Tackling Turkey

Project Food Blog Challenge #2:

Ready to tackle a classic dish from another culture? Pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with. You should include how you arrived at this decision in your post. Do your research then try to pull off successfully creating this challenge. Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal, and document your experience through a compelling post.

If you have been reading my blog for awhile or glance at my recipe page, you will notice a lot of dishes from different cultures. Indian, African, Caribbean, Mexican, Japanese. I love playing with ethnic flavors. So I was especially excited for this challenge! I immediately got to work on thinking of what culture I could try, that I hadn’t made before.

That was the hard part.

My mind wandered around the globe…

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Turkey. A country I’ve actually not been to in my globetrotting travels. I can’t even recall what type of cuisine they actually eat. I envisioned something similar to Greek, their neighbor to the west, with influence from the Middle East.

Funny side note? On multiple occasions, people have inquired as to whether my husband is Armenian.

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We didn’t even know where Armenia was or what Armenians looked like. Turns out that Armenia is Turkey’s neighbor to the east! {We looked into doing Armenian cuisine actually but I couldn’t find good authentic recipes that I could scrounge up the ingredients for.} Turns out he’s just your average American mutt by the way.

Turkish For Two

… with a lot of leftovers!

When starting to research Turkish cuisine, I ran across a few key points.

  • Most Turkish meals start with a thin soup.
  • Key ingredients: lamb, eggplant, lentils, tomatoes, nuts, parsley, cumin
  • Vegetables are often stuffed, called Dolma, and not just vine leaves!

Why tackle one dish when you can make an entire 4-course meal?

1st Course
Yoghurt Soup

2nd Course
Green Olive, Walnut, and Pomegranate Salad

3rd Course
Imam Bayildi
Baked Stuffed Eggplant
 

4th Course
Figs in Honey Syrup

This menu plan came 100% from a Mediterranean Cookbook that I think I nabbed from my mom when I moved out on my own.

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I’ve made a few things in it before but honestly, a lot of the recipes seemed labor intensive and far too daunting for my taste. Nothing like a good challenge to break me out of my comfort zone, right?

All right, time to dive right in!

Yoghurt Soup

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1.5 litres vegetable stock
1/3 cup short-grain white rice
2 3/4 oz butter
1 3/4 oz plain flour
8 oz natural (Greek) yoghurt
1 egg yolk
1 Tbls finely sliced mint
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Bring stock and rice to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-low and simmer.

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Melt 2 oz butter over low heat, stir in flour and cook 2-3 minutes.

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Gradually add stock/rice, stirring, cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, reduce to low.

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Whisk together the yogurt and egg yolk.

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Pour mixture into soup, stirring constantly.

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Remove from heat, add salt and mint.

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Just before serving, melt the remaining butter, add cayenne and cook until lightly browned.

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Pour over soup, serve, and enjoy!

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This soup was fantastic. I could have easily eaten just a massive bowl of it and been totally satisfied.

We cracked open a bottle of vino to share with dinner. I actually looked for Turkish wine but alas, none could be found in Kidnap Kitsap County.

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The cayenne kick at the end of each bite is what sold it for me.

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The soup was actually the last part of the meal that I prepared. It was quick and easy – simple but with a complex flavor.

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Green Olive, Walnut & Pomegranate Salad

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1 cup walnut halves
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 Tbls pomegranate syrup
1/2 tsp chili flakes
2 cups green olives, pitted and halved
1 cup pomegranate seeds*
1 large red onion, chopped
1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves

Soak walnut halves in boiling water for 3-4 minutes.

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Drain, peel, pat dry.

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{This was a loooong process and required the assistance of my sous chef!}

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Toast the walnuts.

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Roughly chop.

Combine olive oil, pomegranate syrup, and chili flakes in a screw top jar, shake well.

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Place the olives, pomegranate seeds*, onion, walnuts, and parsley in a bowl, toss with dressing just before serving.

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{I need to invest in an olive pitter!}

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*I used craisens instead of pomegranate seeds because pomegranates are not in season just yet.

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{Losing daylight! Grrr!}

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Such a colorful and flavorful salad!

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Honestly, this salad was not worth the effort. This dish took so long to prepared with the preparation of the olives and walnuts. Was peeling the walnuts really necessary? Normally, I would have scratched that step but for the sake of authenticity, right?

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The flavors were lovely though. And I’m not even a fan of parsley!

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Imam Bayildi

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3/4 cup olive oil
2 lbs eggplant
3 onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
13 oz Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tsp dried oregano
4 Tbls fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup currants
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbls lemon juice
pinch of sugar
1/2 cup tomato juice

Heat half of the olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan, cook eggplant on all sides for 8-10 minutes.

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Remove from pan, scoop out some of the flesh, leaving the skins in tact and some flesh lining the skins.

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Finely chop the scooped-out flesh and set aside.

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Heat the remaining oil in the same pan, cook onion over medium heat for 8-10 minutes.

