Ezme Salad: a Traditional MEZE Salad (Antep Salad)

A light, fresh and flavorful salad that perfectly compliments kebabs or any grilled meat.

      No kebab is complete without a salad. In fact, I would say that if you go to eat kebab at a restaurant and they do not serve a salad with it, then there is seriously something missing and you should consider eating kebab at another place. Yes, the salad really is that important. Truth be told, the variations of salads may vary based on tradition and taste, but this Ezme Salad is a simple salad packed with the flavorful essentials to compliment your meal.

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      I often make this salad and eat it as a meal because I like it so much. It the perfect blend of crunchy and soft and sweet and sour. All of the ingredients are pretty simple, except the pomegranate molasses may take some digging to find (depending on what part of the world you live in). In this case, feel free to sub it with a fruity tasting vinaigrette.

Here’s the recipe:

Ezme (Antep Salad)

  • 1 tomato (chopped; about 3/4 c)
  • 1/4 c chopped parsley
  • 2 TBSP chopped mint
  • 1/4 c chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1/2 c chopped cucumber
  • 3 scallions (chopped)
  • 1/2 lemon (juiced)
  • 2 TBSP pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (pull biber or Aleppo pepper)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-2 TBSP olive oil
  • salt (to taste)

Preparation:

Place all of the chopped veggies in a bowl.

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Season with salt, ground cumin and red pepper flakes.

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Pour over the olive oil, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses.

Stir well until combined.

Serve and Enjoy immediately or pop it in the fridge and enjoy later!

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Afiyet Olsun!

 

Ayran: a Healthy Yogurt Beverage

A refreshing yogurt beverage that is delicious and healthy! It is the perfect thing to keep you hydrated for any hot day!

      If you are not so acquainted with drinking unsweetened yogurt based drinks then Ayran will be be considered an “acquired taste”. I will admit that the first time I tried it, I didn’t like it at all. The very idea of drinking an unsweetened yogurt beverage somehow did not sound appetizing to me. But after many opportunities to try Ayran, eventually the drink that I didn’t like, soon became a staple and favorite.

      Supposedly, it is the perfect drink to staying hydrated during the summer because of the salt content providing much needed electrolytes lost on hot days.

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The delightful Ayran fountains that are commonly found during the summer months in Turkey are a welcome sight for me to see. The Ayran is fresh and bubbly, just the way I like it.

Here’s the recipe:

Ayran

  • 1/3 c thick yogurt
  • 6 oz carbonated (soda) water (for foamy ayran– sub: flat water)
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1 sprig fresh mint (optional garnish)

Preparation:

Place the yogurt, carbonated water and salt in a bowl.

Using an electric mixer, whisk until it is smooth and foamy.

Pour into a glass, topping it with the foam.

Garnish with fresh mint (if using).

Serve & enjoy!

Afiyet Olsun!

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Gözleme (Turkish Flatbread with Melted Cheese)

Light and flaky homemade dough, packed full of melted cheese. Gözleme is the ultimate version of a grilled cheese sandwich but better!

If you’ve seen Gözleme prepared once, chances are that you won’t forget it. It is such a beautiful traditional preparation with a large circular board that sit upright like a small table, a long rolling pin and a large dome cooking surface.

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I love watching Gözleme being prepared because it is prepared with such excellence and speed, not to mention, it tastes great! Many consider it even to be the “fast food” of Turkey because it is so common to find Gözleme throughout the country.

But the great thing is that it can certainly be prepared at home, even without all of the extra equipment. If you have a counter space, a rolling pin and a frying pan, then you an also make Gözleme at home.

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Here’s the recipe:

Gözleme (Turkish Flatbread with Melted Cheese)

For the dough:

  • 1 c flour (+ more for kneading)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3-1/2 c warm water
  • 1 T olive oil

For the filling/cooking:

  • 1.5 c shredded mozzarella cheese (or any cheese that melts well)
  • 2 T olive oil

Garnish (optional):

  • 1/4 tomato (sliced)
  • 5-6 cucumber slices
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh parsley

Preparation:

To make the dough: Combine all of the ingredients (except reserve 1/2 of the olive oil) together in a bowl and stir well until it forms a dough, adding more flour if it is too sticky or more water if it is too dry. Then turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead it for 5-6 minutes. Then shape the dough into a ball and use the remaining olive oil to grease a bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30-60 minutes.

