Turkish Red Lentil Soup

redlentilsoup.jpg

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!

Red Lentil Soup

(Adapted from Ozlem’s Turkish Table)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 red potatoes, cubed
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • Lemon wedges, extra red pepper flakes, and/or  for serving if desired
Instructions: 
  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot.
  2. Once the oil is heated, add the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened and fragrant, 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the lentils, potatoes, carrots, and stock to the pot. Simmer for ~30 minutes, until the lentils and vegetables are cooked.
  4. Stir in the cumin, paprika, and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes. Lower heat and cook for a 10+ additional minutes.
  5. Taste and add salt & pepper as desired.
  6. Stir in lemon juice just prior to serving.
  7. Serve with lemon wedges, mint, and/or extra crushed red pepper flakes.
Makes 4-6 servings.

Pappardelle with Braised Ragu

DSC_0007

I’m learning things today. That’s one of the best things about writing this blog – because I want to actually have something to say in my post, I frequently dig deeper into the history or other technical details of recipes where I might not have otherwise. Take today’s recipe… I knew I wanted to make homemade pasta for dinner and change it up from the usual Homemade Pasta Carbonara. (We may or may not be a little bit addicted to the carbonara recipe – Selim looked at me like I had an extra head when I said I was thinking about making pasta with a different type of sauce.) Then I remembered the time I learned that all meatsauces weren’t created equally – I was at dinner with friends at a restaurant in our old home of Charlottesville, VA, when someone (my cousin Emily I think) ordered the bolognese. I’d never ordered anything similar off a menu because I always thought… 💭 Meat sauce? I can just buy a jar of that off a shelf 🤷 And then I tasted her dish – it was amazing, delicious, and nothing like meatsauce in a jar!

I wanted to recreate that experience tonight. But what recipe to follow? What technically is bolognese and how is it different from ragu? I feel like I see those words on menus used interchangeably. Well, I finally put some effort into learning the details. I now know that a ragu is an umbrella term for meat-based Italian sauces, under which bolognese falls. (Technically, a bolognese sauce is ragù alla bolognese.) A ragu is different from what I was thinking of as “meatsauce” in that the meat is truly the focus, not tomatoes or tomato sauce. It is thicker and less liquidy. And it turns out, while under this umbrella, bolognese sauce is incredibly specific – it has actually been registered in exact detail. The Italian Academy of Cuisine registered it in 1982. The recipe must include the following ingredients to be an official bolognese: beef, pancetta, onion, celery, carrot, tomato sauce, whole milk, dry wine (red or white), and salt & pepper. We aren’t going to stick to that particular formulation, so the sauce for tonight’s dinner is a ragu!

DSC_0009

Pappardelle with Braised Ragu

(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit magazine)
Ingredients: 
Ragu:
DSC_0002
Check out these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 10oz ground pork sausage
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 small tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • Salt & pepper
  • Parmesan cheese
Pasta:
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp olive oil
Instructions: 
  1. In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add both types of meat, removing the sausage from casings if needed. Season liberally with pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook until browned and then remove to the side, retaining a coating of fat in the dutch oven.
  3. To this, add the diced onions and carrots. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until well softened.
  4. Now add the minced garlic, tomato paste, and thyme. Stir frequently, cooking for 3 minutes.
  5. Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor. [Yielding ~2 cups]
  6. Return the meat to the dutch oven. Stir in the wine and tomatoes. Increase heat slightly to a vigorous simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced by half and thickened.
  7. Lastly, add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and cover. Check to ensure there’s a light simmer. Braise for at least two hours, checking and stirring occasionally.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare the pasta dough. On a clean, dry counter-top, mix together the flour and salt and form it into a volcano (a mound with a crater scooped out in the middle). Crack the eggs into that center well/crater.
  9. Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.) Once the egg is mixed into the flour enough that it’s not trying to run away anymore, switch to use your hands. Fold together until well combined. [You may need an extra dusting of flour if the dough is wet and sticky, or to wet your hands if it’s a bit dry.]
  10. Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
  11. Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #5 if using KitchenAid’s model). Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface.
  12. Using a sharp knife, slice into 1 inch wide noodles. Cover with parchment paper if still waiting on the sauce.
  13. Remove the lid from the dutch oven and increase heat to return liquid to a fast simmer. As the last bit of liquid is being soaked up, turn off the heat and stir in 2oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  14. Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente – it will only take a minute or two with the fresh pasta.
  15. Top pasta with sauce and additional Parmesan cheese!
Serves 4-6.

