We’re having an impromptu New Year’s Eve “party” tonight. I put party in quotations because we’re not exactly a wild bunch. We’re having food, alcohol, and friends on NYE, so I feel like it qualifies as a party, but we’re doing a lot more playing of board games than dancing on tables.
I’ve wanted to make muhammara for awhile now and tonight seemed like a good night! It’s really pretty easy to make, especially if you have a decent food processor. I mostly followed the recipe of my old faithful, Yotam Ottolenghi, for this one. If it’s any type of food from the greater Middle East, I feel like he makes it and makes it well! Muhammara originates from Aleppo, Syria, so the use of Aleppo pepper in the dish just feels important and necessary to me. Unfortunately, the civil war in Syria has greatly decreased world-wide supply of Aleppo pepper.* (*Obviously, this is not the most important negative impact of the Syrian civil war.) But with that in mind, if you don’t have any/can’t find any, you can substitute a smaller quantity of crushed red pepper flakes. (Aleppo pepper isn’t quite as spicy and has a deeper depth of flavor + a slight sweetness as compared to crushed red pepper. Some suggest a mixture of sweet paprika & cayenne/crushed red pepper is a okay approximation.) This spread is popular from Syria through Turkey and the Caucasus, with some regional variations. The main ingredients always include red pepper and walnuts (the basis of the dip), Aleppo pepper, and olive oil.
Also, for your party hosting pleasure, this recipe would be very easy to scale up. This yielded ~ 2 cups.
1/2 cup bread crumbs [I actually used cracker crumbs – crushed matzoh from our Potato Latkes the other night]
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup walnut pieces
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice bell peppers in half, removing the stems & seeds, and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and roast until blackened and blistering, ~30-35 minutes.
Meanwhile, grind up the walnuts in a food processor. You want them to be fairly finely ground, but still have some texture. Set to the side.
Peel the skin off of the red peppers once they are cool enough to handle.
Place peppers, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, bread crumbs, cumin, Aleppo pepper, and garlic in the food processor. Pulse until well-combined. Again, don’t over-process and destroy all of the texture.
By hand, stir in the walnuts into the rest of the ingredients.
Add salt to taste.
When serving, top with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at room temperature.
Gosh, it’s been awhile since we’ve made zoodles. For awhile there we were making, eating, and sharing zoodle recipes every week it seems like. We took a little bit of a hiatus it seems, but don’t worry – the zoodles are back! This time, they’re topped with a deliciously spicy sauce that makes you think you’re on the Mediterranean coast.
Even better news? This meal is simple to make – it only takes a few minutes of active preparation. Even more better news? This vegetarian dish is healthy and pretty darn low calorie. A great meal to sneak in to your weekly meal rotation.
Zucchini season may be over, but we can usually find decent looking ones in the fall around here. Sorry for not eating exactly seasonally, but you know what is perfectly fall-appropriate? A big bowl of soup! And what perfectly accompanies a nice big bowl of soup? Zucchini fritters. So in a roundabout way, zucchini fritters = fall food? Ok, maybe not, but we enjoyed them tonight anyway.
It’s easy to think of zucchini as a boring vegetable, zoodles excluded. (All the cool kids eat zoodles now ok? Including us – see “Chicken Lo Mein” Zoodles, Zoodles with Roasted Chickpeas, Caliente Chicken & Zoodles, French Onion Chicken Zoodles, & Mediterranean Cucumber-Zoodle Salad) They get mushy when you bake or sautee them too long, and no one likes mushy vegetables. Fritters are a lot easier to make than you think. Start to finish, less than 30 minutes, and you end up with a delicious side dish to any main course – we chose soup, but these would go great with roasted chicken or turkey. Try changing up the spices and herbs and see what you like best. This combo – onion, garlic, paprika, chili powder – isn’t spicy or overwhelming, but makes for a great dish with nice flavor.
Note: They way we made these, they’re browned and slightly crispy on the outside, but remain soft on the inside and a bit fragile. That’s because we wanted these to stay vegetable-heavy and to save a few calories. If you’d like a less fragile fritter, use more flour and/or bread crumbs and an additional egg to bind the mixture together more tightly.
2 medium zucchini
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp granulated onion
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
Salt & pepper
3 tbsp neutral oil
Grate the zucchinis into a large bowl.
Sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for 10+ minutes.
Squeeze water out from the zucchini (you’ll be amazed at how much water you can get rid of!)
Whisk up the egg and stir that in with the zucchini, along with all of the rest of the ingredients (using just a pinch of additional salt and a few grinds of black pepper), except for the oil.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
Once oil is hot, form balls of the zucchini mixture in your hands, slightly smaller than the palm of your hand. Smush them into patties and drop into the hot oil.
