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Archive for the ‘Turkish’ Category


Ringing in 2015 with Sujuk Rolls

Thank you to everyone who sent emails, encouraging me to keep blogging. It took a long time. OK, a really long time, but I’m back. A lot has happened since my last post. Let me fill you in — I entered into an amazing relationship (right around the time I stopped blogging… go figure). I bought a house. I experienced the misery of a flooded basement (without a wet vacuum to help). I became a pro at fixing drywall. I traveled a bunch (Peru, Japan, and England). Now that the DIY projects have slowed down (fingers crossed!), I want to get back to blogging.

I’m going to keep today’s post short and simple. This is a quick hello and a delicious winter recipe — sujuk rolls. Sujok is a special Armenian sausage that I blogged about back in Syria. My host mom used to prepare sujuk in bulk and preserve it by wrapping the sausage in breathable cloth bags and air drying them on her balcony. Fortunately, this recipe doesn’t call for dried sujuk, which makes it a lot simpler.

One of the things that makes sujuk so special is the combination of all the fragrant spices. Home cooks in Aleppo eat sujuk for breakfast with their eggs. Sujuk also makes for a great topping on pizza (a twist on the ordinary sausage) and a legendary late night sandwich/snack. Sujuk rolls are popular appetizers at restaurants in Aleppo and are perfect for parties. Enjoy!

mise en place
mise en place
Colorful Sujuk Spices
sujuk spices
Fragrant Sujuk Sausage
sujuk meat
Authentic pita bread
thin pita bread
The thinner the pita, the better
open bread
Good pita-to-sujuk ratio
sujuk on bread
Roll tightly
rolling sujuk
Slice with a sharp serrated knife
cutting sujuk rolls
Sujuk rolls about to go into the oven
sujuk rolls going in the oven
Sujuk Rolls (سجك رولز)
sujuk rolls

Sujuk Rolls

4-6 appetizer servings

Components

Putting them all together

  1. Prepare the sujuk as described in the recipe, but do not dry.
  2. Separate the pocket pita bread into two halves.
  3. Spread a thin layer of sujuk on the pita bread.
  4. Tightly roll the pita and sujuk into a log.
  5. Use a sharp serrated knife to carefully cut the sujuk-pita log into individual rolls.
  6. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until crispy.*

Notes: It’s important to use thin pita bread so that you have a good sujuk-to-pita ratio. Also, some restaurants in Aleppo fry these rolls, but in order to keep the recipe healthy, I bake mine. They still come out crispy because I use beef with 85/15% fat content.

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Not traditional, but fresh salsa on the side is great
bite of sujuk rolls

I hope everyone is either already celebrating in 2015 or getting ready to ring in the new year with those they love. I’ll be back soon with more recipes and stories <3

Yogurt, plain and simple

Throughout the two-plus years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve never dedicated a post exclusively to yogurt. I’ve used it as an ingredient here and there, sure, but it’s never played a leading role. That’s not acceptable. Not for a Mediterranean food blog, at least. I plan on changing that today.

On my recent trip to Aleppo I was reminded how important yogurt is in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s everywhere. Cow, goat or sheep. Strained, plain or cooked. In the Levant there’s even a popular refreshing drink called Ayraan (عيران) that’s made from yogurt, but more on that later. Today I need to set things right. Today is all about yogurt.

Before we begin, I’d like to dispel the myth that suggests you should buy a fancy yogurt maker to incubate your milk. Please don’t. If you already have, I won’t hold it against you, but you really don’t need one. If the machine made the job any easier, I can understand, but the truth is, making yogurt is pretty simple.

While I was in Aleppo, Leila (my maternal grandfather’s brother’s wife’s sister), shared with me her way of making yogurt. Take a look:

Before I met Leila, I used to make my yogurt in the pot I heated the milk in. Not anymore. I really like her idea of dispensing the yogurt into smaller jars.

mise en place

Midway through the process (usually as the yogurt is cooling), I like to turn on my oven to the lowest setting and turn it off after 5 minutes. This helps keep my oven barely warm enough to properly incubate the yogurt — which is essentially what the yogurt machine does, except it doesn’t cost extra money and doesn’t limit how much yogurt you can make.

heating the milk

Once you heat the milk to 180 degrees F (a near boil), you need to cool it. I like to use a thermometer, particularly for this step, so that the yogurt starter has an ideal environment to initialize the incubation process. That temperature should be between 107 and 112 degrees F (41 and 44 degrees C).

nestled inside the oven

Since the pizza stone in my oven can retain lots of heat (as can the metal rails), I like to line the base with a kitchen towel before placing the jars of yogurt inside the oven. Then, as Leila mentioned in the video, you want to cover the jars with another towel so they remain warm throughout the incubation.

plain goat milk yogurt

Keep the jars overnight in the oven and move them to the fridge first thing in the morning. It’s that simple — saha wa hana (صحة و هنا)/bon appetit!