Zucchini & Feta Pie

DSC_1032

This is such a perfect summer dinner! Zucchini is usually so large and beautiful in the summer. And if you or a family member has a garden, you know that it is abundant this time of year. People are giving it away, begging everyone they know to take some! Try this dish, which features the zucchini itself, instead of relegating it to the side like usual! We’re always trying to find a new way to eat zucchini – we probably zoodle it more often than necessary! {“Chicken Lo Mein” ZoodlesZoodles with Roasted ChickpeasCaliente Chicken & ZoodlesFrench Onion Chicken ZoodlesMediterranean Cucumber-Zoodle Salad}

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!

DSC_0001

Zucchini & Feta Pie

Ingredients: 
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • Pre-made pie dough
  • 6oz feta cheese
  • Fresh basil, chopped
Instructions: 
  1. 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.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.
  3. Add the sliced onions and toss to coat the onions with the butter.
  4. 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!]
  5. 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.)
  6. When onions are done, place them in the pie pan, forming the bottom layer of the pie.
  7. Add the sliced zucchini to the pan that held the onions and cover for just 2 minutes, so they soften up a little bit.
  8. Place a layer of zucchini on top of the onions.
  9. 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.
    • To recap: layer 1 – onions; layer 2 – zucchini; layer 3 – feta; layer 4 – zucchini; layer 5 – feta; layer 6 – zucchini.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.
  11. Top with a little bit more fresh basil.
Serves 3 as a main dish; 6 as a side.

Cacio e Pepe

DSC_1002

Number 10 on our Culinary Bucket List states, “Figure out how the Italians’ make pasta cacio e pepe a million times better than we can. Also, master that twirling the pasta at the table trick.” If you’ve ever been to Rome, you know what I’m talking about. Literally ever Roman restaurant we set foot in served some type of cacio e pepe. It draws in tourists’ attention for its theatrical table-side preparation, but turns out it’s also delicious! Not lying, I think my cousin Scottie ate cacio e pepe for almost every meal when we were in Rome after the first time she tried it.

DSC_0832
All of us in St. Peter’s Square! From L to R: Selim, family friend Henry, Ally, Ally’s brother Jeffrey, and cousins Scottie, Jayme, & Luke

How is it that good though? ‘Cacio e pepe’ literally means pepper and cheese. It’s that simple – pasta + pepper + cheese. But somehow, when we came home and tried to recreate it, it never turned out the same. It was mind-boggling – how are we screwing up something that seems so simple?? The cheese would get all clumpy, and we wouldn’t really get a “sauce” per se.

Well, apparently we’re not the only ones. I found this article from Serious Eats that addressed our dilemma, from the point of view of someone who knows way more about cooking and testing recipes that we do. Thank goodness for smart people! Read it and learn like we did. We followed all of the tips and tricks in the article and were rewarded with a much better result. While it’s still not as good as what we had in Italy, and we still don’t know how to do the twirl the pasta at the table trick, it’s good enough to share!

DSC_1019

Cacio e Pepe

(Recipe adapted from this Serious Eats article & recipe)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/3 cup AP flour (plus slightly more for dusting your counter, hands, etc)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 40 turns fresh ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2-3 tbsp pasta water
Instructions: 
  1. Start by making the pasta dough. On a clean, dry counter-top, mix together the flour and salt and form it into a volcano (a mound with a crater scooped out in the middle). Crack two eggs into that center well/crater.
  2. Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.) Once the egg is mixed into the flour enough that it’s not trying to run away anymore, switch to use your hands. Fold together until well combined. [You made need an extra dusting of flour if the dough is wet and sticky, or to wet your hands if it’s a bit dry.]
  3. Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
  4. Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #4 if using KitchenAid’s model). Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface. Then cut into spaghetti noodles using that attachment. [Follow your particular pasta roller/cutter’s instructions for doing these things.] Tip: keep your hands and the surface of the dough lightly floured during this process.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil with a dash of salt. Use less water than you typically would – just enough to cover the pasta.
  6. Add fresh pasta and cook until al dente. This only takes a few minutes with fresh pasta – it will take more like 6-7 minutes with store-bought pasta.
  7. In a second pan, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil and the first 20 turns of black pepper over medium-low heat.
  8. Add 2-3 tbsp of starchy pasta water and the melted butter to the pan. Stir to combine with the olive oil.
  9. Using tongs, lift noodles out of their pot and place into the pan as well.
  10. Slowly add the cheese and the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil. Stir vigorously while adding the cheese so it doesn’t get clumped up.
  11. Add more pasta water as needed to ensure all noodles get coated with the sauce.
  12. Top with 20 more turns of black pepper and salt if you think it needs.
Makes 2 large individual servings, or 4 non-fat-American-sized servings.

