Künefe (a sweet cheesy pastry)

A sweet & cheesy treat covered with crispy kadayif! Künefe is a treat found throughout Turkey & the Middle East.

 

One of my all time favorite Turkish desserts is künefe! It’s something that I enjoyed going out to eat but it is also something I learned to prepare when I attended culinary school in Turkey.

Like pizza, künefe is best enjoyed when it is hot and fresh. The cheesy is melted, the kadayif is crispy & buttery and the simple syrup, referred to as “sherbet,” is still bubbling. Mmmm!

If you’ve never tried it, I think you should find a place asap that sells it and give it a try. Künefe places in Turkey have perfected the art of the service. They specialize in a myriad of different types and make each künefe to order. At your table, they serve some seasonal fruit, kayamak (a sweet clotted cream) and shot glasses filled with milk. All of these items uniquely compliment and enhance the flavor of the künefe.

The beauty of künefe, is that you can make it at home pretty easily. You just need the kadayif, which I have found can be difficult to find in some countries even in the Middle East especially since there are different variations of künefe such as the one in Nablus that uses a finely ground kadayif instead of the shredded kind.

In southern Turkey, I love to visit the kadayif shops. They are small little shops filled with massive machines to make the kadayif. Once it’s made, when you walk in the shop you’ll find piles and piles of it. It looks like a golden wonderland!

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Here’s the recipe:

Peynirli Künefe

  • 4-5 cups of tel kadayif (shredded kadayif)
  • 1/3 c melted butter plus 2 TBSP for greasing the pan
  • 12 oz cheese (I used Hatay Peynir, a special Turkish cheese but you can substitute an unsalted mozerella; it needs to be a neutral cheese that melts well)
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1 small lemon wedge (like the size that you put it iced tea)

Essential Tools

  • Künefe pan (Two are better than one, but I used one in my recipe) -Substitute: a 6-8 inch frying pan
  • Spatula
  • Pastry brush
  • large bowl
  • a small plate

Preparation:

Grease your künefe pan (or frying pan) with 1 TBSP of butter.

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In a small saucepan, prepare the sherbet (simple syrup) by combining 1/2 c white sugar with 3/4-1 c of water and the lemon wedge. Gently stir and place over low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You don’t want it to come to a rolling boil, just lightly simmer.

Place the kadayif in a bowl and drizzle over 1/3 cup of melted butter. Toss to evenly coat the kadayif.

Then layer half of the kadayif in the bottom of the künefe pan pressing it down to create an even layer.

Slice the cheese and then layer it evenly on top of the kadayif.

Cover the cheese with the remaining kadayif being sure that no cheese is exposed.

Using a small plate, press it down on top of the künefe to compress it.

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Now, it’s ready to the stove. Note: a gas stove is preferrable because you can have better control over the heat. But if you’re using an electric stove, place the heat on low, be patient and diligently watch your künefe so it doesn’t burn. When it’s ready to flip it should smell like browned butter not burnt butter.

Over a low flame, cook the künefe until golden brown on the bottom. (Note: this takes about 5-6 minutes but you can check it by gently lifting up a corner. If it’s golden brown, then it’s time to flip it.)

When it’s ready to flip, take a large plate (big enough to cover your pan) and place it on top of the künefe. Gently, with oven mitts holding the pan and the plate, flip the künefe to reveal the browned side up.

Then, place the pan back on the stove and using the pastry brush, coat it with the last tablespoon of butter.

Then carefully place the künefe back in the pan by placing the plate over the pan and gently moving it into the pan with a spatula.

Then cook the künefe again until it is golden brown on this side.

Remove from the heat, and place on a  heat proof surface.

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Gently stir the sherbet (simple syrup) again and then ladle it onto the künefe making sure it is fully covered. Note: It might seem decadent to top it with a sugar syrup but really this is the only sugar being used in the entire recipe so it actually has less sugar than my average cake recipe.

Serve & Enjoy immediately because it is sooooo delicious.

And of course, Afiyet Olsun Arkadaş!

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©All Rights Reserved

All photos & text by EE Winkler

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.