expected, therefore I would like to thank all of my readers. Whether you leave me a comment, send me an e-mail or if you just follow quietly from the sidelines, thank you so much. My blog would not be here if it were not for you and your support. Also, I would like to thank my husband who has supported me from the beginning and has encouraged me to continue blogging when I was overwhelmed with my work schedule during certain times and tried to quit blogging a couple times.

Having said that, having published 152 posts on Turkish Food Passion, I am almost embarrassed by the fact that my repertoire of recipes includes only four dessert recipes! Yes, I have decided to focus on desserts for a while to widen the dessert recipe selection. In general I am not a big dessert (except baklava and a few other syrupy desserts of course) person, hence the procrastination on making desserts. If I do not have dessert for months, I would probably not ask for it, however when it is available I cannot stop eating it. Now that I have explained the reasons behind not making desserts often, I thought it is a good idea to celebrate Turkish Food Passion’s anniversary with a dessert recipe called ‘lokma’ which actually means ‘bite’.

Lokma is a bite-sized fried dough soaked in syrup that is prevalent throughout Turkey. This recipe was given to me by my lovely mother who almost made it for us when she was visiting this winter. Since we did not spend most of our time in the kitchen, I made sure to write down the recipe instead. Today being Mothers Day, I thought this is also another good occasion to publish this recipe. So, to all the moms in the world, happy Mothers Day!

Warning: These bite-sized pieces are addictive as they are crunchy and sweet. If you leave them out in the open, you will find yourself grabbing a few each time you pass by. It’s proven!

1 cup flour
½ tbsp corn starch
1 tsp dry yeast
1 cup water

For Syrup:

2.5 cups water
2.5 cups sugar
Juice of ½ lemon

For Frying:

2 cups canola oil

In a pot, add water and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Sift the flour, corn starch and yeast. Either using a mixer or by a wooden spoon, knead the ingredients after adding water until the dough is runny.

Let it sit for 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Place dough in your hand and close hand. Squirt the dough from the top of your hand and with the tip of a greased dessert spoon remove the dough from hand and place in the hot oil. This step has to be completed very quickly so that all the lokmas cook around the same time. Repeat until the pan is full of small pieces of dough.

As they fry, turn them over until all sides are golden brown.

Remove from oil and place in cold syrup. Let it sit in cold syrup for 5-10 minutes. It goes well with either coffee or hot tea. Enjoy!

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Fried Vegetables (Sebze Kızartması)

The summer is almost here and what is better than a meal with summer vegetables? This summer vegetable salad which is made frequently in our household in Turkey is filling and very tasty. Since this salad is made with fried vegetables, I rarely make it, but when I do, I prefer using olive oil. Sometimes, I broil the vegetables instead of frying however it tastes best when the veggies are fried. The only missing vegetable in this dish is green, long peppers which adds a slight hotness to the salad. Other vegetables can also be used such as cauliflower and okra. Enjoy with your choice of veggies.

2 medium eggplants
2 zucchinis
3 medium potatoes
3 tomatoes
2 cloves garlic (chopped finely)
¼ cup flat leaf parsley (chopped finely)
1 tbsp salt
½ tsp ground red pepper
Juice of ½ lemon
1 cup olive oil

Scrape off the skin of the zucchinis and peel the eggplants in stripes.

Cut the zucchinis lengthwise in half. Place each half flat bottom side down on a cutting board and slice.

Put the sliced zucchinis in a small bowl.

Cut the eggplants in half and follow the same process of slicing as the zucchinis.

Place in a separate bowl with cold water and a dash of salt to prevent discoloration.

Peel the potatoes and cut in half similar to the zucchinis and eggplants.

Place in a separate bowl with cold water in order to prevent them from turning brown.

Cut the tomatoes in quarters lengthwise and set aside.

Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large non-stick pan. In the mean time, prepare a large bowl with 5-6 folds of paper towel in it to absorb the oil.

Drain the eggplants and salt them. Add a batch of the eggplants to the pan. Turn over once they become soft or start to get a hint of brownish color. When they are slightly brownish on both sides, remove from pan and place on the bowl with paper towels.

Next, drain and salt the potatoes to the frying pan. Fry until the bottom side of the slices get a light brownish color. Turn over until the other sides of the potato take a golden color. Remove and add on top of the fried eggplants in the bowl.

Next, sprinkle salt to the zucchinis and fry until the zucchinis are soft and take a slight golden color. Add in the bowl with the potatoes and eggplants.

Place the tomato slices in the remaining oil and fry until the skin of the tomatoes separate from the flesh. Place in the bowl with the other vegetables.
Remove the paper towel carefully from the bowl. Sprinkle with ground red pepper. Add the chopped parsley and garlic. Squeeze the lemon and mix the ingredients in the bowl until the lemon, parsley, garlic and red pepper are integrated with the vegetables. Adjust salt according to taste. Serve with flat bread and plain, cold yogurt.

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