Almost Turkish Recipes

Beet Greens with Rice and Olive Oil (Pirinçli Pancar Yaprağı)

Beet greens, stems and leaves, although usually discarded, are in fact quite healthy, sweet, and delicious when cooked in simple ways. There are a couple of different ways of cooking beet greens in Turkish cuisine. The following recipe is a simple one rice and olive oil.

When you buy beets and use them to pickle or for salads and risottos, do not discard the greens. 

beet greens of 1 bunch beet, stems and leaves chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp white rice or bulgur wheat (you can use brown rice as well but you need to cook it ahead of time)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes    

-Heat olive oil in a pot.
-Add onion and garlic and cook on medium 3-4 minutes.
-Add beet greens and sauté another 3 minutes.
-Add water to barely cover the greens and sprinkle the rice on top.
-Salt and pepper to taste. Add hot pepper flakes if you wish.
-Cover and cook on low for approximately 20-25 minutes or until rice is fully cooked.

Beet greens are good warm or cold. Serve them with yogurt on the side, preferably with garlicy yogurt. (For garlicy yogurt, use 1 clove of minced garlic for each cup of yogurt. Mix well and serve.)     

Turkish Tabbouleh (Kısır)

Kısır is the Turkish or a different version of a Mediterranean/Arabic dish called tabbouleh. Although there are many differences between these two dishes, the main one is that the Turkish tabbouleh has tomato and pepper paste. In Turkey the recipe for kısır varies from region to region. In Adana they use more water than anywhere else or in Antakya (Hatay) they don't use water at all; they knead bulgur with tomato and pepper paste until it gets soft. However it's made, kısır is made everywhere in Turkey and is loved dearly. It is served sometimes with the afternoon tea, sometimes as a meze, and sometimes as a great summer dish you can enjoy when it's boiling hot outside.

2 cups of fıne bulgur
2 cups of hot water
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp pepper paste (preferably spicy, if you cannot find pepper paste, double the tomato paste)
1/4 -1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 bunch green onions, finely chopped
1 small onion, cut in thin half rounds
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 cucumber, finely chopped
2 sweet green peppers, finely chopped (closest thing to sweet green peppers here is shishito pepper or sweet Italians)
juice of 1 or 1/2 lemon (you have to taste and add less or more lemon juice)
2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tsp sumac
1 tsp mint flakes or 1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
a pinch of ground cumin
romain lettuce leaves

Although it's undeniably non-Turkish, I love the crunchiness of endives in my kısır. 

Some people add finely sliced or minced garlic to their kısır and some use pomegranate syrup for sourness.

-Put tomato and pepper paste in a big bowl and melt them with boiling hot water. Add bulgur and 1 tsp salt into this mix. Stir once. Cover with a thick kitchen towel and let it soak the water for 10 minutes.
-Cut the onion in half first, then into very thin half-moon shapes. In a little bowl, knead onion with 1 tsp salt. Rinse salt and squeeze excessive water.
-Fluff bulgur with a fork. Add pepper flakes, sumac, cumin, mint flakes, oil, lemon juice, and kneaded onion. Add garlic and pomegranate syrup at this stage if you will use any. Mix well. At this point taste to see if it needs more lemon juice. Kısır should be a little bit sour.
-Add banana peppers, spring onions, cucumber, and parsley. Mix well.
-If served with sliced tomatoes and lettuce leaves Kısır is delicious. We don't add tomatoes to kısır, because tomatoes make it mushy. So kısır is usually served on a lettuce bed (you can wrap some kısır in a lettuce leaf and eat like that) with slices of tomato on the side.

Turkish Style Fresh Borlotti Beans (Barbunya Pilaki)

It is barbunya beans season. These delicious nutty beans with red or dark purple speckles packed with a long list of health benefits (google it!) are also called borlotti, cranberry, roman (not the Italian green ones), or October beans. In Turkey these reddish delicious beans are named after yet another red deliciousness: the Mediterranean red mullet, aka barbunya, from the Greek barbounia. 

Barbunya beans arrive at the farmer's markets in Turkey in midsummer, in pods, and when they do arrive they immediately become the most expensive item on the carts. Since people wait for their arrival for so long, at the time of their arrival they’re ready to pay whatever—it’s definitely a seller’s market. By the end of the summer and end of the barbunya season, however, barbunya stocks start to go down and barbunya lovers invest in kilos and kilos of barbunyas. They pod them and keep them in the freezer for the long barbunya deprived winter. Although you can find dry barbunyas year around, fresh barbunyas are always, and I cannot emphasize this enough, always preferred to dried ones.

Barbunyas are always cooked the same way in Turkish cuisine, i.e. vegetarian, in generous amount of olive oil with tomatoes. Cooked in any other way, it’s considered a pity, a total waste. “The” barbunya dish, the Istanbul style, is called barbunya pilaki. The word pilaki also comes from Greek (remember “gigantes plaki”?) and in its Turkish form, the word is a generic name for a dish of vegetables or seafood slowly braised with onion, garlic, and tomatoes in olive oil and served cold or at room temperature. However, although there are scrumptious seafood pilakis, the name in time happened to be associated only with bean pilakis, cannellini and barbunya, to be specific. This is my recipe for barbunya pilaki.

Barbunya pilaki is traditionally made with potatoes and carrots; however, I really do not like potatoes in this dish; I strongly believe that potatoes cloud the flavor of barbunyas. I replace potatoes for green sweet peppers, or in their absence, with sweat Italian peppers.

I usually cook barbunyas in pressure cooker, since it’s faster. You can use this recipe with regular or instant pots as well.

serves ~4
2 lb of fresh barbunyas in pod, pod them. Sometimes when they are very fresh, the pods are firm and hard to pod. If that's the case, leave them in a fabric bag for a day or two to breathe and loosen up. 
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or thinly sliced
1 potato, peeled and diced
OR, if you want to try my version 3-4 sweet green peppers, chopped in small pieces
1 carrot, cut in half or quarter moons
2 big tomatoes, grated or crushed in a food processor
1/3 cup olive oil, for starters and if you’re ready for it add a heaping tbsp more (we do believe in olive oil)
1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
1 cup hot water
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp or more salt

-Pod all the beans. Your 2 lb fresh barbunya beans will diminish to ~1 lb once podded. They might come in different sizes and colors, all fine. Don’t be alarmed; they will loose their bright colors and turn brownish once cooked. Still, all good.
-Add olive oil in your pot and once warmed up add onions. Cook for 4-5 minutes on medium to high heat until softened.
-Add sugar, garlic, peppers or potatoes, and carrots, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
-If you think your tomatoes won’t give a vibrant red color, which happens a lot, you can use tomato paste. If so, add it now and cook for a minute.
-Add barbunyas and tomatoes, and stir for a minute or two.
-Add water and salt.
-If you’re using a pressure cooker, cover and cook on low after the steam comes out for 16-18 minutes. (I have a young clientele who like soft food, so I go for 18 minutes). If you’re using a regular pot, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes on low until beans are cooked. Check now and then to make sure it doesn’t run out of water. If it does, boil some water before adding more.  
-Once it is cooked, let it cool down to room temperature in its pot with the lid on.

Barbunya pilaki is a traditional olive oil dish and like all olive oil dishes it is served at room temperature or cold, with lemon slices. A splash of lemon juice brightens up barbunyas in unimaginable ways. Serve with grilled meat, with rice on the side or with crusty bread. It’ll keep in the fridge for a week.