This post is titled somewhat incorrectly, since künefe really isn't Turkish at all, it's Arab (Palestinian to be precise). But Turkey was the first place I tried the crunchy, salty/sweet delight and therefore I will always associate the two.
If you've never encountered künefe before in either its Turkish or Arab contexts, it's a wonderful dessert made with thin strips of dough that are surround a mozzarella-like cheese (in that it's semi-hard and its texture becomes elastic when heated) and then cooked (ehem fried) in oil or butter. According to Wikipedia, Arabs roll the dough strips around the cheese while Turks layer dough strips, cheese, and then dough strips again. In the final minutes of preparation, a rose scented simple syrup is poured over the final product.
Künefe is an absurdly delicious combination of so many different flavors and textures. If you've never tasted it, I suggest you run (not walk) to your nearest Turkish or Arab restaurant.
At the risk of confusing those of you who surmised this is a blog about travelling and eating new things, I am going to post an actual recipe. I know, I know, posting a recipe with an iphone photo (and an Instagram'd one at that, blegh!) is so lame. I'm not even trying, right? Well, give me a chance to explain how it goes down: I start cooking. I don't photograph the beginning because my kitchen is messy and poorly lit and who knows if this thing will even turn out well. I keep working on it. And then it's done. "Damn, that looks pretty good," I say aloud to no one (let's pretend Idris isn't home for story-telling purposes). I take a bite. Oh my god, it's actually delicious. I can't believe how insanely delicious it is. I have to show the world, so I turn to Instagram. I consider taking out the camera and snapping a decent photograph. Oh wait, I just ate them ALL.
So yes, dear readers, that's usually how things go down in my kitchen. The night of these quinoa cakes was no different. This recipe was heavily inspired by Joy the Baker's lemon olive parsley quinoa cakes, except: I used basil instead of parsley, omitted the olives altogether, used a mixture of yellow onion and spring onion, and doubled the salt. Also, these quinoa cakes need some dipping sauce action. I made one out of yogurt, lemon juice, and a little basil pesto.
These quinoa cakes were light, flavorful, and incredibly easy. Give them a try, whether the instructions come from me, Joy, or Heidi, and you will not regret it.
3 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 bunch spring onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon water (optional)
olive oil for frying sautéing
1 cup yogurt (I prefer a Greek-style or strained yogurt, for thickness)
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon basil pesto
For the quinoa cakes, mix all ingredients except the eggs, water, and olive oil together in a large mixing bowl. When the mixture is well incorporated, add in the beaten eggs. If the mixture doesn't feel wet enough, go ahead and add the water. Coat your cast-iron pan or frying pan of choice with olive oil and cook these bad boys for about 5 minutes per side. You want to cook these on heat that is high enough for them to brown nicely but low enough so the inside actually cooks. Put the quinoa cakes onto a paper towel-lined plate for drainage.
Mix the yogurt, lemon juice, and basil pesto. Season as desired.
Gözleme is a delicious Turkish treat that can function as a snack or a light meal. It is made from thin leaves of hand-rolled dough which is baked on top of a warm iron griddle, topped with a variety of fillings (often involving some sort of cheese), and rolled up into a portable treat.
Because the dough must be hand-rolled and then baked immediately, wherever gözleme is served you will see ladies (and the occasional men) sitting at these small tables, rolling out dough. We stumbled upon this particular restaurant between geological sites in Cappadocia. We chose one of the more traditional fillings, spinach and cheese. The freshness of the spinach combined with the tangy cheese and the taste of the freshly-baked lavash-like bread was absolutely divine.
As with pide, there are some few places online that feature recipes for making gözleme at home. Here are a few:
Pide is one of turkey's most ubiquitous street foods. A dough similar to pizza dough is rolled into a canoe shape and stuffed with all sorts of delicious things––tomatoes (pictured), shredded chicken, minced beef or lamb––and topped with fresh parsley and sometimes an egg. Pide is a quintessential Turkish street food, and it's perfect for a quick snack when strolling through busy streets or markets.
Pide is often served with spices and seasonings that vary depending on the locale in question, but where pide is sold, a bowl of hot chili pepper flakes is almost always near by.
