Almost Turkish Recipes

Roasted Beet Hummus (Pancarlı Humus)

In my first couple of years in the US, I couldn’t get over how popular hummus was in this country. I was surprised because hummus had managed to become popular despite how it was prepared and served: dense in texture and bland in flavor. It wasn’t anything like how we prepare and serve it—and Turks are not even the masters of it. Back home hummus is soft and airy in texture; light, lemony9, and spiced in flavor. It is served in shallow plates, never in deep bowls. You cannot be parsimonious with lemon juice, water, and olive oil; a good hummus needs them.

My experimentations with hummus have a lot to do with having kids. Realizing what a nutritious, not just delicious, snack it was I started adding or hiding colorful vegetables in hummus. Beets are just one of them and absolutely our family favourite. 


1 small to medium beet root
1 ½ cups cooked check peas
2 tbsp tahini
Juice of 1-1 ½ lemons
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup yogurt
4 tbsp olive oil (3 in and 1 for the top)
Water (even better cooking water from the chickpeas) as necessary

Sesame seeds
Nigella seeds

-The Beet: Wash well and then cut the bottom and top parts of the beet root. Cut the beet into four or, if it’s a big one, 8 pieces. Toss with a little bit of olive oil, place on a parchment paper and bake for 45 minutes in a preheated oven at 400F. (Do not discard the stems and leaves if they came with those. Try this beet greens with olive oil recipe.)
-The Chickpeas: I always buy chickpeas in bulk, soak them in water overnight, and then boil them until cooked for 1-1 ½ hours. It is best to use them right when they’re warm since the skins will be soft and easy to be smoothened by the blender.

Most authentic way of making hummus requires peeling the skins off. I find it very time consuming and have figured out an easy way out; If you are using canned chickpeas, put them in a pot with water and boil for 5-10 minutes to soften the skin.

I take what I need and freeze the rest of the chickpeas in jars filled with 1-2 cups for later use.

-Put tahini, olive oil, and lemon juice in the blender and run until smooth.
-Add the beet (~1 cup) and blend.
-Add chickpeas, yogurt, and salt.  
-Add water to thin. Humus should be soft and fluffy. It most definitely should not be like a paste.
-Taste and add more lemon juice, salt, or water.
-Ways to serve: Hummus is usually served in a wide shallow bowl in Turkey, never in a dip bowl. For regular hummus, we usually heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a small pan. When it’s hot, before it burns, we add paprika and let sizzle for 5 seconds. Then pour it over the hummus on its serving plate. Chopped parsley is another way to serve it. Some people like to drizzle olive oil and sprinkle cumin powder on top—this is my least favorite. I like to serve beet hummus with chopped parsley or dill on top or with sesame or nigella seeds. All is delicious.
-Traditionally, hummus is scooped with bread/pita bread; however, it’s good with pita chips, crackers, and fresh vegetables.    

Rolled Collard Green Leaves with Ground Meat (Etli Kara Lahana Sarması)

Although kara lahana [literally black cabbage in Turkish] collard greens are a staple in the American South, they are grown and enjoyed exclusively in the Northern part of Turkey, i.e., the Black Sea Region. Rolled collard green leaves is one of the most iconic dishes of the Black Sea cuisine competing with collard greens soup (recipe here). We’re getting collard greens in our CSA farm box almost every week and I am turning them into soups or rolls. Here’s a classic meaty rolled collard greens recipe.

serves 4-6
3 bunch collard greens
1 lb ground meat (beef or half beef + half lamb)
1 big onion, finely chopped
1 cup rice
2 tbsp tomato paste
½ cup grated tomato (~2 tomatoes)
1/3 to ½ cup chopped fresh dill
1 tsp (or less) black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 bone (optional) [In Black Sea cuisine it is a must to cook the collard green rolls with a bone at the bottom of the pot; it adds extra flavor and deliciousness to the dish, but the dish is excellent without a bone as well)  

For the sauce
(You can adjust the amount of butter and oil, or whether you will use both or just one based on your taste. I prefer this sauce only with butter.)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato or pepper paste (spicy pastes go really well with the rolls)
2 tbsp grated tomato or tomato sauce

-Wash the collard green leaves. Cut the stems off and set aside; do not discard them.
-Bring water in a big pot to boil. Boil the collard green leaves 4-5 leaves at a time for 4 minutes. Leave in a colander until all leaves are boiled.
-While the collard green leaves are cooling off, mix well all the other ingredients in a bowl.
-Get a wide bottom, preferably stainless steel pot and place the cut off stems at the bottom. These will protect your precious rolls from getting stuck and burnt. (If you are using a bone, place it there as well.)

-Now the rolling part: put a leaf on a flat surface such as a cutting board, your counter, or a tray. Cut the leaf lengthwise into two and take out the middle stem.

-There are many ways of rolling these leaves such as rolling lengthwise, making triangle bundles, or using the whole leaf if small; however, I find rolling them by placing the stuffing on the long side more practical and easier.
- Place ~2 tbsp stuffing on the leaf. Do not over stuff them or they will come undone while cooking. Fold the sides and roll. Repeat until you stuffed all the leaves.
-Pour water over the rolls to barely cover them; the top parts should not be in water. [If, for some reason, you opt out of the sauce, you should add oil right now.]
-First bring to a boil and cook on low for 25-30 minutes.
-For the sauce: Heat the oil(s) in a pan. Once hot add paste and grated tomato. Cook for 3 minutes.
-Pour over the cooked rolls. The rolls go well with bread and yogurt on the side.