Turkish Cuisine RecipesA Turkish Feast
There are many similarities between Turkey and Morocco, from the hammam ritual, sound of the call to prayer as you wander the city streets, haggling in the bustling markets and the delicious cuisine. We have full features on Morocco, ranging from the hippie town of Essaouira to the heights of the Atlas Mountains, so today we're exploring the world through cuisine in Turkey. It’s no surprise that Istanbul, a city smack between Europe and Asia, has an incredibly diverse food culture with influences from various realms of the Ottoman Empire. Compared to the city, with its bustling energy, architectural triumphs, and wildly colorful markets, the cuisine relies on simple but excellent ingredients prepared in a careful manner. Vegetarians and carnivores alike will fall in love with the food and flavors—many grilled over an open fire—which honor a range of spices and herbs that underscore every meal.
This is a classic Turkish dish that is simple but satisfying. Don’t worry if your knife skills aren’t up to par: since the soup is pureed in the food processor, you don’t have to agonize over slicing onions and carrots into perfectly diced sizes and shapes. The soup also freezes well, so make double the recipe and save half the batch for another time.
Rinse lentils well and drain.
In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and pinch of salt. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrots, lentils, garlic, oregano, cumin, and tomato paste, and sauté for an additional 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chicken stock and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 45 to 50 minutes. Strain soup, reserving both solids and liquids. Add all of solids to food processor with 4 cups of liquid and puree about 1 minute, until it is smooth but still has some texture to it. Add additional liquid to achieve desired consistency. Adjust seasoning, return to pot, and warm. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
You will be amazed at the difference in taste and texture between homemade and store-bought hummus. This version, which is super easy and inexpensive, is creamy, rich, and light. It also has twice as much flavor as what you buy in the market. Paired with grape leaves, it serves as a no-fuss appetizer. If you’d like to make it a more substantial first course spread, add cubes of feta, olives, grilled red peppers, and toasted pita to the platter.
Serves: 6 to 8
In a medium bowl, add cold water to dried chickpeas so that they are covered by at least 2 inches of water. Add baking soda, wrap tightly with saran, and refrigerate overnight.
Drain and rinse chickpeas well. Add them to a stockpot with fresh water, covering them again by at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and allow to cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and add chickpeas to food processor. Add ½ cup water, tahini, ¼ cup lemon juice, cumin, and healthy pinch of salt. Puree for 30 second, slowly adding olive oil. Taste hummus and adjust seasoning. (It will probably need a bit more salt and lemon juice.) If texture is too thick but flavor is correct, add an additional ½-1 cup of water. If it could use a bit more richness, then add ½ cup water and ¼-½ cup oil. Place hummus in container and refrigerate.
To serve, drizzle olive oil on top and sprinkle with fresh minced parsley, if desired.
In a sauté pan on medium, add 3 tablespoons of oil, onions, and pinch of salt. Sauté until soft, about 6 minutes. Add rice, pine nuts, currants or raisins, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until water is absorbed. Stir in mint and parsley.
Place several grape leaves on bottom of large stockpot so it is covered completely.
Place 1 leaf on work surface, stem side up, and put 2 tablespoons of filling in lower center of leaf. Fold bottom up, then right and left sides, and roll tightly. Place stuffed leaf, seam side down, in pan. Repeat process with remaining leaves and make sure leaves fight snugly in pot. Cover leaves with ½ cup oil, 1 cup lemon juice, and 1 cup of water. Place inverted plate on top of leaves so they cook in liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from liquid and serve.
Phyllo is tricky to work with at first, but once you get the hang of it, this versatile dough will become one of your go-to tricks for making elegant appetizers or hors d’oeuvres. The key is to cover each sheet evenly with the milk mixture and keep unused sheets covered with a damp towel so they don’t dry out. Once you’ve mastered the technique, feel free to experiment with other fillings and roll the dough into different shapes.
