Spinach & Feta Gözleme

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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!

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Spinach & Feta Gözleme

(Adapted from Ozlem’s Turkish Table)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil + more for brushing
  • 1 tbsp plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup water + more
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups (loosely packed) spinach, roughly chopped
  • 6oz feta*
Instructions: 
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Once you have a ball of dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for several minutes.
  4. Divide into 4 similarly sized smaller balls. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for ~30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Pour 2 tsp of olive oil into a pan over medium heat.
  6. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and onions. Sprinkle with the spices and stir.
  7. Cook just for 4-5 minutes until soft and fragrant, but not starting to brown.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Remove to a bowl on the side. Mix in the feta.
  11. Now roll out the dough balls into large, thin, rectangular segments.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Now, bring a large pan, preferably a griddle one, up to medium heat. [Don’t start until the pan is hot!]
  15. 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!
  16. 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.

Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Sauce

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Happy middle of March! Who cares about mid-March you say?? I do! Mid-March means the NCAA basketball tournament. I love the Madness! The brackets, the buzzer-beaters, the underdogs, the team spirit, the heart and soul… I love it all!

This weekend has been a little bit of a roller-coaster for me though. I’ve enjoyed my time glued to the couch, flipping between games. But then my hometown VCU Rams fizzled out in the first round. My Virginia Cavaliers and South Carolina Gamecocks each had strong second halves to win their respective first round games. We went to Greenville, SC to hang out with my brothers and immerse ourselves in the tournament festivities downtown, which was really fun! But then… UVA lost in the second round in pretty much the most soul-crushing fashion imaginable. So that was definitely a down moment. And by down I mean, I may or may not have shed a tear or two.
I pretended it didn’t happen today and watched the games all afternoon. This pasta dish may not be your most traditional game-day food, but we enjoyed it none the less.

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Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Sauce

Ingredients: 
  • 8oz pasta
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 6oz herbed goat cheese
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 turns of fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Rub 1 tsp of olive oil over the peppers and place them on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast peppers for 30 minutes. They will begin to blister.
  3. Allow the peppers to cool slightly. Remove the seeds and stems.
  4. Place the peppers and the milk into a food processor. Give it a few spins until you have a nice puree.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the other 1 tsp of olive oil over medium heat.
  6. Mince the garlic and brown in the olive oil for ~3-4 minutes.
  7. Turn heat down to low and add the red pepper puree, goat cheese, and all of the remaining spices to the pan.
  8. Cook over low heat for ~15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until ingredients are well-combined and heated through.
  9. As the sauce is coming together, prepare your pasta.
  10. Serve sauce overtop of pasta and enjoy!
Makes 2 large servings or 4 smaller side dish servings.

Fresh Avocado & Cucumber Salad

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Awhile back I shared one of my favorite lunches, this Couscous Salad. It’s pretty easy to make, pretty healthy, and pretty delicious. In that post, I talked about how I find lunch very uninspiring. I still do. I love going out to lunch though… why is it that a sandwich, soup, or salad at a restaurant is so much better than the exact same dish you made at home? Is that just me??

Maybe it’s because I don’t eat a wide variety of lunches. There’s only so many things that are portable and easily eaten on a brief lunch break. This salad is one of my go-tos. It takes about 5 minutes to make, so you can throw it together the night before. It’s healthy, with very simple ingredients. And since the whole avocado is in there, it’s filling enough to last you through the afternoon.

I like to use the small pickling cucumbers in this salad because I don’t think they leech as much water and stay more crisp in the fridge. You obviously can use a regular cucumber if you’d like. I usually make a double or triple batch at eat it all week. I kept this recipe small, because when it sits in the fridge for a day or two, the avocado gets brown and less pretty. I don’t mind this because it still tastes good despite its appearance, but I don’t want you people to make a big batch and be sad a few days later.

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Fresh Avocado & Cucumber Salad

Ingredients: 
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 pickling cucumbers
  • Juice from ~2/3s of a lime
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 turns of fresh ground black pepper
  • A pinch or two of Kosher salt, to taste
Instructions:
  1. Slice the cucumbers and cut the avocado into chunks.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stir to combine.
  3. Refrigerate until serving.