Fry on each side for 2-3 minutes until browned on both sides.
Remove from pan to a paper-towel lined dish before serving to soak up a bit of the excess oil.
We haven’t shared that many soup recipes on here, but soup probably makes up a good third of my diet. I love soup! This is just another reason why I was born to marry into a Turkish family. If you ever make it to Turkey (which I can’t suggest more highly), you’ll see that delicious soups are frequently served as a starter to evening meals and eaten for breakfast and lunch as well. Soup with every meal?! Basically my idea of heaven.
We’ve made and shared High Plateau Soup, another Turkish soup recipe before – it’s rich, creamy, and incredibly unique – at least for my American palate! This soup has entirely different flavors, very reminiscent of soups Selim’s aunts and grandmother made for us in Turkey. Red lentil soup (kirmizi mercimek çorbasi) is hearty and filling, easy to make, and delicious. Make for a week of lunches like I did, or maybe next Monday, if you subscribe to #MeatlessMondays!
Oh and side note. Please feel free to make your own pie dough. I’m sure it would be better than my freezer-case dough, but I was just not feeling making my own today! And see our Spinach & Feta Gözleme recipe for my rant about feta cheese. Go try some delicious, not pre-crumbled feta today!
Zucchini & Feta Pie
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion, sliced
Fresh ground black pepper
2 zucchini, sliced
Pre-made pie dough
6oz feta cheese
Fresh basil, chopped
Place all of the sliced zucchini in a colander over the sink and toss with salt. Allow to sit and dehydrate while preparing the onions.
Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.
Add the sliced onions and toss to coat the onions with the butter.
Saute onions until caramelized, stirring occasionally and covering with pan’s lid in between stirrings. [Truly caramelized onions take AT LEAST 30 minutes, if not more like an hour! I get most of my cooking tips from The Kitchn, you should too!]
Follow the directions on your pre-made dough. Spray a pie pan and place the dough in there to line it. (If the packaging indicates your dough should be baked for more than 30 minutes at 375 degrees, go ahead and pre-bake it a little bit.)
When onions are done, place them in the pie pan, forming the bottom layer of the pie.
Add the sliced zucchini to the pan that held the onions and cover for just 2 minutes, so they soften up a little bit.
Place a layer of zucchini on top of the onions.
Follow this with a layer of scattered feta chunks, followed by another layer of zucchini, more feta, and lastly, a layer of zucchini. Sprinkle some chopped basil through the layers.
I think risotto might be one of my most favorite foods in the world. It’s creamy, delicious, and usually at least a little bit cheesy. Plus, I feel like it’s a little bit of a labor of love. You don’t stand in front of the stove for a long time to make a dish for some one you don’t like – if you have to feed them at all, you go with something that takes way less of your time than risotto. [See our earlier post Bay Scallop Risotto for how I tried to woo Selim with my “fancy” risotto dish.]
Furthermore, I love risotto because it’s basically a blank canvass. The basics of a risotto are simple – short grain rice (usually Arborio, at least here in the US), slowly cooked in hot liquid, with frequent stirring. Generally, the dish goes like that: start with chopped onions sauteed in butter or oil, followed by the addition of the short grain rice. Then follows some wine and a hot stock, stirred until the grains of rice absorb the liquid. Of course there are some specific types of risotto: think risotto alla milanese with saffron and Parmesan cheese, or risotto al nero di seppia, a striking black dish made with squid and their ink. But for us at home, aside from the basic framework above, risotto is yours to customize!
Tonight’s dish is meant for two as a side dish, instead of the heaping main dish portions I frequently make. (Not gonna lie though – it was a pretty large side for two people.) Certainly you can upscale for a main course if you’d like though.
I’m actually pretty proud of this dish. I really enjoyed it. And I made it all by myself – didn’t follow any recipes or get inspiration from anywhere. A lot of times when I don’t have the guidance of a recipe (or Selim), I under-season things or just don’t combine flavors all that well. Not this time! All the flavors combined beautifully and it’s full of flavor! I hope others enjoy too!
Rosemary Risotto with Asparagus
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2/3 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2+ cups vegetable stock
1 heaping tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups asparagus (roughly 1 bunch), chopped into 1 inch pieces
8 turns fresh ground black pepper
3oz gouda cheese, grated
1 tbsp lemon juice
Over medium heat, warm the olive oil in a medium pan.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the vegetable stock until simmering.
Add the onions and garlic to the oil and cook for 3 minutes, until the onions have just begun to soften.
Add rice and stir to coat in the remaining oil. Toast for 3 minutes.