Thai Turkey Meatballs

DSC_0998

I was browsing my ol’ faithful – Pinterest – when this recipe (eventually) caught my eye. I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest when it comes to inspiring my dinner. Love – well, what’s not to love? There are literally millions of gorgeous photos, leading you to so many different recipes. It also lets me check out other blogs I would’ve never found otherwise. But sometimes it’s almost TOO much. It certainly doesn’t help me narrow down my plan if I have no idea what I want to make tonight. Even though I try to organize my Pinterest into food categories, the options are still overwhelming. Let’s take my “Chicken Entrees” board. I started there because we had chicken in the freezer that probably should be eaten. Obviously, each of these dishes appealed to me in some instance, because I saved them. So why did I find reasons to not make any of them tonight?? Browsing this board, I first clicked on Senegalese Chicken Yassa – 💭💭 nah, takes too long to make. Then, oooh Chicken & Dumplings – 💭💭 ehhh, Selim probably won’t want that tonight. Chicken Tikka Masala –  💭💭 oh yum, but I’m trying to write a new blog post and we’ve already done a tikka masala on here. Greek Chicken Meatballs – 💭💭 welllll we did just go on a rant about Greek food, so probably should hold off. But meatballs, that sounds good… let’s go down that rabbit hole… ⌨️ “chicken meatballs” 🖱️ And many clicks later, here we are.

And I’m glad we finally made it. These meatballs are great! And are a likely a bit healthier than the last meatballs you made. We ate them over rice noodles, which was great, but I think they’d be perfect as an appetizer as well.

DSC_1000

Thai Turkey Meatballs

(Adapted from The Bewitchin’ Kitchen blog)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 + 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced + 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried cilantro
  • 5 large fresh basil leaves
  • 5 turns fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine the first twelve ingredients (carrots through pepper – including the 1 tbsp of lime juice and 3 sliced cloves of garlic) in a food processor. Pulse until well-processed.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the mixture, ground turkey, and egg. Stir to combine well.
  4. Using your hands, form the mixture into small meatballs. (It will feel really wet!)
  5. Place meatballs on a lined cookie sheet.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Then flip and bake another 15 minutes.
  7. While the meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce.
  8. In a large, high-edged pan over medium heat, swirl together coconut oil and just a dash of the coconut milk.
  9. Add the remaining garlic (2 cloves, minced) and cook for a few minutes until the garlic is fragrant.
  10. Now stir in the red curry paste. Allow to cook for just 1-2 more minutes.
  11. Then add the rest of the can of coconut milk and the remaining 2 tbsp lime juice.
  12. Maintain the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it thickens up a smidge.
  13. When the meatballs are done, place the in the pan. Remove from heat. Coat with the sauce.
  14. Serve over rice or rice noodles or with toothpicks as an appetizer.

Spinach & Feta Börek

DSC_0992.jpg

Now that we’ve started using filo dough (see: Baklava – we’ve made it twice since posting it!), we’ve gained a little bit of confidence in working with the thin, finicky dough. So I knew Selim would want to tackle börek next. He loves börek – although it’s kind of hard to say it’s his favorite food, because there are about a million different types of börek. In Turkey, börek is essentially any dish prepared with yufka, which is (depending on when and where you read about it) the same as filo dough, the precursor of filo dough, or a slightly different texture from filo dough. I’m not educated enough to know which one it is. I do know that börek is delicious in every form I’ve ever had it and that this spinach-stuffed version is a quite traditional one.

I was eating some of this börek for lunch the other day in a breakroom at the hospital, when someone said, “Oh wow that smells delicious… What is it, spanakopita?” I could feel my husband cringing from a floor away. We’ll pause to let him go on his rant about Turkish food – how he would’ve answered had the friendly, innocent question been posed to him.

