Almost Turkish Recipes

Celery Root and Quince with Olive Oil (Zeytinyağlı Ayvalı Kereviz)

It's the season for celery roots, aka celeriac, and quinces and these two go marvelously well together in this Aegean inspired dish.

1 celery root, ~1,5-2 lb, peeled and cubed
1 quince, peeled and cubed
1 carrot, peeled and cut in half moons
1 medium onion, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp sugar
1-1,5 tsp salt
2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped celery leaves, parsley, or dill

-In a mid size bowl, mix 4 cups of water, lemon juice and flour.
-Place the peeled and diced celery root in the water and stir. If the water doesn't cover the celery root, add more water.
-Heat olive oil in a wide pot and add onions.
-Stir until soft, 8-10 minutes, but do not let them brown.
-Add sugar and stir.
-Add carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes.
-Take the celery out of the lemon-flour water with a slotted spoon and add to the pot. Preserve the water.
-Add quince.
-Add 1 cup of the water with lemon and flour to the pot. Top it with regular hot water until the vegetables are barely covered. (For a different taste, top with orange juice)
-Salt to taste.
-Simmer covered on medium for 20-25 minutes.
-Turn it off and let cool down to room temperature in the pot, covered.
-Once at room temperature, bring it to a serving plate and sprinkle with finely chopped celery leaves, parsley, or dill.

Olive oil dishes are always served at room temperature. They're even more flavorful the second day.
Enjoy with a splash of lemon juice on top, with crusty bread or rice, or on its own. 

Şekerpare Dessert (Şekerpare Tatlısı)

Şekerpare, a traditional Turkish dessert with a Persian name (Şeker-pare: sugar-piece), is sugar cookies soaked in heavy syrup and topped with pistachios or almonds. Şekerpare is commonly made at homes or can be found in every patisserie. There are different versions of this dessert. Some add semolina to the flour and some alternate the nuts to decorate them. The recipe below is my mom’s decades old recipe. She usually makes them for bayrams/eids.

For cookies
2 sticks (250 gr.) butter
3 cups flour
1 cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ cup ground pistachios

For the syrup
4 cups sugar
5 cups water

-Boil 4 cups of sugar with 5 cups of water until thickens. Set aside to cool.
-Mix powdered sugar and room temperature butter well.
-Add flour and egg.
-Mix baking soda with lemon juice and add to the dough and knead well.
-Take walnut size pieces and roll them into balls first and then with your palms press them slightly. Make a dent right in the middle of the round cookies with your finger and place them in a slightly greased tray. (The tray shouldn’t be too shallow, because the syrup will go in there as well.)
-Bake at 380 F in a preheated oven until golden brown, approximately 35-40 minutes.
-Pour the cooled down syrup (must not be warmer than luke warm) from the side of the tray. Never pour it on top of the cookies; they would get mushy.
-Put 1 tsp ground pistachios on cookies in the dents. (you can also place whole almonds in the middle of cookies before baking as an alternative to ground pistachios)

Celery Root with Orange or Tangerine Juice (Portakal ya da Mandalinalı Kereviz)

Celery root, also known as celeriac, is an awesome root highly common and popular in Europe but still waiting for its time in US. It is a different variety than regular celery (stalks). Its root has a bulbous shape and sometimes comes with its leaves on top that resemble giant parsley. It is best during the winter months, but could be found until late March here in the Bay Area. Most American recipes that I've come across recommend boiling and mixing with mashed potatoes or grating raw and adding to salads. Although both are fine ways of cooking with celery root, they're far from how we eat celery root in Turkey. Celery, kereviz in Turkish which comes from karafs in Persian, is cooked in meat stews and soups like potatoes, or in egg-lemon sauces similar to Greek avgolemono sauce, but yet the most common way of preparing celery is the traditional olive oil cooking, i.e., cooked in olive oil usually with carrots, potatoes, and peas, and seldom with quince and orange slices and served luke warm, like this recipe or this one .

Celery root with orange or tangerine juice is a "spin-off" from the conventional olive oil variety. The mixing of orange and lemon juices in this dish creates a memorable and delicious tangy flavors.

When picking celery roots, avoid both very small and very big ones. You would lose half of the small ones to peeling and the big ones tend to be hollow in the middle. Pick mid-size celery roots, approximately grapefruit-size ones and feel their weight in your hand; they should be heavy. Once peeled celery roots darken fast, so always keep a bowl of water and juice of half a lemon ready to place the peeled roots. If you get them with the greens on top, save them for cooking and decorating.

1 medium size celery root, peeled and diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 big potato, peeled and diced
1 carrots, peeled and cut in half or quarter rounds
juice of 2 medium juicy oranges OR 3 tangerines OR 1 orange and 1-2 tangerines
2 lemons (juice of half to prevent darkening, rest for cooking depending on your sourness preference)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup olive oil + 2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp salt

-Peel the root and place it in a bowl with water and lemon juice to prevent darkening
-Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a broad pan and add onions. Cook on medium until soft but don't let them brown.
-Add sugar and stir.
-Drain the water from celery root.
-Add carrots, potatoes, and celery root. Stir for 2-3 minutes until covered with olive oil and warmed up.
-Add orange/tangerine juice (whichever combination you choose) and lemon juice (how much lemon juice you will add depends on how tangy you enjoy this dish. It can go from half a lemon juice to one and a half. I love mine tangy and usually add juice of one big lemon, 2-3 tbsp). Also add 1/2 cup of water.
-Salt it to your taste.
-Add half of the dill. (If you have the root greens you can add 1/8 cup of that at this point as well)
-Once it starts to boil, turn it down and cook for 25-30 minutes until celery root is cooked.
-Let it cool in the pot covered.
-Transfer it to a serving plate. Sprinkle it with 2-3 tbsp olive oil and rest of the dill.
-Serve cold or luke warm.

Once you get used to cooking this dish, you can experiment with it by adding 1/3 cup of green peas to  it or skipping potatoes or carrots or both. Make it your own.