Pour in the wine. Stir frequently until the rice as absorbed the wine.
Add the rosemary and black pepper to the dish.
Lower heat slightly to a medium-low.
Now begin adding the warm vegetable stock, one ladleful at a time, to the pan. Stir frequently until the liquid is absorbed.
Repeat step seven over and over.
Once the rice is expanding and getting creamy, taste a grain after every ladle or two. Once the rice has softened, but is still a smidge too al dente to eat, add the asparagus to the pan.
Resume adding stock by the ladleful and stirring, but cover the dish the first time after you add the asparagus for just about 2 minutes, so the asparagus steams a bit.
The rice is done when the dish is creamy, but each individual grain still retains its shape and a very slightly al dente texture.
Try this suggestion for a little more concrete/visual detail – or just eat once you think it’s ready!
After your last ladle of stock has been absorbed, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese and lemon juice.
Taste for salt and pepper, adjust as you like. (We didn’t use any salt in ours.)
Serve with a bit more cheese or rosemary on top if you like!
What’s the first thing people think of when they think of Turkish food? Kofte is the first thing for most people, but there’s so much more! Don’t worry, we’re going to keep cooking our way through them and sharing with you here. Gözleme is one of the many great Turkish street foods. (Lahmacun is another that if you haven’t tried from our blog, you should soon!) So good in fact that it has spread from Turkey to the rest of the world. In Australia, there’s a fast food place, called Gözleme King, devoted to making different types of gözleme. This spinach and cheese preparation is a fairly traditional one, but gözleme can contain pretty much anything! In the future we’re definitely going to throw in some sucuk (Turkish sausage). But as is, this dish is amazing. The dough is soft, light, and just a bit crispy on the edges. And it essentially goes without saying that the warm feta brings it all of the flavors together perfectly.
*So speaking of feta… Let’s talk about feta. I know so many people who loooove feta. I’m one of them, obviously. We could form a fan club if y’all want? But here’s the thing, a lot of people I know have only ever had the pre-crumbled, standard grocery store feta. I used to be one of them. As with many other things, when I started dating Selim, my narrowly bounded world of feta expanded. If you think feta only exists in its pre-crumbled form and you love it anyway, please go out and find some block feta in brine. Your world will be changed forever, I promise. (Mine was!) The flavor and texture are so much better – you’ll never go back. Sadly, not all of your standard grocery stores will have feta like this. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods usually do, but if yours doesn’t, try an international grocery store, a halal market, or a Middle Eastern specialty shop. While you’re there, try all the different types of feta and Middle Eastern cheeses, your cheese-world will be forever changed.
We have two go-tos when it comes to making Turkish recipes. The first is Ozcan Ozan’s cookbook that I’ve referenced on here before. But the second is a blog called Ozlem’s Turkish Table. Tonight’s recipe is adapted from there. It is a wonderful resource for all things Turkish food!
Begin by making the dough. Take 1/2 cup of warm water and stir in the pinch of salt and yeast. Allow to sit for a few minutes until it begins to bubble.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast mixture, yogurt, and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add additional water by the tablespoon. (I used an additional 2-3 tbsp). Using your hands, form into a big ball of dough.
Once you have a ball of dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for several minutes.
Divide into 4 similarly sized smaller balls. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for ~30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Pour 2 tsp of olive oil into a pan over medium heat.
Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and onions. Sprinkle with the spices and stir.
Cook just for 4-5 minutes until soft and fragrant, but not starting to brown.
Add the spinach and a couple drops of water to the pan and cover. Leave covered for just a minute or two, until the spinach has wilted just a bit.
Remove the lid and stir together well. Allow to cook for another minute or two with the lid off to get rid of any excess moisture.
Remove to a bowl on the side. Mix in the feta.
Now roll out the dough balls into large, thin, rectangular segments.
Divide the mixture from the pan among the dough segments, placing in the middle of each piece of dough. Make sure to leave plenty of room around the edges for folding.
Fold the dough around the mixture as pictured. (You want to end up with a little rectangular envelope.) Brush the edges with olive oil to help them stay together.
Now, bring a large pan, preferably a griddle one, up to medium heat. [Don’t start until the pan is hot!]
Brush both sides of each gözleme with more olive oil. Once pan is hot, place them on the pan. (You can do one at a time or if you’re more confidant in your skills than I am, as many as will comfortably fit in your pan.) Cover the pan and do not touch for three full minutes. At this time, flip to the other side, re-cover, and again, do not touch for three minutes!
After this point, you may flip back and forth a few times, cooking another 4-5 minutes until dough is cooking and the outside crisped to your liking.