Almost Turkish Recipes

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.

Chicken in a Bag (Fırın Torbasında Tavuk)

I have hard to please young clientele at home when it comes to chicken. If it is served in any other form than  nuggets and tenders, they complain that it's chewy and implement famous 'whine and negotiate your way out of chicken' method, which doesn't necessarily work but helps them form into better negotiators. Finally, I won them over with my mom's chicken in a bag recipe; growing up this was our special Friday night dinner for many years during 1990s when oven bags were introduced to the Turkish market. Surprisingly, oven bags are still strong in Turkey. Chicken baked in a bag is the easiest and juiciest chicken recipe. You can marinade it ahead of time and bake it the day you need it. 40 minutes and viola! You need whole chicken legs, thighs, drumsticks, or wings--bonny and fatty parts of chicken. Chicken breasts are fine as well, but not as good as the dark parts.

enough chicken thighs, drums to fill a bag, ~2 lb
1 oven bag
juice of 2 lemons
paprika, enough to cover the chicken pieces, don't be stingy
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp or more dried oregano leaves, thyme, or rosemary
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced or sliced

-Place the chicken in a big bowl and squeeze lemons on top. Make sure every piece is covered with lemon juice. If you don't like the chicken smell like me, lemon juice gives chicken a nice tangy flavor and helps with that smell. Add paprika generously, oregano, black pepper, garlic, and salt. Mix them well with chicken. Let marinate for at least half an hour before you bake. Do not forget, the longer you marinate it the more tender it will become. (You can marinade a night before and keep it in the fridge for the next day)
-Place an oven bag on a oven dish/tray so that its opening will be facing the side. Put marinated chicken pieces in the bag side by side. Close the bag with a twisty tie. Make a couple of small holes on top with a knife. Bake it in preheated oven at 400 F for 45 minutes.
-If you want a very crispy top, after 45 minutes cut the oven bag on top and broil the chicken for 5-10 minutes.
-After you put the chicken in the bag, if you still have room put a couple of potatoes (cut in halves) and carrots (chopped into two or three pieces). They will be very very delicious.
-Serve with salad, rice or any type of grain, mashed or baked potatoes, and/or greens.

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.