Almost Turkish Recipes

Fava Bean and Pea Salad (İç Bakla ve Bezelye Salatası)

A timely, deliciously green olive oil dish or salad for spring when both fresh fava beans and peas start to appear at farmers' markets.

1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 lb fresh fava beans in pod (or frozen podded favas)
1/2 lb fresh peas in pod or frozen peas
3 green onions, finely chopped
~1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
~1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp white sugar
juice of half a lemon

~1/3 cup crumbled feta (optional)

-Pod and boil fava beans in salted water for 5 minutes. The cooking time depends on the freshness of the beans. Blanch and poke the skin to squeeze the beans out. This is time consuming, yet makes a salad better. Some people find fava skins to be bitter, I don't. If anything skins make the salad a bit chewy and that is fine. I sometimes leave the skins on and sometimes, when I'm not in a rush, peel them.
-Heat a pot on medium, add 1/4 olive oil. When heated add onions. Cook onions on low to medium, do not brown them, until soft: 5-7 minutes.
-Add sugar, half of the chopped green onions, fava beans, and podded fresh or frozen green peas, and garlic, salt.  
-Cover and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes.
-Turn it off, add lemon juice, half of dill and mint and let cool down to room temperature in the pot, covered.
-Take the favas out on a serving plate. Sprinkle with the remaining green onion, dill and mint.
-Drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil and serve at room temperature.

There's absolutely nothing written in stone; you can use more or less of anything, or add other herbs that you think would suit the favas and peas. I like sprinkling some white/feta cheese on top. 

Potato Salad à la Turca (Patates Salatası)
Potato salad, I had to say à la Turque not to have it confused with any of its American or European cousins, is an herbed filled, green heavy savory deliciousness. It is a great side when grilling and the absolute perfect lunch on summer days. The history of this salad in Turkish cuisine is vague and it is made in differing variations across Turkey. Although potato salad is in all its variations usually prepared as quite savory and herby, it is rarely as herby as the one I make. This salad can be one of my earliest specialties as I started making at at the age of 10. My rule is any herb and any Mediterranean green can and must go into this salad. There's nothing written in stone here; you have your boiled potatoes and herbs on them. However, the Turkish potato salad has to be savory and a bit on the sour side.

Potatoes enough to make 4-5 cups when chopped--in Turkey this is made with yellow potatoes since we don't have red ones over there; however, I love it with red potatoes,too.
1 small onion
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cucumber, cut in quarter rounds
3 banana peppers (or any other green/red pepper), chopped finely
1/4 cups halved and pitted green olives
1/4 cups finely chopped dill pickles or capers
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
1/4 cup dill, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped or 2 tsp dried mint flakes
1/2 tsp spicy red crushed pepper (optional)
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp sumac 
1/2 tsp black pepper
juice of one and a half lemons (check after one to see if it's sour enough for you. I usually end of using almost 2 lemon for their juice, but I do love sour)
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil, you will be surprised how much olive oil this salad can need and hide
1-2 tbsp dijon mustard (optional)

-Either boil the potatoes (however much you will be using) as a whole in plenty of water until soft but not mushy, very important! You want the potatoes to hold their shapes. Then peel and dice them. (InTurkey potatoes are always peeled, but in Turkey potatoes usually come with a big chunk of the field they were planted in. I don't think the ones you find here in US need peeling. I prefer not peeling them) If you're short for time, peel (optional, again) and dice first and then boil them--this way they will be ready much faster, approximately 10 minutes. Drain and let cool
-Cut the onion in half lengthwise and then chop it into very thin half moons. Put the chopped onion in a bowl and knead it with 1 tsp salt until the onion is soft. Rinse the salt off the onion and drain. 
-Mix olive oil, salt, and lemon juice (and mustard if you choose to use it--it contributes to the savory taste in a magnificent way.)
-Mix all the other ingredients and potatoes in a big bowl. 
-Dress and mix well. Make necessary adjustments: olive oil, salt or more lemon juice. 

Serve as an appetizer, salad, as a side dish for meat or enjoy it as lunch on a hot summer day. 

Carrot Salad with Yogurt (Yoğurtlu Havuç Salatası)

Carrot salad with yogurt is one of the greatly respected rakı companions. Although it is made at homes not so frequently, usually for big dinner parties or special occasions like New Year's eve or bayram dinners, it is a  staple meze (appetizer/starter/hors d'oeuvre) at every pub that serves rakı, especially at seafood pubs. Surprisingly carrot salad with yogurt tastes even better at sloppy pubs with crusty bread and rakı than it does at home, probably because rakı fixes every imperfection. You can have this salad/meze on the side of any grilled goods or have it on its own for lunch on hot summer days.

serves 2 to 3 people
4 cups of grated carrot
1 cup plain yogurt, preferably whole milk yogurt
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill or parsley
1 tbsp mayonnaise (optional)

-Heat oil in a skillet and add grated carrots. Stir until carrots are wilted.
-Mix yogurt, garlic, and salt in a bowl.
-Put carrots in a bowl and mix well with yogurt and sprinkle with dill or parsley.

note: At people's houses this meze is made with yogurt, but at pubs they sometimes use mayonnaise to thicken it up.

