Turkish Cuisine

Cauliflower Moussaka
Moussaka is prepared with eggplant, but in Turkey other variations exist. Such as this dish, cauliflower is used and then the meat sauce laid over. 

1 head cauliflower - stems are separated and washed (when you select, try to find the whitest one with no dark spots)

1/4 lbs ground meat - 85% lean
3 tbsp sunflower oil 
2 cloves of garlic - minced
1 small or 1/2 medium onion - chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp red pepper paste (optional)
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
4 cups of water to boil the cauliflower
1/2 lemon juice
salt pepper to taste

Bring 4 cups of water to boil and add 1 tbsp salt and add lemon juice. Add cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes. Drain cauliflowers and set aside.

Bring a sauce pan to medium heat and add oil and saute the onions until translucent and soft. Add garlic until the fragrance is gone. Time to add the meat and brown it until there is no pink. Stir it so there won't be big pieces. Once the meat is cooked, add tomato paste and cook for one minute. Include diced tomatoes with their juices and cook for another minute. Add salt, pepper, and cumin and simmer it. 

Cut big florets in half width wise and place them in a shallow pan cut sized down. Follow this until all big pieces are cut and placed in the bottom of the pan. Pour cooked meat over slowly and spread it everywhere. Cook it in low heat for 30 minutes. 

Green Lentil with Meat
It has been awhile since last time I cooked green lentils. They are full of vitamins and high in protein and iron. It is the cheapest protein source as an alternative to meat and seafood. Surprisingly, I found this brand at the local grocery store in an international food aisle. I tried organic lentils and other brands but they were not as tasty as this one. So, I hope you enjoy this easy dish!


1/2 cup of dry green lentils - washed and drained
1/4 lbs ground beef - 85% lean
1 small or 1/2 medium onion - chopped
2 cloves of garlic - minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp pepper paste (optional)
1/2 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. cumin
3 tbsp sunflower oil - any vegetable oil would work 
2 cups chicken broth - add additional liquid if needed
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions over medium heat until translucent and soft. Include minced garlic and cook until the smell is gone. Include ground meat and brown until there is no pink. Include salt, pepper, and cumin. Once meat is browned, add tomato paste and cook for one minute. Include diced tomatoes and cook for another minute. Chicken broth and lentils can be added at this time to the pot. Once it is boiling bring down to medium-low heat and cook for 25-30 minutes. Check periodically and if the liquid is evaporating quickly, turn down the heat to low and add another boiling cup of liquid. 

Tip: Never add cold water or broth to boiling dish. Always use boiling water if there is a need for additional liquid. This way the cooking won't be slowed down and taste will be preserved.   

Hunkarbegendi or Sultan's Delight
We are having friends over on the weekend for dinner and this is my staple dish that I make to people that have not been introduced to Ottoman Kitchen. As I mentioned earlier, I am from Turkey. That land was the home of Ottoman Empire for 600 years, from Europe on the West to Asia on the East, from North Africa on the South to some parts of Russian Empire on the north. As one can imagine food from all those lands came to the main land and incorporated with each other creating Ottoman Cuisine which is one of the most exquisite cuisines and about to be forgotten by young generations.

Two stories exist for the name of this dish. One says that it was especially created for Sultan IV, and he liked it very much. And the other one is that Hunkarbegendi (Sultan Liked) was served to wife of Napoleon III, and Empress Eugene liked it.

4 large eggplant
2 lbs cubed lamb meat
1 medium onion chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 14 oz canned diced tomatoes
1/2 cup milk
3 tbsp butter
3 heaped tbsp flour
4 oz grated Parmesan cheese

For the recipe we need eggplant, lamb meat, chopped onions, tomatoes, butter, flour, tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, milk, and lemon. Onions are sauteed in a pot with heated butter, and then meat, tomatoes, tomato paste are added and simmered until the meat is tender. Then eggplants are baked until soft, peeled and mashed with lemon juice. Then the puree is added to the pot with butter mixed with flour, milk and cheese. It is stirred and left to simmer until cheese is melted. Then the puree is served on a plate and the meat is placed on top of it.

Ezo the Bride Soup
We live in the Midwest and the weather has been really depressing. We are still getting snow and I thought this soup would be perfect to have on a day like this. It is warming and filling. The name comes from a bride by the name of Ezo who lived in South East region of Turkey. She is known with this soup. The ingredients are basic but the end result is very satisfying.

Here comes the ingredients:

1 cup of red lentils - washed and drained
1/2 cup fine bulgur - washed and drained
1 medium size onion - chopped
2 cloves of garlic - minced
6-7 cups of chicken or beef broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp red pepper paste
1 tbsp mint
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp oil

Sautee the onion until translucent and golden and add garlic until the aroma is gone. Add tomato and pepper pastes into the pot and sautee with onion & garlic until raw smell is gone. Add remaining ingredients and boil until lentils are soft and mushy. If you have an immersion blender, puree with it. 
You can add a sauce on top by melting some butter with red peppers or paprika and pour over the soup. Sprinkle some mint and serve with lemon wedges.


Turkish Red Lentil Soup
1 cup red lentils / washed, drained
¾ cups chopped onions
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
4 tbsp oil
Salt, pepper

2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp flour heaped
½ tbsp tomato paste


Add onions in a medium size pot with oil. Saute until translucent and golden.
Add broth, lentils and salt and pepper and bring it to boil. Simmer in medium low heat until lentils are soft and mushy. Set aside to cool down.
Once cooled, use an immersion blender to puree it.
In a medium size skillet add oil and flour. Stir constantly until the flour is golden and add tomato paste to blend it.
Once the paste is mixed with flour add a ladle full of pureed soup mix to the skillet and mix it until smooth, repeat this process until the sauce is well mixed and silky smooth.
Put the soup on a medium heat and add the sauce in it, bring it to boil and turn the heat off.
It can be served with lemon wedges and red pepper flakes on top.

Spinach in Tomato Sauce 
This week's lunch meal is going to be spinach. I have been cooking stew for last couple weeks and I decided to do something different this time. 

There are different variations of this meal. It can be prepared with rice or ground meat or plain. That is the way I did it. If you use bunch spinach, wash it thoroughly and use stems as well. I usually buy baby spinach as I am always in time crunch. It is easier to prepare since it takes the washing and cutting time away. 

I had a 3 lbs. bag so it worked out good for me. You can adjust the measurement to your size. 


3 lbs. baby spinach - washed and drained
1 medium size chopped yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic minced - I had big size cloves, if you have smaller sizes you can increase the amount of garlic
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 14 oz. organic diced tomatoes
3 tablespoon sunflower oil - any oil other than olive oil would work
Salt, pepper

Heat oil in a medium size pan, add onion and sautee until soft and translucent. Add garlic cloves and stir in until the fragrance is gone. Add tomato paste, stir with onion and garlic mix until raw smell is gone roughly one minute. Include diced tomatoes with their juices to the pan and stir, cook for one minute. The base of the meal is ready and we will add the spinach in batches until they wilt. 

Bring washed and drained spinach to the pot. Add them until the pot is full. Close the lid and wilt them roughly 2 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Once the spinach is wilted, add the remaining and repeat this process until all spinach is wilted. Taste with salt and pepper and close the lid. 

Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes. The spinach will release their juices and it will be sufficient. 

It can be served with eggs on top or with garlic yogurt once cooled.