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{I heart onion!}

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{I settled on 2 massive onions instead of 3.}

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Add garlic and cook for another minute.

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Add tomato, oregano {I forgot!}, parsley, currants, cinnamon, reserved eggplant, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Fill eggplant shells with tomato mixture.

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Mix lemon juice, sugar, and tomato juice and some salt, pour over eggplant.

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Cover, bake at 350* for 30 minutes. Uncover, bake for 10 minutes.

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Serve at room temperature.

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I loved this dish.

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The subtle cinnamon flavor, the sweetness of the currants, and the onions were so mellow.

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Figs in Honey Syrup

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3 1/2 oz blanched whole almonds
12 whole fresh figs
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbls lemon juice
2 1/2 inch sliver of lemon rind
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup Greek-style natural yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 350*, place almonds on baking tray, bake for 5 minutes until golden, cool.

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Cut stems off of figs, make small crosswise incision, push an almond into the base of each fig.

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Place 3 cups of water in large saucepan. Add sugar, stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.

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Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Stir in honey, lemon juice, lemon rind, and cinnamon stick.

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Reduce heat to medium, place figs in the pan and simmer 30 minutes.

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Remove figs and place on large serving dish.

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Boil liquid over high heat for 15-20 minutes or until thick and syrupy. Remove cinnamon and lemon rind. Cool syrup slightly and pour over figs.

Serve with yogurt, top with chopped blanched almonds.

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Can you believe this was my first time having figs?

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They were surprisingly light and refreshing – the perfect way to end a large meal!

I think that the dinner was a huge success, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my husband, sous chef, dishwasher, and photography assistant. Three hours in the kitchen, four courses executed simultaneously. I am quite proud, actually!

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The key to executing a successful multi-course dinner is planning, planning, planning. It’s more than just picking the recipes and getting the ingredients. The timing worked out famously and of course, it wasn’t done exactly as you see it here. As I alluded to, the first course was made last, basically. The toasting of the almonds for dessert done first.

Things got a little messy.

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556 pictures were taken. (Did you see the outtakes yet?)

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One fantastic meal was had.

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Cheers!

{Voting opens on Monday! Thank you for your continued support! Click here to view my contestant profile.}

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20 Responses

  1. That’s where my cookbook went! Along with some of my CDs, DVDs and what else? If it helps you win then you can keep it.

    I’m really impressed, I know how much planning and work you put into it! The soup really sparked my interest.

    I agree about skipping skinning the walnuts…too much work for this lazy cook…nice job sous chef!

  2. Ohgosh, everything looks SO delicious!! I would have never thought of doing Turkey, all I know that country for is their strong, delicious coffee 😉

  3. Looks so good!!!!!! You might have won my vote.

  4. This is so creative and impressive. My brother studied abroad in Turkey and brought me home some kind of weird booze that they drink over there. Had a licorice smell to it. I would have preferred honey soaked figs 🙂 good luck in the contest!

  5. I have that cookbook! It’s probably the only cookbook I actually use! I love it!

  6. Wow everything looks absolutely amazing! I want to make these dishes.

  7. […] from Leftovers for Lunch posted some awesome Turkish recipes. Everything looks so […]

  8. Looks like you put a lot of hard work into this! Good luck 🙂

  9. A veritable Turkish feast. Lovely! Glad you enjoyed the dishes. Turkish cuisine is one of my favourites. 🙂

  10. i stumbled upon your blog a while ago. anyways i loved this post as i actually live in turkey. it looks like you made quite the meal. i’m very impressed because you didn’t just start with easy recipes!

  11. Leah, this is incredible – I voted for you. Great pictures and step by step instructions are fabulous.
    – Butter
    (from runningonbutter)

  12. WOW everything looks good! Great Job!

    You have got my VOTE!

    I would love it if you check out my entry for this challenge
    http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/703

  13. Way to go making 4 dishes! Should have saved that for round 3 😉 Good luck in PFB!

  14. Great post! Great step by step photos, and those figs look amazing. I voted for you!

    Good luck! =)

    You can check out my PFB post at : http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/864

  15. You did a wonderful job! Seriously! Especially with all the step by step photos. I often times find myself stirring with one hand and snapping with the other. I’ve built some pretty strong forearm muscles. I haven’t made Turkish Cuisine before but I am willing making these dishes, especially the one with figs and almonds…YUM! I am looking forward to you upcoming dishes, you got my vote 🙂

    Lick My Spoon

  16. Great post. I’ll have to try all of it, especially the figs in honey syrup. You have one of my votes. Good luck!

  17. This looks beautiful! I love your closeup food shots, just voted for you. 🙂 You guys look like you’re having so much fun!

  18. […] for your support! I never expected to make it all the way and my time has come. It was a lot of fun tackling Turkish cuisine and hosting an Indian themed dinner party for my […]

  19. I have been on your blog for about an hour and just have to say that your GREAT at not only cooking but displaying your time and dishes in the kitchen. Great blog 🙂

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