Almost Turkish Recipes

Red Lentil and Beet Soup (Kırmızı Mercimekli Pancar Çorbası)

This deliciously colorful and healthy soup is known simply as the "pink" soup in our house, since I prefer not to disclose to my young and picky eaters all the vegetables that goes in this soup: ignorance is bliss sometimes. This red lentil and beet soup is a staple in our house. Beets go into the soup and beet greens into this recipe.

2 small to medium size beets, peeled and diced (If bought in a bunch, use stems and leaves as well, chopped)
1 small red onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup red lentils, washed
1 red bell pepper or 3 red sweet Italian peppers, chopped
4-5 cups of water (or vegetable or chicken stock)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

for decoration
White/feta cheese
parsley, finely chopped

-Put all the ingredients in a big pot and bring to boil.
-Once it boils, turn the heat down and simmer approximately for 20 minutes or until everything is thoroughly cooked.
-Smoothen the soup with a hand blender. (If you don't have a hand blender, chop everything tiny or grate everything before adding them into the pot.)
-Optional: Serve with chopped parsley and white cheese on top (I also like to add a dollop of yogurt) and/or white crusty bread.

Bean Salad (Piyaz)

Piyaz is what we call bean salads in Turkey, but the term piyaz is actually Persian and means "onion." This gorgeous, super healthy and nutritious salad is usually prepared with cannellini beans and kneaded red onion; dressed with olive oil and vinegar; spiced up with pepper flakes; and decorated with tomatoes, parsley, and hard-boiled eggs. Depending on the region, piyaz might have green onions or sumac or, like in Antalya, tahini. In my hometown Tekirdağ, one of the two meatball capitals of Turkey, meatballs are almost always served with piyaz: you have to have it. But piyaz is good with any kind grilled meat or with just nicely baked bread or with rice. One of my favorite lunches is cold rice and piyaz.  
2 cups cannellini beans, soaked overnight and cooked until soft OR 1 can of cannellini beans
1 small red onion, thinly sliced in half moons, kneaded with 1tsp of salt, washed and rinsed
1 tomato, diced (in Turkey tomatoes are always skinned before added to salads)
1 green pepper, thinly sliced (shishitos are good subs for Turkish green chilies)
1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
1-2 tsp sumac
1 tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
a couple of black olives for decoration

I personally do not understand the point of boiling an egg until it's rock hard, bland, and hard to swallow. What a crime. And I detest their cold version even more, if it's possible. Therefore, I never ever use boiled eggs in piyaz. However, if you like them you need 1 hard boiled egg, chopped 

for the dressing
1/4 cup or a bit more good olive oil
2-3 tbsp apple or white wine vinegar

-Place the beans on an oval or rectangle serving plate; the plate shouldn't be too deep.
-Add kneaded and rinsed onions on top.
-Add tomatoes and then eggs if you're using them.
-Sprinkle sumac and hot pepper flakes.
-Sprinkle parsley on top. Place a couple of olives for decoration on top.
-Mix olive oil, vinegar and salt. Pour over the salad. Piyaz should be a bit sour. Vinegar should definitely come through!
-Mix well (at the table before eating) and dig in preferably with a crusty bread!

Crunchy Tahini Cookies (Tahinli Çıtır Kurabiye)

Let's start the new year on a sweet note. This "cookie" that is made with baklava phyllos is relatively new in Turkish dessert scene, yet it quickly became irresistible. The cookies are like dry baklava, less sweet and with tahini gorgeousness. My mom made them for the first time more than a decade ago when they had come to visit us and I remember how challenging it was to find tahini in US. Now, fortunately, even Trader Joe's has them as a staple. Now mom has to make them, trays and trays of them, whenever we see each other. I baked tens of these as gifts in lieu of traditional Christmas cookies this year; I got many compliments and recipe requests.   

1 box of phyllo or filo dough, thawed according to instructions on the box (there are many brands and they all usually have ~18-20 sheets)
1 stick (113 gr.) butter, melted
1-1 1/2 cup tahini
1 - 1 1/2 cup sugar
1,5 cup finely chopped walnuts 
powdered sugar to decorate

There's nothing written in stone when it comes to how much of these ingredients you need. You can use more or less of any one of them.

-Take 4 sheets from the phyllo box and cover the rest of the sheets with a kitchen towel to prevent drying. Place first sheet a dry surface long side facing you. Brush with melted butter to cover almost all the surface. 
-Place the second sheet on top and butter again. -Repeat with the 3rd sheet as well. 
-Place the 4th sheet on top and brush generously with tahini. If you prefer you can use a spoon to scatter tahini as well. 
-The next step is to sprinkle sugar and you can make this cookie/ roll as sweet as you wish. Sprinkle 3-4 tbsp sugar or a handful of sugar evenly.
-On top of sugar, sprinkle finely chopped walnuts ~1/3 cup. 
-Starting from the side close to you, start rolling the stuffed phyllo. Phyllo could be hard to work with; it might tear here and there, but it is fine. Just roll. 
-Repeat the process until you finish all the sheets. (If you have a 18 sheet box, cut the last two sheets in two and make shorter rolls.) 
-Once you have all the rolls, put them on a cutting board side by side. Using a long sharp knife--it really needs to be sharp--cut ~ 1.5 inch/ 4-5 cm long pieces. Some people go for a baklava feel and cut them diagonally. You can do that as well. When you are cutting them it will feel like you're flattening them with pressure; no worries, they will bounce back once baked. 
-If you have left over butter, you can brush the tops gently. 
-Bake in a preheated oven at 360 F (180 C) for ~15 minutes or until they turn golden brown. Be careful not to burn them.      
-Once they cool down, sprinkle them with powdered sugar. 
Bon appétit!