T is for… Turkey; the country not the bird

Merhaba

Turkish_flag (1)

Turkish flag

After seeing Anthony Bourdain in Istanbul on No Reservations, there was no doubt that my T recipe would be from Turkey. I literally wanted to try everything Anthony ate and I was so excited that, despite Turkey being the gateway from Europe to the Middle East, there seemed to be very little that I wouldn’t be able to eat due to allergies.

I searched and searched for a recipe to make and was overwhelmed (especially when I found this blog) by all the amazing choices. Being a lover of eggplant, lamb and also all things cheesy and smokey; I settled on Hünkar Beğendi, aka Sultan’s Delight. I should say I settled on Sultan’s Delight for now since I know that when I have more time I’m going to go back and cook many of those other Turkish dishes that intrigued me.

Sultan’s Delight is a lamb stew served over a cheesy, smokey eggplant mash. There is absolutely nothing with that sentence, right?

Sultan’s Delight

For Lamb Stew

  • 1.5 lbs lamb stew meat cut in to one inch pieces
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion; diced
  • 2 red bell peppers; diced
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 can no salt added diced tomatoes; drained
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1.5 cups hot water
Simmering lamb stew

Simmering lamb stew

For eggplant mash

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cream*
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Large pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup kasseri cheese (or kashkaval or provolone)

*I had cream that I was trying to use up, but I don’t think the cream is necessary, you can just use 1 1/4 cups whole milk.

In a large dutch oven heat oil over medium high heat. Season the lamb meat then brown on all sides then remove to a bowl and set aside.

Toss in onions and peppers and cook until they begin to soften about 3-5 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste, diced tomatoes and add the spices and lamb meat back to the pot.

Add water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow to simmer for one hour.

Eggplant process

Eggplant process

Meanwhile char the eggplant. To do this, first cover the area around the flame of your burner with foil (see picture) because the eggplant will give off water. Preheat the over to 325. Next prick the eggplant all over with a fork. Lay the eggplant directly on to the burner turning periodically until all skin is blackened. Then wrap the eggplant in tinfoil and bake for 20-25 minutes until very soft.

Allow the eggplant to cool, then peel off the skin and mash the flesh in a bowl. Set aside.

In a medium pan melt butter. Whisk in flour. Continue stirring for about 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and cream making sure to get rid of any lumps.

Add the eggplant and stir to incorporate then add the lemon juice and spices.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese and nutmeg.

Serves 4-6

Dinner!

Dinner!

FINAL VERDICT: A

Well the smokey cheesy eggplant mash on its own would’ve gotten an A+ and the stew would’ve received an A-, so that averaged out to an A.

This was definitely comfort food and perfect for the bitterly cold week we had here in New York last week. I would definitely make this dish again and just up the spices (maybe add in some cinnamon and cumin too). I wouldn’t change a thing about the eggplant mash. If you’re a vegetarian you should still make the eggplant mash… trust me, I’m actually dreaming about that eggplant mash right now…

Afiyet Olsun

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O is for… Oman. Oh Man!

Flag of Oman

Fun fact: Oman is the only country in the world that starts with the letter “O.” That means that I only had one choice in what country to use for my letter “O” recipe, but surprisingly there are a number of Omani recipes online (seriously how much do we love that whole internet thing!).

So finding Omani recipes wasn’t hard at all, instead the challenges were this. First, as I’ve said many times, Middle Eastern food is a challenge for me because they use so many of the things that I’m allergic to. Second, Middle Eastern food is Middle Eastern food. Food from that area of the world is really delicious, I love the spices and the emphasis on fresh vegetables, but the food tends to not be country specific so you often find the same dishes in Armenia that you would in Yemen.

This recipe is an amalgamation of 3 recipes that you’ll find if you Google, “Omani Kofta,” so that’s Omani enough for me.

Lamb Kofta with Zucchini Sauce

Fo the Kofta:

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
  • 1 small red onion; finely diced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parley; finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg; beaten

Combine everything in a bowl and mix well.

Form in to sausage shaped patties, approximately 2-3 inches long and an inch in diameter. This should yield about 12 kofta.

refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Heat some olive oil in a saute pan and, working in batches if necessary, cook kofta for 10 minutes, flipping each halfway through or until meat is fully cooked.

