Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cigaratte Rolls (Sigara Böreği)

Sigara böreği takes its name from the shape of cigarettes. Although I truly loathe cigarettes, I love cigarette rolled boreks! Addictive is the right word to describe these little rolls. In Turkey, they are usually served as appetizers, for breakfast and as an afternoon snack with a hot Turkish tea. I have tried making these numerous times using whole fat Turkish white cheese and each time the cheese would leak during frying and ruin their appearance and taste. I have tried rolling them differently, adding an egg white to keep the cheese together but it kept leaking. Then I realized I was using cheese with whole fat which was causing the leaking. Since I couldn’t find low fat Turkish white cheese, I used low fat feta and for the first time I prepared rolls that did have leaked cheese during frying. They were so good to look at I was hesitant to eat them (no, not really) J I do not normally purchase anything low fat or diet so I had to make an exception for this. They tasted incredibly good but I know that they taste even better with whole fat white cheese.

You may substitute the filling with other types of cheeses, minced meat, chicken, potatoes or even spinach. Enjoy hot right after you fry them. They will be so crispy and delicious!

2 cups crumbled low fat white cheese (or feta)
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 package triangle pastry leaves (about 20 leaves)

4 cups sunflower or canola oil

Place the white cheese in a bowl and add the parsley. Mix well.

Place one triangle pastry leaf on the counter and brush the edges with water. 

Add a table spoon of cheese in the wide section of the triangle pastry leaf. 

Fold from both sides and start rolling. 

Dip hands in water when sealing. 

Repeat the same process until all the triangle leaves are used up.

Heat up the oil. Add a few of the rolls and start frying. 

It should take only a few minutes. As soon as the rolls start taking a golden color remove and drain on paper towel. It is better to fry as little as possible; that way they will fry faster. 

Note: If you cannot find triangle shaped pastry leaves available in Turkish or Middle Eastern stores (ucgen yufka) and able to find regular Turkish yufka, you could cut the large round piece of yufka into eight triangles. If you cannot find yufka, you may substitute regular (thinner) phyllo dough for it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Baked Pastry with Leeks and Chard (Fırında Pırasalı ve Pazılı Börek)

With winter comes, my favorite winter vegetables: chard and leeks. I started buying chard and leeks because of their nutritional value which I feed my little kids on a weekly basis. I grew up eating chard which I was not fond of but my mother only made it with a yogurt soup with grain which is eaten cold. I don’t recall eating it any other way. For böreks, my mother only used spinach and never chard. After I learned cooking many years later, I tried böreks with Swiss chard and regular chard and I was very happy with the results. This time I wanted to add leeks since I had them on hand and really it was so light and delicious!

I prepared the stuffing ahead of time and froze it as it is almost impossible for me to make everything the same day with two little kids and work.  I made the dough the same day I made the böreks and the stuffing tasted as if fresh. We all enjoyed them; especially my boys. They kept wanting more and more. Even though I was in a hurry when making them and didn’t take very good pictures, I think the pictures are acceptable and will explain the steps pretty well.

Caveat: You will most likely have leftover dough. I could have adjusted the proportions for the recipe, but I did not want to do that without really trying it. You can use the left over dough for any type of stuffing you like or even a small pizza.

Now it’s time for the recipe.

For the Dough:

6 ¼ cups white flour
2 ½ cups warm water
1½ tsp yeast (optional)
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp red pepper paste (optional or red pepper can be substituted)
1 tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup olive oil for brushing boreks
½ cup flour for rolling

For the Stuffing:

2 bunches of chard (around 10 chard leaves)
2 leeks
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 ½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp black pepper
1 ½ tsp salt

Prepare the Dough:

Let yeast sit in warm water for 25-30 minutes until it bubbles.

Using a Stand Mixer: 

Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer. Add the flour, salt, red pepper paste and olive oil in the mixer bowl and run it on stir. Gradually add the yeasty water. Change the speed to 2 and let it knead the dough until it is soft. It should take less than five minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let it sit for two hours.


Add the flour, salt, red pepper paste, olive oil and half of the water and start kneading. Add the rest of the yeasty water gradually and continue to knead until soft dough is attained. It should take about 15-20 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let it sit for two hours.

