Almost Turkish Recipes

Turkish Style Stuffed Poblanos with Ground Beef (Etli Poblano Dolması)

Poblanos are the best substitutes out there for Turkish bell peppers for stuffing. It is quite rare to stuff spicy peppers in Turkish cuisine. However, the spiciness that poblanos bring to this traditional Turkish dolma dish is absolutely inspiring. This is a classic dolma recipe. The stuffing can be used for any kind of peppers that appeal to you. 

6 poblanos, washed and seeded
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 biggish onion, finely diced, ~1 cup
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes grated or pureed in the blender
7 tbsp rice (1 tbsp for each poblano and 1 bonus)
1/2 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1/3 flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste + 1 tbsp red pepper paste (if you cannot find red pepper paste use 2 tbsp tomato paste)
4 tbsp olive oil or butter
hot water

-Wash and cut the tops of poblanos. Do not discard them, we will use them later. Pierce the poblanos towards the bottom with a sharp knife. 
-Put ground meat, grated tomatoes, rice, onion, garlic, dill, parsley, salt and pepper (i.e., all the ingredients except for tomato paste and olive oil) in a big bowl and mix them well for a couple of minutes with your hands. 
-Stuff the poblanos with the stuffing loosely half and inch below the top, do not try to press down or to fit as much as you can. Rice will expand so give it some space.  
-Cover the tops with the cut-off poblano tops. You can also use sliced tomatoes to cover the tops. Either way is fine. The idea is try to keep the stuffing inside. Place the stuffed peppers in other words your dolmas in a pot big enough to have them.
-Mix tomato paste (and red pepper if you have it) with ~2 cups of hot water in cup and melt the paste by stirring. Pour this mixture over the dolmas.The water should not completely cover the dolmas but it should come more than half way through. Add water if necessary. The top parts of peppers will cook from the steam. 
-Add olive oil or butter.
-First bring to a boil and then turn it down and simmer covered for ~30 minutes or until rice is cooked. Let it cool down for 10 minutes.
-Serve with yogurt on the side. Inside will look like this:
Bon appétit!

Turkish Style Fresh Borlotti Beans (Barbunya Pilaki)

It is barbunya beans season, again! These delicious nutty beans with red or dark purple speckles packed with a long list of health benefits (google it!) are also called borlotti, cranberry, roman (not the Italian green ones), or October beans. In Turkey these reddish delicious beans are named after yet another red deliciousness: the Mediterranean red mullet, aka barbunya, from the Greek barbounia. 

Barbunya beans arrive at the farmer's markets in Turkey in midsummer, in pods, and when they do arrive they immediately become the most expensive item on the carts. Since people wait for their arrival for so long, at the time of their arrival they’re ready to pay whatever—it’s definitely a seller’s market. By the end of the summer and end of the barbunya season, however, barbunya stocks start to go down and barbunya lovers invest in kilos and kilos of barbunyas. They pod them and keep them in the freezer for the long barbunya deprived winter. Although you can find dry barbunyas year around, fresh barbunyas are always, and I cannot emphasize this enough, always preferred to dried ones.

Barbunyas are always cooked the same way in Turkish cuisine, i.e. vegetarian, in generous amount of olive oil with tomatoes. Cooked in any other way, it’s considered a pity, a total waste. “The” barbunya dish, the Istanbul style, is called barbunya pilaki. The word pilaki also comes from Greek (remember “gigantes plaki”?) and in its Turkish form, the word is a generic name for a dish of vegetables or seafood slowly braised with onion, garlic, and tomatoes in olive oil and served cold or at room temperature. However, although there are scrumptious seafood pilakis, the name in time happened to be associated only with bean pilakis, cannellini and barbunya, to be specific. This is my recipe for barbunya pilaki.

Barbunya pilaki is traditionally made with potatoes and carrots; however, I really do not like potatoes in this dish; I strongly believe that potatoes cloud the flavor of barbunyas. I replace potatoes for green sweet peppers, or in their absence, with sweat Italian peppers.