In case you haven't gotten the memo by now, pide is a lovely snack. It can be light or more filling depending on its toppings, but it always involves bright, fresh flavors. Thanks to the work of some wonderful bloggers, you don't have to travel to Turkey (or Turkish Restaurants) to taste pide. Here are a few recipes:
Folks, let's change things up. Instead of overwhelming you with all the pictures of all the delicious things I encountered on my three-week trip to Turkey in September (as I've done before here), I'm going to take it slow. I want to introduce you to the special flavors of Turkey slowly, allowing each culinary wonder its room to breathe.
One of the first new foods (or beverages, to be more precise) I tried in Turkey was ayran. Similar to a lassi or doogh, ayran is a cold drink made from mixing yogurt, (usually non-carbonated) water, and a pinch of salt. Turkish ayran tends to be creamier than Iranian doogh (as it is frequently made with thick, whole milk yogurt) and thinner in consistency than a lassi. While bottled ayran is ubiquitous throughout Turkey and often quite delicious, I promise seeking out the frothy, freshly-made stuff is well worth the effort.
Restaurants that offer fresh ayran use a special sink to mix the yogurt and water, and to circulate the liquid so that it is always well-mixed and frothy. In restaurants throughout Istanbul, fresh ayran is frequently served in beautiful copper tankards. Cold ayran, in whatever form, is an unbelievably refreshing drink on hot days.
The most delicious ayran I had in Turkey was at a place smack dab in the middle of the Old Market's hustle and bustle, called Lezzet-i Şark. We first popped in for a quick lunch on one of our first days in Istanbul and I insisted we go back towards the end of our trip, just to make sure it was as good as I remembered. And it was.
And in case you were wondering, the food at Lezzet-i Şark is just as delicious as their ayran. Their tomato kabob, chock full of pieces of roasted tomato mixed into the ground meat, was to die for.
I know I've been gone far too long and I know life can seem particularly challenging without exciting recipes and images of delicious foods to get you by, but I'm back and I have a whole slew of new posts lined up to get your little hearts racing! You didn't think I would forget to tell you (and more importantly, to *show* you) all the delicious culinary treats I encountered in Turkey, did you? Of course not, gentle reader. Of course not.
But before we can get to that, we have to take care of business. Daring Cooks business. I took a little hiatus from the group while I was in Chicago because life was simply too hectic to keep up with it. Things have slowed down enough that I'm back at it now, so you can look forward to checking out all the exciting things the Daring Cooks are whipping up here each month.
Our November challenge was cooking with tea, and we had three possible recipes to choose from tofu noodle soup (made with green tea), beef braised in rooibos tea, or Chinese tea eggs. Since checking out Toki Underground, a delicious Ramen restaurant in DC, I have been really into light, broth-y soups. The tofu noodle soup, made with green tea, was right up my ally. I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor that the Japanese sencha I used added to my soup. The flavor of the tea is really nicely balanced by the other fresh, bright flavors of the soup--ginger, miso, sesame, scallion. If you would like to try cooking with tea, this recipe is a great introduction. Be sure to check out the blog of the Daring Cooks' host this month, Sarah of Simply Cooked.
4 green tea teabags, or 1½ tablespoons (22½ ml) (3 gm) green tea leaves
1¼ inches (3 cm) fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
5 oz (140 gm) thick or thin egg noodles
10 oz (280 gm) firm tofu, drained and cubed
5 oz (140 gm) bok choy or spring greens, shredded
1-2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) light soy sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) red or white miso paste
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) sesame oil
6 scallions (also called spring onion or green onion), trimmed and sliced
a handful of shiso (Japanese basil or perilla) or mustard cress, or other micro greens, to garnish
Place 6 cup (1½ litre) water in a pan with the green tea bags or leaves and the ginger slices. Heat until the water is just below boiling and bubbles start to form.
Remove the pan from the heat and let it steep for four minutes.
Remove the tea bags or strain the liquid to remove the tea leaves. Return the ginger slices to the liquid and reserve.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to package instructions in a separate pan.
Return the tea liquid to the heat and add the tofu, bok choy or greens, and the soy sauce. Heat gently for five minutes, until hot all through.
Scoop out some liquid to a small bowl and mix in the miso paste. Then return the liquid to the pan.
Add the sesame oil and scallions. Spoon into bowls and garnish with the shiso, cress, or greens.