Prepare the Stuffing:

Remove stems of chard from leaves.  

First steam stems of chard until soft as they will take longer to cook than the leaves. Remove and steam chard leaves until wilted. Chop both stems and leaves small.

Slit leeks in half and wash thoroughly several times to remove all the dirt between the layers. 

Chop finely. Heat olive oil in a pan. Sauté leeks first for 4-5 minutes. 

Add chopped chard, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper flakes and black pepper. Stir for a couple minutes and remove from heat and cool.

Prepare softball size dough balls and sit aside. 

Take about 2 tbsp of flour and place on the dough rolling surface. Take one of the balls and place it on top of the flour. Add another 2 tbsp of flour on top of the dough ball. 

Flatten with your fingers and start rolling. 

Make the pastry 9-10 inches in diameter, smaller if smaller pastries are desired. 

Add 3 tbsp of the stuffing in the middle of the rolled dough and fold the outer 1 inch from the left, right and the bottom to create a triangle. 

Place on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Repeat until all the dough and the stuffing are used up.

Heat up oven to 375º. Bake for 15-25 minutes or until the böreks take a golden color. 

Enjoy with hot tea or with cold yogurt or yogurt drink. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Baked Eggplant Kebab (Tepside Patlıcan Kebabı)

This truly delicious dish comes from the city of Gaziantep, Turkey which is very famous with its cuisine. After Hatay (my Province), I like Gaziantep’s food next and then Adana which is about two hours away from my hometown. I have only passed by Gaziantep and have not been there to taste all the delicious food, but when I was very young we had a family acquaints who were from Gaziantep and would come to enjoy the Mediterranean beach for the summer months. As our families spent a lot of time together during their summer vacation, I have tasted some of their food.  One thing I still remember from those days was when we stopped by one day the lady was making stuffed eggplants. She insisted on us to try it before we left and we did. To this day, the taste of that stuffed eggplants is still in my mouth and have never forgotten it. It was hot, but extremely delicious and I must say I have not eaten any better stuffed eggplant than that. I have tried to recreate it in my adult life by asking my mom about the ingredients, but I have not been fully successful. Now that we’ve gone back to childhood memories, let’s get back to the eggplant kebab.

Gaziantep is known with its eggplant kebab which is normally made on a grill which tastes even better. But this one is also extremely good and probably easier cooking as you put it in the oven and forget about it. I made this twice so far; in the initial trial it is juicier than I would have liked and also I used the fat eggplants that I had in hand. In Gaziantep the long eggplants are know as “kebaplık patlıcan” meaning “eggplants specifically for kebap”. This version turned out better than the first one. The amount was perfect for two adults and two small children and we had leftovers. You can easily double the recipe for a larger amount.

1 lb ground beef
4-5 eggplants (long eggplants)
1 tomato (cut in half)
8 pearl onions
2 green peppers (any kind of long and thin peppers will work)
1 clove garlic (chopped fine)
1 small onion (grated)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 ¼ tsp salt

For the Sauce:

2 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 cup cold water

For Soaking Eggplant:

5 cups cold water
2 tsp salt

Mix ground beef, garlic, grated onions, red pepper flakes, black pepper and salt well. 

Pull a walnut sized piece and slightly flatten. 1 lb ground beef made 17 small patties. 

Cut the eggplants 1-1.5 inches wide. 

Cut as many pieces as the number of ground beef (in this case 17).  Soak the eggplants in the salted cold water for about 30 minutes to get out any bitterness that may exist. In a round pan, arrange the beef and eggplants by alternating with one piece of eggplant and one piece of meat starting from the edge of the pan until all the meat and eggplants are used up. In the middle of the pan, place the tomato halves and the pearl onions. 

Mix the salt, olive oil and tomato sauce with 1 cup of water. Pour it all over the pan. 

Add the green peppers and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake at 400º F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and continue to bake for another 15 minutes until the vegetables show signs of roasting. Five minutes of broiling also will work.

Enjoy with rice pilaf or just flat bread.