Serves: 6 to 8
In a sauté pan on medium-high, heat ¼ cup oil. Add onions and pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add spinach, dill, and feta and mix well.
In a small bowl, add eggs, milk, and ¼ cup oil. Whisk well. Unroll phyllo dough and cut in half horizontally.
Brush a 13x9x2 glass dish generously with melted butter. Place 2 sheets of dough into dish and brush generously with milk mixture. Add another 2 sheets and brush with mixture. Repeat process one more time until you have until you have 6 layers of dough stacked with mixture in between. Keep unused phyllo dough covered with a damp towel at all times because it dries out very quickly.
Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Spread filling evenly on top of dough. Drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons of milk mixture over filling. Repeat process of stacking dough and brushing sheets with milk mixture until you have 6 more layers. Spread remaining milk mixture over top layer of dough. Wrap with saran and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Bake in oven for 40-50 minutes, until pastry is puffy, crispy, and light golden brown. Slice into wedges and serve.
Eggplant and lamb are two cornerstone ingredients of Turkish cuisine and work well together. Quickly grilling the meat adds a nice crust to the outside that keeps the inside tender, and the bright color and flavor of the yogurt sauce serves as a counterpoint to the entire meal.
In a medium bowl, add lamb, 3 sliced garlic cloves, lemon zest, oregano, cumin, and ¾ cup of oil. Mix ingredients well, wrap with saran, and marinate for at least 4 hours and up to 8.
Soak skewers in water for 10 minutes and drain. Preheat grill to 375˚ F and wipe with oil. Skewer pieces of lamb, wipe off excess pieces of garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 8 minutes, flipping sides halfway through, and remove. Allow meat to rest for 10 minutes and serve with yogurt sauce and smoked eggplant salad.
In a medium bowl, add yogurt, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, garlic, cucumber, mint, dill and healthy pinch of salt. Mix ingredients well, cover with saran, and refrigerate until serving.
Preheat grill to 350˚ F. Place eggplant slices on sheet pan and season with salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Wipe off excess water, brush with ¼ cup olive oil, and season with black pepper. Grill on both sides for 6 to 7 minutes each. Grill whole red pepper at same time. Remove eggplant and pepper from grill and allow to cool. Remove core and seeds from pepper and dice small. Cube eggplant. Place eggplant and pepper in medium bowl. Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic, parsley, and drizzle a bit of oil. Mix well and serve.
If you’re usually apprehensive about making desserts and don’t consider yourself a baker, then this is the recipe for you. The filling takes seconds to pull together in the food processor, and the rest is just a matter of layering and buttering phyllo dough. Just remember: like the borek, it is very important to butter each sheet well and keep unused dough covered with a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out.
Serves: 25 pieces
Place honey, 1 ½ cups sugar, lemon juice, and 1 cup water in saucepan on high heat. Stir constantly until mixture is at a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until syrup has thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.
Place pistachios, cinnamon, 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar and ½ cup sugar in food processor. Pulse briefly, until nuts are ground to a medium-fine texture, so there is still some coarseness to it and not too much oil is released.
Unroll phyllo dough and slice in half horizontally. Brush a 13x9x2 glass dish generously with melted butter. Place 1 sheet of dough into dish and brush generously with butter. Add another sheet and brush with butter. Repeat process until you have 10 to 12 layers of dough stacked with butter in between. Keep unused phyllo dough covered with a damp towel at all times because it dries out very quickly.
Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Spread 1 ½ cups filling evenly on top of dough. Drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons of melted butter over filling. Repeat process of stacking dough and buttering sheets until you have 4 to 5 more layers. Spread an additional 1 ½ cups filling and 2 to 3 tablespoons of melted butter over dough layers. Top with another 5 layers of dough.
Score top layer of dough horizontally in 4 equal lines and then vertically, so 25 pieces are made. Bake until pastry is puffy and light golden brown, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and pour syrup evenly on top. Cool to room temperature and serve with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, if desired.