Turkish Red Lentil Soup

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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.

Zucchini & Feta Pie

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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!

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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.

Rosemary Risotto with Asparagus

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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!

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Rosemary Risotto with Asparagus

Ingredients: 
  • 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
Instructions: 
  1. Over medium heat, warm the olive oil in a medium pan.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the vegetable stock until simmering.
  3. Add the onions and garlic to the oil and cook for 3 minutes, until the onions have just begun to soften.
  4. Add rice and stir to coat in the remaining oil. Toast for 3 minutes.
  5. Pour in the wine. Stir frequently until the rice as absorbed the wine.
  6. Add the rosemary and black pepper to the dish.
  7. Lower heat slightly to a medium-low.
  8. Now begin adding the warm vegetable stock, one ladleful at a time, to the pan. Stir frequently until the liquid is absorbed.
  9. Repeat step seven over and over.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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!
  13. After your last ladle of stock has been absorbed, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese and lemon juice.
  14. Taste for salt and pepper, adjust as you like. (We didn’t use any salt in ours.)
  15. Serve with a bit more cheese or rosemary on top if you like!
Serves 2-4 as a side dish.

 

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.

Balsamic Basil Blackberry Pizza

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You’ve heard of fruit pizzas right? They’re shaped liked pizzas, but that’s really where the similarities end. To the best of my knowledge, fruit pizzas are essentially entirely sweet, with a base more like cookie dough, topped with fruits and sugar. You eat them for dessert, not dinner. That is not what we’re doing here tonight. This blackberry pizza is mostly savory, with the addition of the sweet and tangy blackberries.

How did I come up with this crazy idea? I didn’t. This was a Pinterest find, from a blog called A Whisk and Two Wands. The pictures caught my eye – gorgeous contrast of the dark berries and white cheese! Furthermore, Selim loves pizza, we’re trying to eat more fruit, we had blackberries and basil in the fridge, and I had the time to make some dough today. All good reasons to give this unique idea a whirl tonight!

We really enjoyed this as an alternative to a “normal” pizza for dinner tonight. However, I think it would really be perfect as an appetizer in smaller portions for your next dinner party!

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Balsamic Basil Blackberry Pizza

(Adapted from A Whisk and Two Wands blog)
Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup hot water, divided
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Olive oil
  • 12oz blackberries
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 8 turns of fresh ground black pepper
  • Just a pinch of salt
  • 10 large leaves of fresh basil, roughly chopped, reserving 2-3 leaves
  • 16oz log of mozzarella
Instructions: 
  1. First, prepare the dough. (You also could skip this step entirely and buy prepared pizza dough.) In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, sugar, and 1/4 cup of warm water. Let sit for ~10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Pour the yeast mixture over-top. Add the remaining water slowly, stopping and stirring frequently. Mix with a spoon in the bowl until you have a well-combined ball of dough. (You may need slightly more or slightly less water to form a nice ball of dough. If it ends up too wet – add additional flour.)
  3. Then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured, clean, dry counter-top. Knead the dough for 10+ minutes. The dough should be firm and elastic.
  4. Pour just a tiny bit of olive oil onto a paper towel and swipe around the bottom and side of a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a damp towel. Allow to sit for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the blackberry sauce. Pour blackberries into a saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, pepper, and chopped fresh basil. Cover and cook for ~5 minutes so the berries soften.
  6. Uncover and mash the blackberries with your stirring spoon or the back of a fork.
  7. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. This should take ~10 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  9. Once dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly flowered surface. Divide in half. Roll out the dough into two large circles.
  10. Bake the pizza dough without topping for 5 minutes and then remove from the oven.
  11. Spoon the blackberry sauce onto the dough as you would a normal pizza, leaving a bit of the edge uncovered for a crust.
  12. Slice mozzarella and place chunks all over the pizza. (May not use the whole 16oz log of mozzarella.)
  13. Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes, watching the edges of the crusts to make sure it’s not over-browning.
  14. Top with the remaining fresh basil before serving.

Zoodles with Roasted Chickpeas

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Have all you food-blog-readers out there heard of Yotam Ottolenghi? He’s an Israeli-born British chef who I absolutely love! He has restaurants in the UK, at least five cookbooks, a website full of traditional & inventive Middle Eastern recipes, and a weekly column in The Guardian. He also has one of the best, most gorgeous, most mouth-watering Instagram feeds to follow out there (@ottolenghi) – you probably want to start following him!

