Let’s Talk Turkey

The country, that is, not the bird. Tonight we ventured to the heart of the Ottoman empire, a country that is not quite Europe, not quite Asia, not quite the Middle East. A place that neither of us has been to, but would dearly like to visit (or even live there – Istanbul has been at the top of our list of cities abroad to move to for years, though it is slowly losing ground to Dublin).

Turkish cuisine has a lot in common with the cuisine of Persia, and, of course, Greece (a country we haven’t cooked yet, but whose food I adore). When I was looking for recipes there were several that I had to rule out because they were just too similar to our Iran meal.

To be perfectly honest, I kind of half-assed this meal. It’s been a long week folks, and it’s only Wednesday. With preschool starting, the weather changing, and a bossy toddler on my plate, I’m feeling a little bit lazy. It’s probably the rain and the no sun and what not. Anyway, I picked a couple of easy recipes and then altered one to make it even easier. Sounds like it was probably a disaster, but it wasn’t. It was a super yummy, perfect for fall kind of meal.

We had:

Long Beans Salad with Cheese and Walnuts (Cevizli-Peynirli Taze Börülce Salatası)
Lahmacun (Turkish flatbread “pizza”)

I’ll start with the Lahmacun since I changed it the most. This recipe is from Global Table Adventure. The original recipe calls for lamb, which I don’t like, and for homemade flat bread. Normally, I’d be game for making my own flat bread, but I’ve already made homemade dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls (yes, I am a hero) this week and just really didn’t feel like it. So instead, I used ground beef and store-bought naan. Also, I was too damn lazy to chop a tomato (I know) so I used canned diced tomatoes (about half, drained).

Because I was using already cooked bread, I didn’t cook the beef mixture in the oven, as the recipe directs. Instead, I made it on the stove top. Here was my process:

Mix tomatoes, tomato paste, and diced onions in a bowl. Set aside. Add olive oil to the hot pan; once it is shimmering, add a generous amount of paprika (I didn’t have hot paprika, and instead used smoked, which I think is sweeter) and chopped garlic. When it is fragrant, add the ground beef. Using a wooden spoon to break up the meat, brown thoroughly. Add the tomato mixture and heat through. Warm the flatbread under the broiler until lightly toasted. When just about ready to serve, add the fresh herbs (mine were from my garden. I rock.).

I have to say, I was a little worried about this one. Not because I went the lazy route, but because it seemed like I was going to be serving spaghetti sauce on flat bread. However, it really worked. I topped ours with white onions rubbed with salt and sumac (after soaking them in water to take the edge off) and it added a nice crunch. I really am a fan of sumac – it’s mild, citrusy, and great on watery vegetables like cucumbers and onions.

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To eat, you fold it in half like a piece of New York style pizza. It definitely felt like we were eating street food, in the best possible way.

Our side was a little refined when compared to the lahmacun, but equally delicious. It was really easy – green beans, feta, onions rubbed in salt and sumac, walnuts, and an easy dressing of garlic, salt, olive oil and white wine vinegar. Personally, anything for me that involves feta (the recipe calls for Turkish cheese, which I probably could found if I made more of an effort, or goat cheese, which I hate with a fiery passion, but allows for the use of feta as well) and walnuts is going to be great. This dish had the right combination of sweet and salty, with good texture from the beans and the onions. A definite hit, and also really easy.

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Mike and I both liked it. It was hearty and filling and easy. Quinn also liked it, but more as a tactile experience rather than a meal.

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