Note: If your pan is bigger and have a lot of room left in the middle, you may add more tomatoes, onions and green peppers inside. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Green Beans with Ground Beef (Kıymalı Yeşil Fasülye)

We have been really enjoying all the seasonal vegetables this summer: zucchinis, green beans, eggplant, okra, green and red peppers and of course a lot of tomatoes. Every week at least 3-4 of these vegetables are consumed in our households depending on the availability. I like to purchase them all organic and sometimes organic is not available. In that case, I purchase what is fresh and organic. Lately, organic, fresh looking green beans are available almost every week at the market I shop, so I have been purchasing them and cooking them either just with tomatoes or with tomatoes and chicken or beef. I have posted several green bean stew recipes in the past and I wanted to add another one as this is a versatile dish. This one is with ground beef. I also like it with stew meat but for my little boys, ground beef is easier to chew so I don’t have to cut the meat really small for them.

I cooked this in a Dutch oven but any type of pot will do. If you do not wish to put it in the oven, you may cook it on stove for about 1.5 hours or until the beans are tender. Traditionally, this is cooked on the stove top.

2 lbs green beans
6-7 large ripe tomatoes (peeled and diced)
1 small red onion (chopped)
3 large cloves garlic (crushed)
2 lbs ground beef
1/2 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp ground black pepper
6 cups water

Cut the ends of each green bean and slit in the middle without cutting through the end. The beans will split in two and stay attached at the bottom.  Take the split beans that are attached at the bottom and cut diagonally around 1 ½ inch long. In addition to cooking faster, when the beans are split in half, all the wonderful juices go inside them which produce a delicious flavor.

Heat olive oil on medium heat. Add the ground beef and stir until no longer pink. Add the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the green beans and then the crushed garlic and stir. 

Continue to sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, paprika, cumin, ground black pepper, salt and water. Stir well.

Preheat oven to 420°F. In an oven safe pot or dutch oven, bake for 2 hours. Remove from heat and enjoy with rice. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Yogurt Drink (Ayran)

One of the most refreshing drinks, ayran is enjoyed throughout the summer in Turkey. It pairs very well with kebaps and bulgur dishes. You will find ayran in most Turkish restaurants in the States as it is very popular. I do not know any Turkish person who does not love it, but I think it is an acquired taste for most Americans. 

The yogurt used in this recipe is home made and whole milk is used. I am not sure if it will taste the same with low fat milk, but I think it still would be very refreshing.  Enjoy!

4 cups yogurt
1 cup cold water
1 tsp salt

Mix the yogurt, water and salt in a blender and blend until smooth (a couple minutes). Pour out in glasses and enjoy cold!

Zucchinis with Lentils (Mercimekli Kabak)

Another favorite summer time vegetable: zucchini. Without planning, I end up buying zucchinis every week in the summer since they are in season. Almost every time, I cook them in tomato sauce either with ground beef, with lentils or just with carrots and tomatoes. They’re delicious in my opinion. Although, I used to almost hate them when I was little. When I find myself with little time to cook, I slice them and broil them and they still taste great. So this recipe is one of my favorite ones with zucchinis. A side of rice would go perfectly with this light recipe.

4 zucchinis
3 carrots (shredded)
4 tomatoes (peeled and diced)
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 small onion (shredded)
¾ cup brown lentils (soaked for 1 hour)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 ½ tsp salt
2 cups water

Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. Then, cut each half in half again ending up in four pieces. Chop the quartered zucchini ending up in large dices.

Heat olive oil. Saute the onions for 3-4 minutes or until transparent. Add carrots and continue sautéing for 2-3 more minutes. Add garlic and lentils. Cook for 3 minutes while continuing to stir. Add tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes with lid covered. Add tomato sauce and water and cook for 5 more minutes. Add zucchini and stir well. Cover and cook for 45 minutes on medium to low heat. Add the parsley and stir just before removing from the stove.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Rose Pastry with Beef and Spinach (Etli ve Ispanaklı Gül Böreği)

I have made these boreks with potatoes, spinach and cheese filling separately in the past. This is the first time I am trying them with meat. All versions turned out really good. Anything with phyllo dough tastes wonderful; at least that’s what I think. The shapes of these boreks are attractive which makes me wanting to eat one more and one more…The filling is very easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time. These can be served as an appetizer, main dish or a snack. I had them with hot Turkish tea and it was delicious!