To make the Gözleme: Take a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball and place it on a floured surface. Dust the dough and your rolling pin with a little more flour and proceed to roll the dough into a very thin circular piece. Note: It should be thinner than a thin crust pizza dough where you can see your hand through the dough but not to thin for the dough to tear.

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Then place some of the shredded mozzarella cheese in the middle of the piece of the dough and fold the sides of the dough on top to create a square shaped package.

Then brush a little olive oil on a crepe pan or frying pan and place the Gözleme on the pan. Brush the top with a little more olive oil and allow the Gözleme to cook over medium heat until it starts to puff up and lightly brown. Flip and repeat.

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The dough really starts to puff up as it cooks!
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Nice and golden brown!

Remove the Gözleme from the pan, cut into triangles and serve with the granishes.

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It is Best Enjoyed When it is Warm!

Afiyet Olsun!

 

How to Make Lahmacun (Turkish Pizza) at Home

A perfectly, thin, crispy crust coated with a mixture of veggies, spices and ground meat. Turkish pizza is the ultimate, traditional Turkish street food.

The Legend of the Turkish Pizza

I have been told that the Turkish pizza was the creation of baker that visited the coast of Italy. He saw the people eating and enjoying pizza and he tasted it and enjoyed it too. So as the story goes, he brought the concept back to his homeland but put a local spin on it infusing Turkish spices and seasonings to make it such a beloved Turkish dish. 

I do not know if this legend is true or if my friend was only trying to play a joke on me, but it does make for a really great story, if you ask me.

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There’s nothing like going to the Firin (Turkish for bakery) and to see that they are making Turkish pizza*. Hot and fresh out of the wood-buring oven, the pizza is the perfect food to eat for lunch or dinner. In many ways, it reminds me of my years in New York City, when I would go and grab a slice from Joe’s Pizza, and stand outside or grab a seat at the counter and eat my slice.

Needless to say, no matter where I am in the world, I make friends pretty quickly with the bakers and the people who sell food. Lol! And no matter how long I’ve been gone, if they are still there, they remember me, lol! So do yourself a favor, and either go to enjoy a Lahmacun from your favorite place or make this beautiful recipe. Because, who doesn’t like pizza?

Here’s the recipe:

Lahmacun (Turkish Pizza)

For the topping:
  • 1/4 lb ground beef
  • 3/4 c tomato (chopped)
  • 1/4 c sweet red pepper (chopped)
  • 1/2 c chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt (to taste)
  • 2 T olive oil
For the dough:
  • 1 cup of flour (+1/2 c more for kneading)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c warm water
  • 1.5 tsp yeast

Preparation:

Place all of the topping ingredients in a food processor (except for the ground beef) and blend it until it forms a smooth mixture. Add in some olive oil if needed and continue blending.

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Then mix in the ground beef with a fork and spatula until it is well incorporated.

Set the mixture aside and roll out the dough.

Pre-heat the oven for 220C/428F.

For a large lahmacun, take half of the dough and roll out into a long, thin, oval piece.

Gently transfer the dough onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Then take about half of the topping and spread it evenly on top of the dough to create a nice thin layer, being sure not to leave too much empty space.

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Bake the lahmacun in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the crust is browned and crispy and the toppings cooked.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

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Afiyet Olsun! 

*In some cases, they are making it for a special order, because you can bring them all the ingredients and they will assemble and bake the pizzas for you, but in the heart of the city centers, it is quite common to find them bakers making them for individual sale.

 

Shepherd’s Salad (Coban Salatasi)

A simple and refreshing salad with lemon juice and olive oil.

Coban” literally means “shepherd” in Turkish. This flavorful salad packed with crisp veggies and a light dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. It is absolutely so simple to make and it is the perfect appetizer or even main course. I think you’re going to love this recipe.

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Here’s the recipe:

Shepherd’s Salad (Coban Salad)

  • 2 tomatoes (chopped)
  • 2 cucumbers (chopped)
  • 1/2 white onion (chopped)
  • 1 c fresh parsley (finely chopped)
  • 1 green pepper (sweet or bell) (chopped)
  • 1 lemon (juiced)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

Place all of the chopped vegetables in a large bowl.

Drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice.

Season with salt and pepper.

Stir thoroughly.

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Serve & Enjoy!

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Afiyet Olsun!

Çılbır (Poached Eggs w/ Garlic Yogurt)

Tender eggs poached to perfection in a bed of creamy garlic yogurt and with a drizzle of olive oil and red pepper flakes.

This dish is such a prime example of the beauty of Turkish cooking. It is true that there are some Turkish dishes that are complex and laborious to prepare but this one is quite the contrary. Perhaps some might argue that poaching the eggs is the hardest part but even this step is not as difficult as you think.

Paired with a Turkish chai, this dish is so satisfying and delicious for breakfast or for any time of day.

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Here’s the recipe*

Çılbır (Poached Eggs w/ Garlic Yogurt)

  • 1 fresh large egg
  • 1/8 c thick yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove (crushed into a paste)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 T white vinegar
  • salt (to taste)
  • chopped parsley (optional garnish)

Preparation:

Boil a pot of water and then reduce to a barely a simmer. Add the vinegar and stir.

In a small bowl, mix together the garlic (crushed into a paste by sprinkling salt on top of chopped garlic and using the flat part of a knife to rub against the garlic until it forms a paste) and the yogurt. Season with salt & stir. Place the yogurt on a plate.

To poach the egg: crack the egg in a measuring cup with a handle. Lower the measuring cup into the water and gently drop in the egg. Allow it to cook for 2-4 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs.

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This is how the egg looks when it is first dropped into the water.
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After a few minutes of cooking it will start to rise to the surface.

Gently pat the poached egg dry and then place on top of the garlic yogurt. Drizzle over the olive oil and red pepper flakes. Garnish with parsley.

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Serve & Enjoy!

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Afiyet Olsun!

*Note: this recipe is for one. For more servings, multiply it accordingly.

Homemade Simit: Turkish Bagels (Authentic, Crispy & Delicious)

Crispy on the outside, coated with toasted sesame seeds, but soft on the inside; there is nothing quite like a Simit (Turkish bagel).

There is nothing quite like a fresh-baked Simit (Turkish bagel). You can find them in most Turkish bakeries but also from street carts selling them from just 1 or 2 lira. It is a quick and simple breakfast or snack and one of my favorites.

The art of making a Simit is beautiful. The bread is rolled out into long thin ropes, twisted and then shaped into a circle. Then it is dipped in molasses water and toasted sesame seeds and baked to crispy perfection. Making Simit at home is so much fun and so rewarding especially when you take that first bite. Yum.

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Here’s the recipe:

For the dough:

  • 2 c flour (plus more for dusting & kneading)
  • 2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
  • 2/3 c warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oil

For topping the simit:

  • 1 c sesame seeds (toasted)
  • 1 T molasses
  • 2 c warm water

Preparation:

To make the dough:

To make the dough, place the flour and salt in a bowl and stir. Then mix together the water and yeast in a separate bowl and add it to the flour mixture.

Stir until well incorporated and then pour onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel or piece of plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

Meanwhile, place the sesame seeds onto a dry frying pan and toast until fragrant and lightly browned. Then pour them onto a plate and cool.

In a shallow bowl, mix together the molasses and the water.

To roll out the simit:

Method #1 The “Two Rope Method”:

Take 2 golf ball size pieces of dough and roll them out into a thin rope about 8 inches long. Then wrap them over each other and form into a circle.  Press the ends together (securing with a bit of water if needed) and then roll the circle against the palm of your hand.

Method # 2 “The One Rope Method”:

Take 1 piece of dough about twice the size of a golf ball and roll it into a long rope about 16 inches long. Holding it in the air, fold it over and then spin into a twist. Press the ends together (securing with a bit of water if needed) and then roll the circle against the palm of your hand.

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To top and bake the simit:

Pre-heat your oven for 200C/392F.

Take each simit and dip it on both sides into the molasses water and then dip into the toasted sesame seeds and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Continue until all of the simit have been coated.

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Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the simit are nicely browned.

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Serve & Enjoy (preferably while they are still warm with a glass of Turkish cay).

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Afiyet Olsun!