Melt-in-your Mouth Cheesy Poğaças (Peynirli Çıtır Poğaça)

Poğaça, a kind of savory pastry / bread, is a traditional baked good in Turkey and Eastern European+Balkanic countries that crossed paths with Ottoman culture and cuisine. Poğaça, pronounced as poa-cha, is the indispensable part of afternoon teas or on-the-go breakfasts when you grab your poğaça from your neighborhood patisserie on your way to work or school. Usually poğaças are made in half-moon shape. Several pieces of round dough, 3-5 inch in diameter, would be filled with stuffing (variations on stuffing are numerous: feta cheese, potato, ground meat, spinach, cheddar, onion, etc) and folded in to two for the half-moon shape, and sprinkled with sesame or nigella seeds. 

There are hundreds of different ways of making poğaças, with or without yeast, with or without meat, in rounds or almond shapes, etc. This particular recipe requires vinegar to have that delicious melt-in-your-mouth taste last a couple of days after they're baked.

makes ~24 poğaças
1 1/2 sticks butter (~200gr) at room temperature
2 eggs (save one of the yolks for brushing the tops) 
1/3 cup vinegar (red wine, apple)
1/3 cup olive oil
1,5 tsp salt
a heaping 1/2 cup yogurt
2 tsp baking powder
3 to 3 and half cups of flour

1/2 cup white/feta cheese for the stuffing
1/4 or 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
sesame and/or nigella seeds for the top

-Mix all the ingredients except for one egg yolk, feta/white cheese, parsley and seeds.
-This is going to be a soft yet a non sticky dough. 
-Divide it into 24-25 parts. You can make them bigger or smaller.
-Roll them between your palms into balls first and then flatten them into a circle.
-Mash the white cheese with the back of a fork. Add parsley and mix well. 
-Place ~1-1,5 tsp cheese filling in the middle of the circles and close them by bringing the edges together to form a almond-like shape. Place on a lined oven tray.
-Finish forming all the poğaças and brush them all with egg yolk. 
-Sprinkle sesame seeds or nigella seeds or both on top. 
-Bake in a preheated oven at 390F for 25-30 minutes until golden.
-Let cool for a couple of minutes if you can and dig in!

Leeks in Olive Oil (Zeytinyağlı Pırasa)

In Turkish cuisine, most "pırasa" dishes, originally praso from Greek, are attributed to Albanian Turks. Not only leeks feature predominantly in Albanian immigrants' dishes, but also they make, hands down, the best leek dishes. The Albanian börek (phyllo pastry) with leeks is just to die for. Although leeks have a milder flavor with a sweet touch than its relatives onions and garlic, for some it is still quite overwhelming. So in Turkey you either love them or not at all, a well known fact that seems to have inspired Baba Zula, a Turkish alternative music band, to compose a song called pırasa the lyrics of which goes: "There are two different kinds of people in this world: those who love leeks, and those who don't.... those who don't know how to love leeks and then those who can love them" This is the recipe that turned me into one of those who know how to enjoy leeks!

for 4 people
4 regular leeks or 2 King leeks, really hard top dark green parts discarded, washed well and chopped in 1/3 inch rounds
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped in rounds or half moons
1/4 cup or a handful of rice
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
2/3 - 1 cup hot water, to cover the leeks
1 tsp sugar

-Heat olive oil in a pot on medium and add onions, cook until soft but NOT brown. This is an olive oil dish and having browned onions in olive oil dishes changes the taste completely.
-Add carrots and sugar, stir for 3 more minutes
-Add leeks and stir for a couple of minutes until wilted
-Add rice and cook for a minute.
-Add lemon juice, salt and water to barely cover the leeks.
-Cover and cook on low heat until rice is cooked, approximately 20-25 minutes.
-Let the leeks cool down to room temperature in its own pot, lid closed.
-Transfer to a serving plate and serve at room temperature or cold.
-In Turkey 1=2 tbsp olive oils is scattered on top of the leeks on the serving plate to have a shinier look.

Usually when leeks are served, sliced lemons would be available on the table for extra drops of fresh lemon juice on top. It brings up the flavors beautifully. Eat with a nice loaf of bread. I love eating them mostly for lunch with yogurt on the side.

Green Lentils (Yeşil Mercimek)

The eastern Thrace is the north western or the European part of Turkey. The region (except for Istanbul) is mostly occupied by people who migrated from the western Thrace (Greece and Bulgaria). Most of those people, like my grandparents, settled down in the region after the 1924 population exchange. This green lentil dish is cooked widely in eastern Thrace and known to be a western Thracian recipe.

1 cup dry green lentils
3 tbsp olive oil or butter
1 big onion, chopped
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

1/4 cup vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
use a vinegar based hot sauce

-Cook 1 cup green lentils with 3 cups of water on medium until water is completely soaked.
-In a different pot heat the oil and stir in onions. Cook until soft.
-Add flour and stir for a couple of minutes.
-Add tomato paste and stir for another couple of minutes.
-Add lentils with 2 1/2 cups of water. Salt to your taste. Cook on medium low for 30 minutes. -Add dill after you turn it off.
-For the sauce, in a little bowl mix 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 cloves of minced garlic, and crushed pepper.
-When you serve the lentils, put a couple of spoons of the sauce on lentils.
-Serve with bread or rice.