Almost Turkish Recipes

Celery Root with Orange or Tangerine Juice (Portakal ya da Mandalinalı Kereviz)

Celery root, also known as celeriac, is an awesome root highly common and popular in Europe but still waiting for its time in US. It is a different variety than regular celery (stalks). Its root has a bulbous shape and sometimes comes with its leaves on top that resemble giant parsley. It is best during the winter months, but could be found until late March here in the Bay Area. Most American recipes that I've come across recommend boiling and mixing with mashed potatoes or grating raw and adding to salads. Although both are fine ways of cooking with celery root, they're far from how we eat celery root in Turkey. Celery, kereviz in Turkish which comes from karafs in Persian, is cooked in meet stews and soups like potatoes, or in egg-lemon sauces similar to Greek avelomange sauce, but yet the most common way of preparing celery is the traditional olive oil cooking, i.e., cooked in olive oil with usually with carrots, potatoes, and peas, and seldom with quince and orange slices and served luke warm, like this recipe or this one .

Celery root with orange or tangerine juice is a "spin-off" from the conventional olive oil variety. The mixing of orange and lemon juices in this dish create a memorable and delicious tangy flavors.

When picking celery roots, avoid both very small and very big ones. You would lose half of the small ones to peeling and the big ones tend to be hollow in the middle. Pick mid-size celery roots, approximately grapefruit-size ones and feel their weight in your hand; they should be heavy. Once peeled celery roots darken fast, so always keep a bowl of water and juice of half a lemon ready to place the peeled roots. If you get them with the greens on top, save them for cooking and decorating.

1 medium size celery root, peeled and diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 big potato, peeled and diced
1 carrots, peeled and cut in half or quarter rounds
juice of 2 medium juicy oranges OR 3 tangerines OR 1 orange and 1-2 tangerines
2 lemons (juice of half to prevent darkening, rest for cooking depending on your sourness preference)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup olive oil + 2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp salt

-Peel the root and place it in a bowl with water and lemon juice to prevent darkening
-Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a broad pan and add onions. Cook on medium until soft but don't let them brown.
-Add sugar and stir.
-Drain the water from celery root.
-Add carrots, potatoes, and celery root. Stir for 2-3 minutes until covered with olive oil and warmed up.
-Add orange/tangerine juice (whichever combination you choose) and lemon juice (how much lemon juice you will add depends on how tangy you enjoy this dish. It can go from half a lemon juice to one and a half. I love mine tangy and usually add juice of one big lemon, 2-3 tbsp). Also add 1/2 cup of water.
-Salt it to your taste.
-Add half of the dill. (If you have the root greens you can add 1/8 cup of that at this point as well)
-Once it starts to boil, turn it down and cook for 25-30 minutes until celery roots is cooked.
-Let it cool in the pot covered.
-Transfer it to a serving plate. Sprinkle it with 2-3 tbsp olive oil and rest of the dill.
-Serve cold or like warm.

Once you get used to cooking this dish, you can experiment with it by adding 1/3 cup of green peas to  it or skipping potatoes or carrots or both. Make it your own.


Ezo the Bride Soup (Ezo Gelin Çorbası)



























Zöhre Bozgeyik, aka Ezo the Bride, was a real person who lived in a small village in the south eastern part of Turkey in the city of Gaziantep close to Syrian border in early 20th century. She was called Ezo the Bride because she was very beautiful and at the age of marriage. Although, there are many variations of Ezo the Bride legend/story mostly as a romance in popular folk culture, her story is one of suffering, patriarchal traditions, and homesickness. Ezo had two marriages both of which were berdel, i.e. bride swapping (a marriage arrangement between two or three families in which they swap daughters in order not to pay for the brides). By the time she made her second marriage to a cousin in Syria, the Turkish Republic was founded and had established borders between the two countries. She died young in Syria, homesick. As per her will she was buried in Syria on a hill overlooking Turkey. There are films based on her hard, unfortunate life, the most celebrated one being Ezo Gelin (Ezo the Bride) (1968), based on a story by well-known poet Behçet Kemal Çağlar and featuring one of the most famous and talented actors of the time Fatma Girik as Ezo, which won the the Second Best Film and the Best Actress awards at the Adana Golden Boll Film Festival in 1969.

