Category Archives: Turkey (the country)

Creamy Eggplant – Mediterranean Dinner, part 1

Every year, our church has a fundraiser auction to raise money for our youth group. This year, I planned a Mediterranean 3-course dinner and auctioned off seats for five guests to join me for the meal.  I’ll share the menu in two parts.

I’m going to start with the new main dish that I learned from this meal, called Sultan’s Delight – a creamy eggplant base topped with lamb stew.

This is a different way of cooking eggplant, and it made a wonderful creamy puree that everyone loved. It was probably the most talked-about part of the meal. This dish could sway even those folks out there who don’t think they like eggplant.  I followed the recipe on a blog called Almost Turkish Recipes, the only change that I made was in the preparation of the eggplant after roasting. Where it called to mash the eggplant with a fork, mine was pretty stringy so I went ahead and pureed it in a blender, which resulted in a very smooth end product.

eggplant bechamel

After roasting and mashing/pureeing the eggplant, you make a creamy bechamel sauce and mix it in with the eggplant.  The other addition is a turkish cheese called kashkaval. I was able to find this cheese at our local Lebanese restaurant & grocery, Neomonde. It is a sheep’s milk cheese, very mild flavored and soft enough to melt into the dish.

In Sultan’s Delight, this creamy eggplant puree is topped with a tomato lamb stew.  I need to find a better place to buy lamb meat, but what I found this time was a stew meat.  Unfortunately, there was very little meat on the bone. I also found the stew as listed on the blog linked above to be less flavorful than I wanted. So I made some adjustments, here’s a summary (I don’t have amounts, since I was just making it up as I went, sorry!).

I browned the lamb meat, onions and green pepper, and added the tomatoes, tomato paste and water to stew the lamb for 1 hour as described in the other blog. Then I extracted the meat and cooled it down so that I could pick off the meat. When I saw that there was not enough meat and it didn’t seem tomato-y enough, I started over by browning beef chunks. To this, I added more tomato paste and added back the rich lamb broth (bones do add a lovely depth of flavor) and the bit of lamb meat that I had extracted. It was stewed down for awhile and then reheated the day of the dinner, which resulted in a tender and flavorful topping for the eggplant.

sultan's delight


Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Raleigh old-timers (at least those who have been here the past 10-15 years) may remember the Rathskeller restaurant on Hillsborough St. I was recently reminded of the delicious lemon-tahini dressing from that restaurant, and mentioned it to some of my friends. My friend Deniz (she’s Turkish) described to me how she makes a similar dressing, so I decided to give it a try. Here’s an approximate recipe I ended up with below. Other recipes I found online have various ratios of lemon juice to tahini, most  with equal amounts or slightly more lemon juice than tahini. I personally like this ratio with more tahini, though it makes for a pretty thick dressing. Then again, I’ve always been partial to the flavor of sesame – so feel free to play around and find your favorite ratio.

Lemon-Tahini Dressing
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. tahini (sesame paste)
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt, more to taste
1/8 tsp. black pepper
water to desired consistency, 1/2 c. or more

Whisk together everything except water, then gradually add water while whisking.  The water not only helps to thin out the dressing to a reasonable drizzling consistency, but it also tones down the tart of the lemon and slightly bitter flavor of the tahini. Serve with a salad or as a vegetable dip.

DC Food

Just returned from a convention in DC this week.  Although I didn’t have much extra time and was pretty much tied to the area around the convention center, I was able to find some pretty good food!  The first night in town I met up with friends Eric and Tini (who got married and moved to DC last summer) at Haad Thai restaurant. We pre-arranged our meeting, and it wasn’t until I arrived at the restaurant that I realized I had been there before – when I was in DC for a conference 2 years ago!  I ordered “rama in jacuzzi” – steamed watercress and chicken with a spicy peanut sauce.

The next morning, I walked a few blocks to a diner across from Ford’s Theater called Lincoln’s Waffle Shop. The name would suggest that waffles were the star of the menu, but it was really only one of many options.

It was the most diversely populated greasy spoon I’ve ever seen, with asian, latino and black servers and cooks working together behind the counter; and patrons from the construction worker taking a break from his work down the street, to 4 guys in suits having a breakfast business meeting. All the while, a Latina cook was singing softly in the background. And it was “redskins country” – what more could you ask? :)  I had scrambled eggs, bacon and french toast – they brought me so much food that it came on 2 plates and I couldn’t finish it all!

For lunch that day, 4 of us from the convention went together to Ping Pong for dim sum. I didn’t get any photos of that meal, because we were trying to rush back to our work at the exhibit booth, but it was delicious. And in the evening on Tuesday we had dinner at the NC Reception, hosted by our Center and the Department of Commerce at the Newseum.

The next morning, I went to Eastern Market to meet up with Megan – a friend who participated in our Service Adventure unit in Raleigh a few years ago and is now finishing college and doing a summer internship in DC. The market wasn’t very exciting that early on a Wednesday morning, but we found a lovely cafe with outdoor seating for breakfast. We both had Belgian hot chocolate and the special omelet of the day, made with turkey chorizo and cheddar cheese.