Simple Green Crema

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In mental preparation for a dinner of Baked Jerk Chicken Wings, I knew I needed a cooling contrast to those fiery-hot wings. I mentally tossed around a few ideas while perusing Pinterest. When I came across this blog and recipe while Pinteresting, I knew I found the perfect accompaniment! It was, and since we’ve been using the crema for all sorts of different dishes. It is incredibly versatile. Not only have we topped the chicken wings with it, but also a nice spice-rubbed steak. It works well as a sauce spread inside of a wrap with just about any protein and vegetable (our easy, go-to weeknight dinner). Try it as a dip for crudites, spread on a cracker, or as an alternative to your boring ketchup next time you have potatoes wedges. The possibilities are endless 😉

Simple Green Crema

(Adapted from this recipe at Turning Clock Back)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup Mexican table cream*
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Pinch of salt & pepper
*Many standard grocery store chains carry crema or Mexican table cream these days – usually in the cheese section or by the sour cream. If not, it can be found in a Mexican grocery, or substituted with sour cream.
Instructions: 
  1. Wait for it, this is super complex.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Blend.
  3. Chill before serving.

Baked Jerk Chicken Wings

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So here’s what I did for this recipe. I just made it up. Do not look here for authentic ratios of spices in a jerk spice blend. If you have Jamaican friends, send them the other direction – away from my inauthentic blog post! But if you’re not super-concerned about authenticity and want to test out some spicy hot baked wings… check out this recipe. I kept the wings whole and intact (mostly out of sheer laziness), but for more pieces and a more traditional wing look you can certainly portion them! A lot of time you can find them portioned in the store too. Here’s a nice breakdown on the chicken wing from The Kitchn. PS: The Kitchn is a great site for everything from recipes and how-tos to all sorts of tips & tricks of the trade.

Also, I am not joking about the spice level. Selim, who when asked in Indian or Thai restaurants for his preferred spice level answers, “However you would make it at home,” even thought these were spicy. I am way wimpier when it comes to spice, but I battled through. You can taste the other spices and even a hint of sweetness from the brown sugar despite the heat. It also helped that we paired this with cool and tangy Green Crema to keep our tongues from burning off. If you don’t want quite the five-alarm spice level, try cutting back on the crushed red pepper flakes in the recipe.

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Baked Jerk Chicken Wings

Ingredients: 
  • 3lbs of chicken wings
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Instructions: 
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine all of the spices in a small bowl or ramekin.
  3. Toss wings with oil in a large bowl.
  4. Sprinkle spice mixture over wings, tossing until all are well-coated.
  5. Spread wings out on a foil-lined cookie sheet, skin side up.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes and then flip to the other side. Bake 20 more minutes.
  7. After the full 40 minutes, return the wings to the original side up. Turn the heat up to broil. Broil for just a minute or two, watching closely, so the skin crisps up. Areas of thick spice coverage may blacken a bit, which is fine, but don’t let the skin burn!

 

 

Esquites Americano

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Have you heard of elote, the beloved Mexican street food? Mexican street vendors sell you a char-grilled cob of corn, slathered with crema or mayonnaise or sour cream, cilantro, chili powder, cheese, lime juice, and maybe a few other ingredients. People rave about it! I’ve never had it, mostly because I haven’t spent much time in Mexico, and also because I don’t live in a big city with tons of street vendors. Also… because I haven’t ever been able to wrap my head around mayonnaise on my corn on the cob. I’m sure it’s amazing, because everyone says it’s amazing, but I haven’t quite made that mental leap yet.

But here’s the thing. Turns out, Mexicans also make a delicious dish called esquites, which as best I can tell, is basically elote in a bowl. For some reason, combining all those exact same ingredients in a bowl makes way more sense to my crazy brain. So I thought I’d dip my toe in and try esquites, hopefully as a gateway. My concoction is adapted from this one. We call our version Esquites Americano, solely based on the addition of the American favorite – bacon. We ate this as a dip with tortilla chips, but it works as a side as well. It’s as delicious as people say!

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Esquites Americano

(Adapated from Serious Eats)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 strips of bacon, chopped into small lardons
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 jalapeño, finely diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp ancho chili powder
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 3oz cojito (or feta) cheese
Instructions: 
  1. Place the bacon in a large pan, over medium heat. Cook until the bacon is crispy, and then remove to the side.
  2. Remove corns from its ears. Add the corn, jalapeño, and garlic to the pan. Increase heat slightly to medium-high. Stir to coat in the bacon fat.
  3. Cook, stirring every 2 minutes, until corn begins to brown.
  4. Combine ingredients from the pan in a large bowl with the cilantro, ancho chili powder, lime juice, and mayonnaise. Stir to combine well.
  5. Refrigerate until dip has sufficiently cooled.
  6. Then add cheese, crumbled or roughly chopped to the dish. Stir and enjoy!
Serves 4. I would double or triple if using as a party appetizer.