This time of year we all seem to be surrounded by recipes for turkey, mouthwatering photos of turkey and cranberry sauce, even toll-free numbers for “How to Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey” help lines. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’re even experiencing a wild turkey population boom. And they are, needless to say, more than a bit nervous about all of the seasonal double entendre embodied in the word “gobble!”
So as our way of soothing the ruffled feathers of our fancifully-plumed neighbors—and to share a bit of the culinary culture of one of our all-time favorite travel destinations—we’ve picked a few recipes for traditional Turkish dishes to share with you. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to have a couple of exotic new recipes in your back pocket when you’ve grown tired of turkey sandwiches, turkey casserole, turkey soup, and so on? And who knows? Maybe this will get a few folks started on a whole new “Turkey Day” tradition.
Bon appetit or, as they say in Turkey, Afiyet olsun!
Turkish Tava Stew
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1.5 pounds chicken, cut into 1 inch chunks (you can use breast or leg meat—breast will have less fat, but leg meat tends to give the dish a richer flavor)
• 1 large red bell pepper
• 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes, seeded
• 2 cups small mushrooms, such as crimini, cut into quarters
• 1 yellow onion, diced
• 1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic, depending on your preference
• salt and pepper to taste
• 1/2 pound Kasar cheese, shredded (good mozzarella can be used as a substitute, but increase the amount)
Preparation & Cooking
1) Preheat your oven to 350° F (175° C) and grease a casserole dish with olive oil.
2) On a grill, under the broiler, or over the open flame of a gas cooktop, roast the bell pepper overall until the skin is about 50% blackened and peeling away from the meat of the pepper. Place in a paper bag or heatproof sealed container to “sweat” the pepper for about ten minutes. This will make peeling the charred skin off much easier.
3) In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook until juices run clear.* Remove from heat and keep warm.
4) Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same pan, and sauté the mushrooms until they begin to soften.
5) Remove the skin, stem, and seeds from the roasted pepper. Don’t worry if some of the blackened skin doesn’t come off, as this adds to the flavor.
6) Puree the roasted pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add to casserole dish with the chicken, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Mix to combine.
7) Top with the cheese and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until cheese is melted and bubbly
Eating (the good part!):
• Serve over rice, couscous, or quinoa.
*Note: Some prefer to add chicken to the stew without pre-cooking it, instead letting it cook in the stew itself. If you do so you must make certain that the chicken is cooked thoroughly. Undercooked chicken is a leading source of salmonella infection.
Fritters are a very popular dish in many parts of the world, most notably Asia and the Middle East. This savory Turkish take on fritters combines zucchini, dill, and onion, and is sometimes served with a yogurt based sauce similar to Indian raita.
• 1 pound zucchini, preferably the smaller middle eastern zucchini (which are paler green) though small “regular” zucchini will work just fine
• 3/4 cup chopped scallions
• 3/4 cup yellow onion, grated
• 1/2 cup fresh dill
• 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf “Italian” parsley
• 1/2 cup grated kasseri cheese (you can substitute 1/2 cup crumbled feta)
• 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• salt and ground black pepper, to taste
• oil for frying, preferably olive oil
Preparation & Cooking:
1) Grate the zucchini, place in a colander, and combine with salt to drain the excess moisture from the zucchini. After half an hour squeeze out moisture and pat dry.
2) In a mixing bowl, combine the zucchini and all of the remaining ingredients except the frying oil. Take care in adding salt at this point…the zucchini will retain some saltiness from the draining process and it’s easy to overdo it at this point!
3) Gather up a heaping tablespoonful of the mixture and form into a small patty. Do the same with the remaining batter.
4) In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, pour oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. When the oil is hot, drop the pre-formed patties into the pan, leaving space around and between the fritters. Fry for about 2 minutes, then flip and fry a further 3 minutes.
5) Remove to paper towels to drain excess oil.
Eating (the good part!):
• Can be eaten warm or at room temperature. Many cooks serve with accompaniments like small sweet tomatoes. olives, hard-boiled egg, etc., as well a yogurt-based sauce similar to Indian raita (see following recipe).
Mediterranean Yogurt Sauce
• 3/4 cup plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style
• 2 tablespoons mustard (prepared, not powdered)
• 2 tablespoons minced flat leaf “Italian” parsley, cilantro, dill, or a combination of the three
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1 clove garlic, mashed to a paste
• salt and pepper, to taste (white pepper works best and makes for a “cleaner” looking sauce, but black pepper can be used as a substitute)
• water (optional)
1) Combine all ingredients except the water in a bowl.
2) If the sauce is too thick, thin with water as needed
Eating (the good part!):
• Serve with Kabak Mücveri fritters or other spicy dishes.