Selim: Many Americans love Mediterranean food and seem to always associate this with Greek food. So somehow, this has turned into Greek food being the most beloved cuisine, representing an entire region. Even more so, I feel like Americans think that the Greeks were the originators and only true architects of so many of the best dishes of the Middle East and Mediterranean. In fact, many of your favorites, originated elsewhere: baklava came out of the Ottoman palace kitchens in modern day Istanbul, while hummus was first documented in 13th century Cairo. The vast reach of the Ottoman empire and centuries of trading routes surely contributes to the regional spread of cuisine – you can find dishes with very similar ingredients and preparations, but different names from the Balkans to the Levant, the Caucasus to Northern African. (This is not to say that there aren’t amazing Greek chefs or delicious dishes of Greek origin – the Greeks truly aren’t the subject of my rant.) I just hate that other cultures don’t get their due. Obviously, I’m biased as I’m ethnically half Turkish, but I wish Turkish cuisine was more recognized, available, and beloved in the US. So in short, while similar, this is börek, not spanakopita.

Spinach & Feta Börek

(Adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen by Özcan Ozan)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 lbs fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup clarified butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • 16oz feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • ~20 sheets filo dough
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Prepare the filling: cook the spinach briefly in boiling water over medium heat until wilted. Drain the water and squeeze the spinach to remove any additional water.
  3. Chop up the spinach.
  4. In a large pan oven medium heat, heat 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup clarified butter.
  5. Add the onions and spinach and cook for just 3-4 minutes until onions have softened.
  6. Allow the mixture to cool.
  7. Once cool, stir in the cheese, parsley, and 2 whisked eggs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  8. Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup clarified butter, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 egg, and milk.
  9. Brush this mixture on the bottom of a cookie sheet. Begin layering the filo dough, brushing each new layer with the butter mixture.
  10. Once halfway through the filo dough (~10 sheets), spread all of the spinach and cheese mixture out evenly.
  11. Resume layering the rest of the filo dough, brushing with the butter mixture as before, including a thorough coating over the last layer.
  12. Using a sharp knife, slice the börek into squares or triangles.
  13. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake an additional 20 minutes.
  14. Allow the börek to stand for 10 minutes before eating.

 

Hot Salmon with Pineapple Salsa

DSC_0976.jpg

When I think about a dinner that screams SUMMER! – for whatever reason, my go-to is fish with a fruit salsa. I don’t know about y’all, but I always am more interested in fish in the summer – I can mentally transport myself to the ocean and pretend that fish just got hauled in a few minutes beforehand. And as for fruit salsa, that’s kind of a no-brainer. Who doesn’t appreciate the sweet, juicy bounty of summer harvest fruits? As you can see from one of our first recipes from last summer, I have a template when making a dish like this. Salmon (my favorite fish of the easily-accessible-at-the-grocery-store varieties) + spicy flavoring on the salmon + cool, juicy, & sweet contrasting salsa. Hey – if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it?

DSC_0972.jpg

Hot Salmon with Pineapple Salsa

(Salmon inspired by Little Spice Jar blog)
Ingredients: 
  • Salmon
    • 2 salmon portions (~5-6oz each)
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 tbsp hot sauce (we used Frank’s)
    • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 5 turns fresh ground black pepper
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
    • Pinch of ancho chili powder
  • Salsa
    • 2 cups diced pineapple
    • 1/2 medium onion, diced
    • 1 bell pepper, diced
    • 3 tbsp lime juice
    • 3 turns fresh ground black pepper
    • Pinch of salt
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare the salsa. Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate until time to eat.
  2. Whisk together all of the ingredients under the salmon bullet, except the salmon itself.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Place the salmon portions on a piece of foil large enough to fold around the salmon.
  5. Paint the hot sauce mixtures on all sides of the salmon.
  6. Close the foil around the fish, pinching the edges closed.
  7. Bake on a cookie sheet for ~15 minutes. [FDA recommends a safe minimum temperature of 145 degrees F.]
  8. Open the foil and turn oven to broil. Broil, which watching closely, for just a minute or two to crisp up the top.
  9. Serve salmon with salsa on top.
Dinner for two. There is a lot of salsa – we intended it to be a topping/side dish, but it’s plenty to serve with 4 or 6 portions of fish.