I usually cook barbunyas in pressure cooker, since it’s faster. You can use this recipe with regular or instant pots as well.

serves ~4
2 lb of fresh barbunyas in pod, pod them. Sometimes when they are very fresh, the pods are firm and hard to pod. If that's the case, leave them in a fabric bag for a day or two to breathe and loosen up. 
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or thinly sliced
1 potato, peeled and diced
OR, if you want to try my version 3-4 sweet green peppers, chopped in small pieces
1 carrot, cut in half or quarter moons
2 big tomatoes, grated or crushed in a food processor
1/3 cup olive oil, for starters and if you’re ready for it add a heaping tbsp more (we do believe in olive oil)
1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
1 cup hot water
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp or more salt

-Pod all the beans. Your 2 lb fresh barbunya beans will diminish to ~1 lb once podded. They might come in different sizes and colors, all fine. Don’t be alarmed; they will loose their bright colors and turn brownish once cooked. Still, all good.
-Add olive oil in your pot and once warmed up add onions. Cook for 4-5 minutes on medium to high heat until softened.
-Add sugar, garlic, peppers or potatoes, and carrots, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
-If you think your tomatoes won’t give a vibrant red color, which happens a lot, you can use tomato paste. If so, add it now and cook for a minute.
-Add barbunyas and tomatoes, and stir for a minute or two.
-Add water and salt.
-If you’re using a pressure cooker, cover and cook on low after the steam comes out for 16-18 minutes. (I have a young clientele who like soft food, so I go for 18 minutes). If you’re using a regular pot, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes on low until beans are cooked. Check now and then to make sure it doesn’t run out of water. If it does, boil some water before adding more.  
-Once it is cooked, let it cool down to room temperature in its pot with the lid on.

Barbunya pilaki is a traditional olive oil dish and like all olive oil dishes it is served at room temperature or cold, with lemon slices. A splash of lemon juice brightens up barbunyas in unimaginable ways. Serve with grilled meat, with rice on the side or with crusty bread. It’ll keep in the fridge for a week.

Shepherd's Salad (Çoban Salatası)

Shepherd’s salad (çoban salatası inTurkish) is the unchallenged center food of Turkish summer tables. When you go to köfte/kebab or a small scale neighborhood restaurant the waiter would bring this salad with water, ordering not necessary. Shepherd’s salad is made with easily accessible, summer’s usual suspects that even a shepherd can have tending their herd out in the country, i.e., tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, and parsley. Although these five are invariable (despite heated arguments over whether a “true” shepherd’s salad would have cucumber or not), there are also variations of this fresh summer salad, much to the purists’ dismay! Some add pitted black olives; some cannot have it without crumbled white cheese on top; and some add red peppers or some greens like arugula. Dressing is also quite simple: lemon juice or vinegar or both, olive oil and salt.

The most valuable part of this salad is the juice that sits at the bottom: olive oil and vinegar/lemon juice mixed with juice oozing from the fresh tomatoes and flavored with onions, peppers and parsley. It is customary to peel the tomatoes for maximum juice. And you have to have that bread! You have to soak that juice and finish the plate clean with who-knows-how-many morsels of bread. I’ve loved putting scoops of this salad on my plain rice as a kid and I still to this day love mixing my rice with shepherd’s salad. However, other people usually enjoy shepherd’s salad with grilled meats and veggies or basically anything. On really hot and humid summer nights shepherd’s salad along with slices of watermelon and white cheese makes the best dinner. The most loved shepherd’s salads are those chopped finely.

For 4 people
2 big or 4 medium size tomatoes, peeled if you bother and petite diced
2-3 green peppers, shishito peppers or sweet Italian peppers are good for this, thinly chopped
2 Persian cucumbers, peeled or not, quartered lengthwise and thinly chopped
1 small onion, preferably red for flavor, thinly chopped in half moon shapes, kneaded for a minute with ½ tsp salt and rinsed well
¼ bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 lemon and/or 2 tbsp vinegar, apple, white or red wine

Crumbled feta
Pitted Turkish black olives (Kalamata is fine but please never canned olives)

-Start chopping all and layering them in a slightly deep serving dish in this order: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, (cheese and olives) and lastly parsley. You have to knead the onion with salt and rinse it. You cannot miss this step since it’ll take the bitterness and crunchiness of the onions.
-Salt to your taste, ½ to 1 tsp salt.
-Add juice of half lemon (this depends on how juicy our lemon is. You might need juice of a whole lemon) or 1-2 tbsp vinegar. Some people like it with lemon juice whereas some like it with vinegar. I like them both and sometimes get acidity from both for my salad.
-Add 4-6 tbsp olive oil. In Turkey 4 would be on the stingy side. We’re very generous with our good olive oil when it comes to shepherd’s salad. You can think as 1-1,5 tbsp olive oil per person.
-Mix everything well and dig in!

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.