I’ve been doing pretty well in the kitchen since I came back. I did a week of plate lunches, drive-ins, and microwave cooking, and then reverted back to home cooking. I bought a mess of vegetables and some good olive oil, and have been experimenting with Turkish dishes. Turkish cooking reminds me of Japanese – both emphasize maximizing the base flavors of the vegetables The major difference is that Turks do this with touches of lemon, pomegranate, and olive oil, whereas the Japanese do this with soy, vinegar, and miso.
I’ve been really happy with the results. If I ever opened a restaurant I think I would focus on Turkish salads, beans, and vegetables. I think it’s one of the great undiscovered cuisines in the U.S.
This first one is pretty much like a bruschetta topping. I used too much pepper, so it was really spicy.
Kirmizi Biber Yemegi
(Red Pepper Paste; Binnur’s)
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 scallion, chopped
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp rice, rinsed, drained
- 2 large tomato, peeled, diced
- 1 Hawaiian chile pepper
- 1 tsp pomegranate syrup
Saute the onion with olive oil until it's softened. Add the red pepper, rice, tomatoes, chile, salt and pepper. Put the lid on. Do not open while its cooking. Cook for 20 minutes under medium heat. Turn the heat off, add pomegranate syrup, stir.
Sprinkle some chopped parsley all over. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Dible is from the Black Sea region. It tastes good warm or cold.
(Green Beans and Rice; Binnur’s)
- 500 gr flat green beans, cut 1.5 inches long
- 1 medium sized onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup rice, washed and drained
- 1/2 cup water
- 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
Saute the onion with olive oil in a pot for about 2-3 minutes. Add the beans, salt and pepper, and cook on medium-low heat for another 5 minutes.
Using a wooden spoon, place the beans in a circle around the edge of the pot. Put the rice in the hole in the middle. Now cover the rice with the beans. Pour the water in from the sides. Cover the lid and simmer for about 30 minutes. Make sure not to open the lid too often to ensure that the heat stays in the pot. Wait until the water evaporates. You can also let it cook a bit longer until the rice is caramelized.
This one is just delicious. I never peeled the potatoes, and that was fine. I liked it better cold.
(Lemon Potato Salad; Binnur’s)
- 2 medium waxy potatoes
- 60 - 70 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 fresh green onions, chopped
- Some red onion, sliced
Boil the potatoes. Remove the skin and cut in medium sized chunks. Whisk all the sauce ingredients. Toss it with the potatoes while they are still warm. Sprinkle with fresh green and red onions.
I don’t know why this next one tastes so good; the ingredients are all simple. I also don’t know why it’s important to build the pyramid out of tomatoes and beans, but it is. I tried just cooking all of this together and it was average. The technique makes all the difference.
Zeytinyağlı Taze Fasulye
(Beans in Olive Oil; from Almost Turkish)
- 1 kg green bean
- 3 medium tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 large onions
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- 8 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup hot water
Snap off ends of beans. Divide into 2 portions. Leave 1 portion whole. Cut remaining portion into 3-3 1/2 cm long chunks. Place 1 whole tomato in center of a shallow saucepan. Arrange whole beans around tomato, side by side. Spread cut beans over. Sprinkle with garlic cloves. Top with thinly sliced onion and tomatoes. Seasons with salt and sugar. Add olive oil and hot water. Cover and simmer for 45-50 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; cool. Turn up side down on a serving plate.
I also made my first risotto a few nights ago! This wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, though it took a long time to find all the right ingredients.
Risotto alla Milanese
(House and Garden, 1962)
- 1 marrow bone
- 5-6 tablespoons butter
- 1 scallion, finely chopped
- 2 cups rice
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/3 cup sherry
- 6 cups stock
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Parmesan cheese
Soak marrow bone in warm water until the marrow is tender and can be pushed out in one piece. Poach the marrow in 2-3 cups water. Save stock. Make another stock out of the bone. Save.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a heavy skillet. When it is bubbling, add the onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes; do not allow the onion to brown. Add the rice and stir it well with a spatula; do not allow it to color. Be certain that the onion and rice are well coated with the butter. Add the sliced marrow; then add wine & cook until wine is almost gone.
Add sherry and ¼ cup stock. Let each round of stock cook away before adding more, ½ cup at a time. As the rice becomes tender, stir it with a fork to keep it from sticking to the pan (I stirred with a spatula the whole time; maybe that’s why I needed 6 cups of stock and not the 3 cups the recipe called for).
When the rice is done, Add salt and a couple big pinches of saffron (House and Garden says to add “a touch” – but what’s the point of that?). Stir 3 tablespoons of butter and a little grated Parmesan cheese.
Serve at once.
For the leftovers, form them in patties and fry in oil or butter for riso al salto.
House and Garden says to add sliced white truffles when serving. That was a bit beyond my budget. I'll save that bit for if I have a hot date I need to impress.
I bought organic “beef broth” at Whole Foods and it was vile. They almost won me over by having marrow bones at the butcher. It worked out in the end, because my improvised marrow stock worked really well. So, this is the recipe as I cooked it, and not quite as the book called for. I’ll do it my way next time too.