As for the soup itself, rumor has it that during grim times of poverty Ezo created the soup by using whatever she had left in the house. However, the most important trivia about Ezo Gelin soup is not the bride, but that you cannot find a single Kebapçı (Kebab Restaurant) in Turkey that doesn't serve this soup. Rumor also has it that if you cannot serve this soup you couldn’t get a license for a Kebapçı restaurant in Turkey—just saying! It's the best starter before kebap-you have to have the soup, and whatever you do at home, including my recipe, Ezo Gelin soup is always better at a Kebapçı, even or especially at a sloppy one. Also, it's considered to be a perfect hangover cure, after, of course, the Tripe Soup (İşkembe Çorbası).

traditional ingredients:
1 cup red lentils
1/4 cup bulgur
1/4 cup rice
1 tbsp pepper paste (if not, substitute with tomato paste)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 onion, very finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tbsp dry mint leaves
1 tsp oregano leaves
1/4 tsp black pepper
pepper flakes, as much as you want
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
salt
~5 cups chicken stock (or water)  
(I sometimes hide from the kids grated carrots in the soup)
-Place bulgur and rice with 2 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer once it starts boiling. Check now and then to make sure it doesn’t run out of water. Add hot water if necessary. Turn it of once bulgur and rice is cooked. Drain excessive water.
-Heat butter and olive oil in a pot and sauté onions and garlic until very soft, ~8-10 minutes.
-Mix in tomato and pepper pastes and cook for 4-5 minutes.
-Add 5 cups of chicken stock or water, whichever you’re using. Bring to a boil.
-Add washed and rinsed red lentils, rice and bulgur. Simmer for ~20 minutes stirring now and then.
-Add dried mint, oregano, and salt. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

-The trick is not to put Ezo the Bride soup in a blender. Once everything is cooked and soft, a whisk could work just fine. So after adding the legumes, whisk the soup for a couple of times until smoothened.
-Always serve Ezo the Bride with a slice of lemon. Splash of lemon juice will bring the best out of the soup.

Optional:
Some people like to sizzle the mint with butter instead of adding the spices to the soup. For that, heat olive oil or butter (1 tbsp for 2-3 servings) in a small skillet. When oil starts sizzling (if you're using butter, try not to burn it) add mint and oregano (and 1/2 tsp paprika if you wish) and after approximately 30 seconds remove from the heat. Pour over the soup.

Feeling lazy and own a pressure cooker?:
Put everything in the pressure cooker and cook for 15 minutes.


Green Pea Stew with Beef (Etli Bezelye)











Green pea stew is one of the most common stews in Turkish cuisine. It was usually made in the summer months when the peas are in season and deliciously fresh. However, with freezers becoming staple households people start to pod them and freeze for the winter months. And, no, canned peas are really not a thing in Turkey. The green pea stew is made in three different ways: vegetarian, with ground meat (it's waste of peas if you ask me), and with stew beef. When it is made in the summer, the stew is usually accompanied by cacık, yogurt mixed with minced garlic, grated cucumbers, fresh dill, a bit of olive oil and water, a sauce similar to tzatziki). However, it's good with just plain yogurt as well.

1/2 lb stew beef
1 lb fresh podded green peas (you can use frozen peas as well)
2 carrots, diced or halved about 1/3 or 1/4 inch thick
1 big or two medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced (I love red onions in stews, but any kind is fine)
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
3 tomatoes, grated or diced (fresh tomatoes or great but 1 can diced tomato would do as well)
1 tbsp tomato paste and 1 tbsp pepper paste (available at Middle Eastern stores-if you cannot find it double the amount of tomato paste)
1/2 bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
3-4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

-Heat olive oil in a cast iron pot or a heavy bottom pot on medium heat. Add stew beef and cook until it releases and absorbs its juice-approximately 15-20 mins.
-Add onions and garlic and cook 5 minutes.
-Add carrots and tomato&pepper pastes and stir for another five minutes.
-Add tomatoes (or canned tomatoes if you're using them) and bring to a boil.
-Add potatoes, peas (see the note below), 1/3 of the fresh fill and hot water just enough to cover them all.
-Salt and pepper to your taste.
-Once it boils, cover and simmer on low for an hour.
-Sprinkle the remaining fresh dill on top and serve with white or brown rice or a crusty wholesome bread.

Note: I love using fresh peas. I buy them in pod from a local market and pod them or buy them fresh and podded (I like Trader Joe's Fresh English peas!) But you can definitely use frozen peas as well. If so, add them to the stew half an hour before you turn it off.


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