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.

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.

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.

Simple Olive Couscous

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This side dish has a great flavor that belies its simplicity and ease of cooking. I could eat this as a meal (I really love couscous), but it’s perfect as a side dish with pretty much any dish with Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, or North African flavors. I made it tonight with these braised chicken thighs!

Simple Olive Couscous

Ingredients: 
  • 2/3 cup pearl couscous
  • 1 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 8 kalamata olives, chopped
  • 2 tbsp juice from olive jar, divided
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Place the couscous, chicken stock, and 1 tbsp of olive juice to a small pot. Bring to a boil.
  2. Lower heat to a light simmer. Cover and cook for ~12 minutes. (Cooking times and liquid amounts may vary by brand – check your cooking instructions.)
  3. At the very end, add the olives and other tablespoon of olive juice to the pot. Stir well and re-cover.
  4. Once all the liquid is absorbed, top with a bit of fresh ground black pepper before serving. See, simple!
Serves 2-3.

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Scalloped Potatoes

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I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve never made scalloped potatoes before today. Maybe that’s not that weird for most, but growing up my mother made them at least a few a month, and they’re one of my favorite side dishes. I wish I had my mother’s recipe, but she didn’t include that one in the family recipe book. (Also, apparently I’m too lazy to call her…) So, in what is generally an aberration for me, the girl who loves following recipes, I sort of winged it. Therefore, if there is a “correct” way to make scalloped potatoes, this probably isn’t it.

The potatoes turned out just how I like them thought luckily! Creamy, with a little bit of sauce. Cheesy and flavorful! And an easy complement to most main courses. What more could you ask for?

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Scalloped Potatoes

Ingredients: 
  • 2 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 medium onion, halved & sliced
  • 3/4 cup stock (chicken, turkey, vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp flour
  • 3 medium Russet potatoes, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 6oz Pecorino cheese, shredded
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a medium-sized pan, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat.
  3. Once the butter has melted, add the the onions. Stir to coat in the butter. Top with a few turns of fresh ground black pepper.
  4. Saute the onions over the medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until they are just beginning to brown, roughly 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine milk, stock, paprika, salt, and remaining 1 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a very low simmer.
  6. Whisk the flour into the liquid mixture. Add the flour very slowly and whisk vigorously and continuously.
  7. Allow to simmer until the liquid has thickened slightly, and reduced by roughly half. This will take ~10 minutes.
  8. Butter the bottom an oven-safe dish. Then place half of the sliced potatoes in the dish. Top with all of the sauteed onions. Next, layer half of the cheese. Follow this with the remaining potatoes. Pour the liquid evenly over top of everything. Lastly, top of the dish with the remaining cheese.
  9. Cover tightly and place into the oven. After 45 minutes, remove the lid/foil. Bake uncovered for an additional 15-20 minutes.
Serves 4

Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese

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South Carolina is known for many dishes in the world of all things culinary. Favorites include low country boils, boiled peanuts, shrimp & grits, sweet tea, cornbread, and of course… pimento cheese!  South Carolinians seem use a fair amount of mayonnaise in their pimento cheese, but instead of Duke’s or Kraft’s mayo we made garlic truffle aioli.  Cheddar is the standard cheese for a classic SC pimento cheese, but we swapped it out for some flavorful Italian classics, Asiago & Pecorino.  The aioli sounds fancy, but in reality, it’s just homemade mayo, and probably one of the easier things we’ve made along the way.

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Ally loves pimento cheese, and its abundance down here has made her quite happy. Every time we buy it though, we wonder why we don’t just make some ourselves. “It can’t be that hard… right?” Turns out, it’s not! There isn’t a standard recipe for traditional pimento cheese, because everyone’s grandmother has the original recipe that no one else’s grandmother can beat. But the basics boil down to cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and chopped pimentos. What could be easier? Or easier to modify and fancify, like we did here!

[Note: this makes a large batch. Good for a big picnic, large party, or handing out in jars to several friends!]

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Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese

Ingredients: 
  • 2 lb Asiago cheese
  • 1 1/3 lb Pecorino cheese
  • 7oz jar chopped pimentos, strained
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 17oz truffle oil
  • 2 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
Instructions: 
  1. Shred all of the cheese and set aside.
  2. Prepare the aioli. (You can do this by hand or with a stand mixer like we did since we were making a large batch. The process is essentially the same.)
    • By hand: Separate out the egg yolks from the whites. Whisk together. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil. Whisk vigorously and continuously. Once the mixture has combined well, add the lemon juice and whisk until that has been absorbed.
    • With the mixer: Separate out the egg yolks from the whites. Place in stand mixer and turn on medium. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil, while the mixer remains on. Again, once the mixture is well-combined, then add the lemon juice.
  3. Combine cheese, aioli, and pimentos.
Makes 64oz.

Ramen Egg

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Winter is coming.

It comes slowly to South Carolina, but it’s been below freezing the past few nights and the high today was only 35. For South Carolina, that’s basically the equivalent of spending a few days north of the wall.

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(And if you don’t get that reference, you should go binge-watch Game of Thrones. I’m sure you have a few days off somewhere over the holidays.)

Anyways. Cold weather = soup weather. Selim wanted to use the stock we made from Thanksgiving bones to make ramen. It was delicious and the perfect dinner for tonight. We’re not 100% confident in the recipe, so we’re going to tinker with it before sharing the whole ramen recipe on here. But we did succeed with the egg that goes in the ramen!

I’m sure the delicious egg that is frequently found in big bowls of ramen has a real name, but we’ve lovingly been referring to it as “ramen egg.” Without further ado…

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Ramen Egg

Ingredients: 
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • Water
  • Ice
Instructions: 
  1. Heat a pot of water so it’s simmering, but not boiling.
  2. Gently add the eggs to the pot.
  3. Cook for seven minutes. You want the water to be simmering continuously, but do not allow it to come to a boil.
  4. Remove and place immediately into a bowl of ice water.
  5. Leave eggs in the ice bath for three minutes.
  6. Remove from the ice bath. Peel the eggs.
  7. Place eggs in a bowl with the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and 3/4 cups of water.
  8. Marinate overnight (or at least a few hours).
  9. Slice in half just before placing in a bowl of ramen.