As your average American who doesn’t dine out in London often or subscribe to The Guardian, I hadn’t heard of Yotam Ottolenghi until a few years ago when my sister gave me one of his cookbooks for Christmas. I think I’ve mentioned it a few times on here, and if I haven’t I should, as it’s one of my favorites. It’s called Jerusalem and was authored by Ottolenghi and another chef named Sami Tamimi. I love this cookbook for its delicious recipes, gorgeous photography, random stories interspersed with the recipes, and the fact that it features recipes based on both chef-authors’ heritages. Both grew up in Jerusalem, but Ottolenghi is of Israeli-Jewish heritage, while Tamimi is of Palestinian-Arab descent. Throughout the cookbook, they show the similarities and pervasiveness of recipes traditional to both groups. Maybe my favorite section of the cookbook frames the struggles of Jerusalem’s various residents like this:

“Alas, although Jerusalemites have so much in common, food, at the moment, seems to be the only unifying force in this highly fractured place. The dialogue between Jews and Arabs, and often among Jews themselves, is almost nonexistent. It is sad to note how little daily interaction there is between communities, with people sticking together in closed, homogenous groups. Food, however, seems to break down those boundaries on occasion… It takes a giant leap of faith, but we are happy to take it – what have we got to lose? – to imagine that hummus will eventually bring Jerusalemites together, if nothing else will.”

I love the sentiment, and if anyone has the unifying hummus recipe, it’s probably these guys.

As I mentioned, Mr. Ottolenghi’s instagram feed is great, and I see posts from him (or his surrogates probably…) nearly every day. Said posts make me want to whip up his recipes, nearly every day. I must have seen something inspiring in recent days, because when confronted with my zoodles for tonight’s dinner, I felt an overwhelming desire to use some tahini. The tahini sauce I coated the zoodles with tonight is a scaled-down and warmed up version of the recipe in Jerusalem.

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Zoodles with Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients: 
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed, & dried
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tahini paste
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tbsp water
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Toss chickpeas in 1 tbsp olive oil + paprika, cumin, turmeric, and salt. Spread out on a cookie sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Stir up once about halfway through cooking time.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare zoodles. See here if you need a little help with that!
  4. Next, warm the other 1 tbsp of olive oil into a pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for just about 3 minutes.
  5. Now lower the heat of the burner to a low. Wait a minute or two, then stir the tahini paste into the olive oil.
  6. Add the lemon juice and a turn or two of black pepper. Whisk together until well-combined. Add water by the tablespoon. (Don’t use all the water – or use more – if you’re happy with the consistency of the sauce.)
  7. Add the zoodles to the pan. Toss with the sauce. Cover and increase heat back to medium for 5 minutes.
  8. Portion out the zoodles into individual bowls. Top with the roasted chickpeas.
Serves 2.

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Two-Way Beet Salad

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Beets are one of those vegetables that you either love or hate. I’d had beets just once that I can remember prior to when Selim and I started dating, and I hated them that one time. So for years, I never tasted another beet. Selim likes them a lot and eventually convinced me to try them again. I was skeptically, but he converted me into a beet-eater.

A lot of times we just grate a beet in with whatever other salad ingredients we’re using that day. But I wanted to make a salad that showcased the beet itself. You may think it sounds ridiculous to roast some of the beets and not others – after all, once they’re all mixed together they barely look any different! But I’d give it a whirl. The roasted beets have a different texture and flavor than the raw ones. It gives this salad a greater depth of flavor, I think.

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Two-Way Beet Salad

Ingredients: 
  • 2 medium beets
  • Olive oil, divided (2 tsp + 1 tbsp)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2oz feta, crumbled
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Take one of the beets – scrub clean, peel, and chop into small rectangles/squares.
  3. Toss the beet cubes in 2 tsp of olive oil and a few dashes of salt & pepper. Spread on a foil-lined cookie sheet and place in the oven on a middle rack. Roast for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, take the other beet and similarly clean it. Grate this one via one of the larger holes on your grater. Place in a large bowl.
  5. Whisk together balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil, thyme, and a few more turns of black pepper in a small bowl.
  6. Once the roasting beets are done, add them to the bowl with the raw, shredded beets. Toss with the vinaigrette.
  7. Top with feta and serve.