For Zucchini sauce:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 large (or 3-4 medium) zucchini; diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic; crushed
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Crushed red chilis to taste
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley; finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh mint; finely chopped
Heat oil in large pot. Add zucchini and cook over medium high heat until zucchini begins to soften; about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 3 more minutes.
Stir in tomatoes, salt and pepper, chilis, vinegar and bay leaves. Turn heat down and allow to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes stir in the parsley and mint and cook for one more minute.
Discard bay leaves.
Serve kofta and zucchini sauce over rice with warm Middle Eastern flat bread on the side.
Yields 4-6 servings
FINAL VERDICT: A-
What a great recipe! I love the spices and especially love how the aroma of those spices wafted off the dish. The mint in the sauce added a great punch of bright freshness to the sauce. I’d change some very minor things next time which I’m sure would launch this recipe from A- to A. Next time I make this I’ll add a bit more of the herbs to the sauce. Also, I was surprised that the recipes I found called for balsamic vinegar, though Oman is a pretty international place so balsamic has probably become as ubiquitous there as it is here, I think this would’ve been better with red wine vinegar or something with a bit more bite since the tomatoes are already sweet.
Speaking of the tomatoes I’d planned to use fresh since it’s the perfect time of year for that, but I forgot to buy extra at the farmer’s market. I ran to the organic section of my local market only to find that ALL of their tomatoes were imported from California or Mexico. Really!? At this time of year, in this area of the country we have more amazing local tomatoes than we know what to do with and this local loving gal could not in good conscience buy the tomatoes that were shipped in from afar so canned it was and it worked out great!
The sauce itself was so good and could definitely be used on a number of other things.

A is for… Albania: More Than Just Mob Wives

Albanian flag

I love me some trashy reality TV! Seriously, right now everyone who knows me is shocked that I didn’t choose Armenia for the letter A because in my mind the Kardashian sisters and I are best friends 4-eva (I wish I was kidding, but I’m not). Alas, I think it’s best that I save my first foray in to Armenian cooking for the day that me, Kourtney, Kim and Khloe are side by side in Kris Jenner’s beautiful kitchen talking about boys and braiding each others hair and stuff.

I will cut a bitch, but first let me get this lamb in the oven.

Instead I’m honoring the heritage of another reality star. Surprisingly  I’ve never actually watched VH1’s Mob Wives. However, due to the fact that my brain in a storing house for completely useless and nonsensical information that will never help me in any aspect of my life, I happen to know that Mob Wife Drita D’Avanzo is of Albanian decent. So in honor of my love of trashy reality TV (or because of my love of both lamb and yogurt) I decided to make a dish from Albania.

Tave Kosi, according to the website where I found the recipe, is Albanian comfort food. Chunks of lamb are browned and then placed in a baking dish and covered with a yogurt sauce and baked. With 4 cups of yogurt, 5 eggs and a stick of butter this isn’t exactly low cal heart healthy cusine, but whatever, I never promised healthy recipes.

Tave Kosi 

  • 1.5lbs lamb stew meat
  • 3 tablespoons white rice
  • 32 ounces plain greek yogurt at room temerature
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • olive oil or butter for browning meat
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Roll meat in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat butter or olive oil  in heavy bottom pan and add meat chunks, turning each over as to brown meat on  each side. Low-medium flame, be careful not to burn.

Once browned, add 1/2 cup water and let simmer, covered, for 20 minutes  until tender.

Remove meat and place chunks 1-2 inches apart in a roasting pan.

Beat eggs.

In a medium pot (off heat), stir yogurt together with flour, rice  and salt and pepper to  taste. Add eggs. Stir until smooth.

Heat mixture on low-medium flame, stiring constantly, until mixture begins  to thicken. Approximately 5-10 minutes. Do not boil.

Pour thickened yogurt over the meat that is already in the pan. Cut butter  into small pieces and spread evenly over top of yogurt mixture.

Bake at about 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. Yogurt will firm up  and yellow, like a quiche.

My Tave Kosi just out of the oven

FINAL VERDICT: C+

I totally get why this is comfort food, as the texture of the  yogurt sauce once baked becomes airy and custard like, but I think it would’ve benefited from more seasonings. Also, as much I loved the texture of the yogurt custard their was just way too much custard to lamb ratio and also not enough rice. I’d consider making this again, but I’d increase the lamb to 2 pounds, add some garlic and maybe some other spices and double the rice.

My dinner


Ju bëftë mirë!