Since it is Italian month, I also looked up some Italian restaurants around the convention center. Most of those are very pricy, but I noticed that Potenza Trattoria has a reasonably-priced lunch option. In addition to their restaurant, they have a bakery that offers a daily “blue plate special” with a new set of specials each week. Wednesday was baked ziti with homemade salami and roasted vegetables, with a drink and a slice of bread pudding for only $9. Delicious and highly recommended!

That evening after we closed up at the booth, we decided to try Zaytinya, an upscale Mediterranean restaurant that my friend Amber really wanted to visit again after having eaten there on a previous trip. It is a mezze restaurant (like Spanish tapas) where you order small plates and share around the table. Three of us ordered 9 wonderfully flavorful small dishes, followed by dessert. I took pictures of some of the favorites.

Kibbeh, a beef and bulgur patty with pine nuts and currants, served with labneh (thickened yogurt).



Bakaliarou Mavro Skordalia, a lightly battered fried cod (think ‘fish and chips’) on a bed of skordalia (garlic mashed p0tatoes) with pieces of orange and chives.


Firik pilavi – smoked green wheat (bulgur?) pilaf, with mushrooms and apricots.




Crispy fried brussel sprouts with garlic yogurt, coriander seeds, and barberries (kind of like tart raisins)



Bamya – stewed okra, tomatoes and chick peas





I forgot to take a picture of the yeasty fresh-out-of-the-oven pita bread that was served with the meal, probably because we were gobbling it up so fast! As an appetizer, we ordered hummus, baba ghanoush and a roasted red pepper and feta dip to eat with this bread.  Even though we were incredibly full by the end of the meal, we couldn’t resist trying the small desserts as well.

This was my dessert, a couple of scoops of walnut ice cream, sitting on what I think was apricot and honey flavored yogurt (or something similar), a piece of crunchy phyllo crust, toasted walnuts, a drizzle of honey around the outside with 4 little cubes of apricot jelly.

That’s pretty much it for my DC dining experience. Thursday morning I had hot chocolate and a blackberry white chocolate scone at Caribou Coffee with a former high school classmate Krista. After a final couple of hours working at the booth, we headed back to Raleigh. I’m very glad to be back in town with no major travel plans for the month of July. As expected, I haven’t had much of a chance to really dig into Italian cuisine yet, which is why I planned for two months of Italian cooking!





Turkish Cooking Class

I just got back from a Turkish Cooking Class (and dinner!) taught by my friend Deniz. I met Deniz about 6 years ago when I worked as an intern in her library at Rex Hospital. Deniz shares my love of cooking international foods. In fact, it’s because of Deniz that I have gotten involved with the International Festival of Raleigh, last year she invited me to be a part of the committee to help plan the cooking demonstrations at the festival.

For over a year now, Deniz has been teaching local Turkish cooking classes. I attended my second class today. She does a great job of tailoring traditional recipes to be healthy and use ingredients that are readily available in the U.S., while retaining the unique nature of the dish. Volunteers are asked up to help cook each dish, and then we eat a delicious meal together and learn about Turkish history and culture. Today we even had live classical Turkish music. What a great deal for only $25 per person, she’ll be offering the next cooking class on June 4, you should check it out!

There’s actually a small photography exhibit at Turkish House (Cary, NC) right now too, which I was glad to be able to view while we were there. The exhibit is called “Who is my Neighbor?” by John Lynner Peterson and features mainly black and white portraits of people from all walks of life around the world. Next Saturday will be the final day this exhibit is open to the public in that location.

Now, about the food from today’s class, it was all delicious! We made a lentil and bulgur soup called Bride Soup, Hummus, Rose Pastries, Eggplant casserole and Meringues. The meringue served with dessert had cinnamon and dark chocolate shavings in it, and was filled with vanilla ice cream and covered with berry sauce, yum! I didn’t know meringues were popular in Turkey, but Deniz says that if you go into any bakery in Turkey, you will see them.

The recipe I’m going to share with you (with permission, of course) is the Rose Pastry, or Gul boregi.  The pastry is filled with a onion, potato and parsley mixture and rolled up to look like a snail or ‘rose’.

Rose Pastries (Gul boregi)
1 package phyllo dough
3/4 c. olive oil for brushing
1 medium onion, diced
4 potatoes, boiled, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 c. parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a medium pan, saute onion in 1 Tbsp. olive oil until translucent. Mix potato with the onion and parsley, add salt and pepper to taste.

Place one sheet of phyllo dough on counter or cutting board. Brush lightly with olive oil and place another sheet of phyllo dough on top. Cut the sheets in half from the short side. Add about 2 Tbsp. filling along the cut side and then roll gently into a log. Then coil the log inwards to make a round disc (looks like a snail shell).

Brush the rounds with egg wash on the top and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Let the pastries cool and eat warm or at room temperature.