Almost Turkish Recipes

Turkish Breakfast on a Toast (Fırında Domates ve Peynirli Ekmek)

When I was a kid I loved having freshly baked steaming hot bread, but then who wouldn't. Also, having hot bread every morning in Turkey was and still is possible. People usually know when their neighborhood bakery takes out the new batch of bread. We went to the bakery around that time and they used to wrap the really hot bread in old newspapers. We would and still do cut the bread lengthwise and spread as much butter as it could hold and eat it. But then for mom the biggest challenge was to come up with creative ways to use stale bread. This recipe was my mom's way of making us consume stale bread. It was family favorite for breakfasts, brunches, or afternoon tea-times. Everything you expect from a Turkish breakfast is here on a slice of bread: tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, parsley, banana peppers, and eggs.

Must-haves of this recipe are stale "real" bread (never ever use any kind of wanna-be breads such as sliced toast bread variety or freshly baked "real" bread, since they both get really soaky with tomato juice. I prefer baguettes), fresh tomatoes, banana peppers, feta cheese, parsley, and an egg. The rest is up to you; you can add, remove, or modify the ingredients.

1 French baguette, sliced any way you want (I use French bread, because it tastes more Turkish to me than any other bread; however, you can also use sourdough, whole wheat, whole grain, etc.)
2 medium fresh tomatoes, petite diced
1 banana peppers or sweet Italian peppers, chopped (never use bell peppers)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup black olives, pitted and chopped (Turkish olives would be great but Kalamata would work just fine. No canned olives)
1 egg
1/3 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed pepper (optional)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tbsp olive oil
salt (how much salt you will use depends on what kind of feta cheese you have; if it's a really salty one you may not even need salt)

-Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Place the tomato mixture on bread slices with a spoon. If the bread is "really" stale, use the juice from the bottom of the bowl to wet the top of the bread slice. Place the bread slices on a broiler tray
-There will be some juice left in the bowl. Put some on top of each slice
-Broil 6-7 inches below heat until slightly brown. Approximately 8-10 minutes

Zucchini Salad with Yogurt (Yoğurtlu Kabak Salatası)

Zucchini salad with yogurt is a favorite summer time cold delicacy. It is served as a side dish at afternoon tea gatherings along with any kind of pogacas or filo dough pastries, or as a meze/appetizer at dinner. You can serve it with grilled meat or simply as a side to anything you want. I love this salad as lunch on toasted bread and sometimes with crumbled white cheese/feta on top. It is quite easy and quick to make and simply delicious. Even those who do not like zucchini enjoy this salad. In Turkish cuisine to have a zucchini dish without fresh dill or mint is unheard-of. For this salad it's common to use both fresh mint and dill. If you do not like one of them you can leave that one out, but only one. Zucchini salad has to have at least one fresh herb.

serves 4
3 medium size zucchini, coarsely grated (makes approximately 3 cups)
2/3 cup thick plain yogurt )enough to barely cover zucchini, not much)
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves of minced garlic, depending on how much you like garlic
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1/8 cup or as much as you want fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp mint flakes or 1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

-Grate zucchinis in a bowl. Squeeze grated zucchini by hand and drain excessive juice.
-Heat olive oil in a pan. Add zucchini and cook for 5-6 minutes or until wılted and tender stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool down.
-Mix yogurt, minced garlic and a pinch of salt well in a bowl.
-When zucchini cools down, mix zucchini, walnuts, dill, mint, salt, and the garlicy yogurt.
-Serve cold.

Fava Beans à la Turque (Zeytinyağlı İç Bakla)

Fava beans, aka faba, broad, Windsor, or horse beans, are among the oldest cultivated plants. Although they've been planted and enjoyed in the Middle East, Europe, and South America for millenniums, favas took their sweet time to appear at American markets. I did not eat or try fava beans for the first 25 years of my life; yes, what a waste! In my defense mom cooked them in pods, in those slightly fuzzy pods.

As a kid it seemed like eating caterpillars! I am still reluctant about the pods. The shelled beans, however, are a different story. Fava beans are slightly sweet and have a mild grassy flavor fit for spring. In Turkey, when they're picked young and tender, without letting the beans grow much, they're cooked in pods and served with a gallop of garlicy yogurt on the side. When they're picked a bit later, when the shells and beans got bigger, they are shucked and the beans are peeled to remove the waxy coat. The schucking is easy and fast, and peeling the beans is a bit time consuming, yet totally necessary to perfect the dish. What follows is a traditional springtime olive oil dish recipe for fava beans.

1 pound fresh fava beans, shelled and peeled or 1 pound frozen fava beans (easily available at Middle Eastern markets)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
1/2 bunch of green onions, finely chopped
1/2 bunch dill, chopped
1 tsp white sugar
salt, a little more than 1 tsp
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup of water
1 tsp flour
juice of half lemon

-Before you peel the beans, mix 1 cup of water with flour and lemon juice. Place beans in the water one by one after peeling to prevent browning. If you boil the beans in water for 30 seconds and blench them it would be much easier to peel them.
-Heat half of the olive oil in a pot and add onions. Cook until soft. Don't let them brown--a big no for olive oil dishes.
-Add sugar, green onions, and garlic. Cook 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant.
-Add fava beans with the water they've been sitting in.
-Salt to your taste.
-Make sure the water covers the beans.
-Bring it to a boil on medium and then turn it down to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes until beans are cooked.
-Let it cool down in its pot with the lid on before moving it to a serving dish.
-Favas in olive oil like all Turkish olive oil dishes are served and best when at room temperature or cold.
-Drizzle the other half of the olive oil on top and serve with chopped fresh dill.

This dish is usually enjoyed with a nice big slice of crusty bread and garlicy yogurt sauce, but it's still delicious without it.

Garlicy Yogurt
For every cup of yogurt use 1/2 clove minced garlic. If you can handle garlic, raise the amount. Do not go beyond 1 clove per 1 cup of yogurt; others may not handle the garlic on you. Mix yogurt and garlic well, salt to your taste, and serve this sauce on the side of fava beans or on top.