1 lb ground beef (95% lean)
1 bunch spinach (approx 1 lb)
1 medium onion (chopped finely)
2 cloves garlic (chopped finely)
¾ cup parsley (chopped finely)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes or paprika
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black ground pepper

1 package (1 lb) phyllo dough

½ cup milk
½ cup olive oil
1 egg

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the ground beef and cook until the beef is no longer pink and releases its water. Pour out the water and add the olive oil. Stir. Add the onions and sauté until onions are transparent. Add the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and the black pepper. Saute for a couple of minutes and turn off heat. Add the chopped parsley and stir again. Let it cool.

Wash the spinach several times. Remove the stems and steam for about 3 minutes. Let it cool. Chop coarsely and add to the meat mixture.

Mix the milk, olive oil and egg until everything is integrated well.

Lay one phyllo dough sheet on the working surface (long side towards you). 

Brush the all the phyllo dough sheet with the milk/olive oil/egg mixture. 

Lay another sheet on top of it. 

Add 3 tbsp of the stuffing along the edge of the sheet (approximately 1 inch from the edge). 

Roll the sheet gently and brush with the milk/olive oil/egg mixture before rolling on top of the upper edge. 

Place in a greased baking tray and brush with the milk/olive oil/egg mixture again. 
Start with one end and roll it circular to give it a rose like shape. 

Brush the borek roll with the milk/olive oil mixture so it sticks together well.

Repeat until all the phyllo dough sheets and stuffing used up.

Bake at 350º for about 50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and enjoy warm.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Nightingale’s Nest (Bülbül Yuvası)

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A cousin of the baklava, this dessert is equally delicious but with a different style. The nightingale’s nests look very appealing and hard to resist. I made these about a month ago and loved them. They tasted so delicious that I decided to make them again with a few little adjustments. Instead of pistachios, you may use hazelnuts, almonds or any other nut you may favor, but for me nothing beats pistachios. I think it is the most delicious nut so it is always my number one nut to use in desserts. Also, traditionally, I believe these are made with pistachios so I do not want to change that. For some reason, I love traditional foods the way they are and do not like to make a lot of changes to them.

In making this dessert, a thinner roller pin (oklava) is used to roll these pastries in Turkey, but since I do not have one I used a thermometer’s storage sleeve. See picture.

Below is the recipe.

For the Pastry:

1 lb phyllo dough
8 oz pistachios (finely grounded)
8 oz (2 sticks) butter

A thin rolling pin or a stick

For the Syrup:

3 cups sugar
1½ cups water
1 tsp lemon juice

For Garnish:

1 oz pistachios (finely grounded)

Add the sugar and water in a pot. Stir until the sugar melts. Let it boil for 2 minutes and add the lemon juice. Let it simmer for 3-4 minutes and remove from heat. Cool syrup.

Melt the butter slowly in a pan. Remove the foam and discard. Let it cool.

Grease a baking tray with butter. Take one sheet of phyllo dough and lay it on a flat working surface with the short side towards you.

Dip a pastry brush in the butter and spread all over the phyllo sheet. 

Lay another phyllo sheet on top of the buttered sheet. 

Lay the rolling pin at the bottom of the phyllo dough and sprinkle the 2 tbsp pistachios on top of the phyllo dough leaving about an inch without pistachio on top section of the phyllo sheet. 

Start rolling the phyllo sheet over the rolling pin leaving the 1 inch on top. 

From both sides crinkle the phyllo dough while the rolling pin is still inside. 

Pull the rolling pin gently and close the ends of the dough leaving the 1 inch section in the middle of the circle.

Butter the phyllo dough immediately and place on the baking tray. 

Repeat until all the phyllo dough sheets are used up. Pour any remaining butter on top of the nests.

Heat the oven to 350º F. Place the tray in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. The longer it bakes the crispier it gets. Remove from oven and pour the cooled syrup on top of each round immediately. Cover with aluminum foil and let it cool. Distribute the 1 oz pistachios inside each of the nests. Enjoy with a hot tea or coffee.