Homemade Yogurt

Makes 1/2 gallon

Components

  • 1/2 gallon milk*
  • 10g yogurt starter*

Putting them all together

  1. Heat milk to 180 degrees F (82 degrees C) over medium heat.
  2. Cool the milk between 107-112 degrees F (41-44 C) and slowly mix in the yogurt starter.
  3. Dispense the milk into 4-5, 16 oz. jars.
  4. Place the jars inside a barely warm oven lined with a kitchen towel and cover them with another towel to keep them warm throughout the incubation process.
  5. After 6-8 hours (or overnight) move the jars into the fridge and store until ready to use.

notes: If you don’t have yogurt starter you can use any plain yogurt that has live active cultures. Usually I like to go with the Organic Stonyfield Plain Yogurt. You’ll also get better results by using full-fat milk — 2% milk won’t get nearly as creamy.

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Baklava with Mom

Thank you for all the Christmas wishes – I wish everyone happy eating and the very best for 2009!  My Christmas food coma lasted slightly longer than I anticipated with all the leftovers we have had at my house. In all seriousness, my mom went into full-on Arabic mode and cooked enough food to feed a medium-sized Army; needless to say it was more than enough for the 20 guests we had at our house.

I contributed a humble tray of baklava, which I’m posting about today. But, before I forget, I want to give props to Marianna who correctly named the famous Lebanese singer on my computer screen in my stuffed grape leaves post: Najwa Karam. I have some Middle Eastern goodies that I’ll be sending your way once I fly back home.

The two Greek Pete’s must forgive me when I say this, but Middle Eastern baklava is the best I’ve had. It might be because I grew up hooked on the countless trays my grandmother would whip up in her kitchen for parties, birthdays or when she knew her grandson was visiting – I’m not sure. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not one to turn down a good serving of the Greek kind either!

old school scale: 1/2 kg walnuts

My mom has had this scale for longer than I can remember. It’s seen better days, yes, but it never lets her down. Oh, and mise en place you ask? I was already pushing it with my camera and asking to take photos of every step. 

mom brushed each layer with clarified butter

This is probably one of the most crucial steps for a good baklava, Greek or Middle Eastern. You want to use clarified butter to avoid the butter from burning in the oven and you also want to make sure to brush each layer liberally to achieve maximum crispiness.

my job was to sprinkle the chopped walnuts

The walnuts must be fresh for making baklava. Taste the nuts before you use them and chuck them if they’re rancid or stale. You also want to make sure you use fresh ground cinnamon for the filling. These little components is what makes for a good baklava. 

slice before you bake

Since the layers will be too crispy when the the baklava comes out of the oven, you want to slice it before you bake it. This will also help the baklava absorb the syrup once it’s finished baking.

cool syrup on hot baklava

This syrup, called عطر (a’ater) or شيرة (sheera), must be at room temperature and poured over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven. Alternatively, you can let your baklava come to room temperature and douse it with hot syrup, but I find the first way to be more convenient.

Baklava (بقلاوة)

After you pour the syrup over the baklava and allow the whole thing come to room temperature, sprinkle each piece with bright green ground pistachios and enjoy! الف هنا و عافية (bon appetit in Arabic)

QUESTION: I have a morning show appearance coming up and cannot choose between this baklava and this Middle Eastern almond drink I blogged about before. Which would you choose for a 3-minute demo? I’d love to hear what you think!

Middle Eastern Baklava

approx 24-32 servings

Components

  • 1 lb phyllo dough
  • 3 cups walnuts, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup butter, clarified
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • syrup
  • pistachios for garnish

Putting them all together

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. Pulse the nuts, cinnamon & sugar in a food processor until you reach a slightly coarse consistency. 
  3. With a pastry brush begin by brushing the bottom of a 9X13 pan.
  4. Layer 8 sheets of phyllo dough, making sure to brush butter between each one.
  5. Spread half of the nut mixture.
  6. Layer 4 more sheets of phyllo dough.
  7. Spread the remaining half of the nut mixture.
  8. Top with the remaining 12 sheets of phyllo, making sure to brush the top layer with butter as well.
  9. Slice the baklava into small diamonds (approx 24-32).
  10. Bake for at least 2 hours until slightly golden brown on top.
  11. Pour cooled syrup over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven and allow to come to room temperature again before serving. 

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syrup

approx 3/4 cups

Components

  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water
  • 1 strip of orange peel (optional)

Putting them all together

  1. Bring ingredients to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Continue cooking over low heat until mixture becomes syrupy (approximately 10 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

note: Syrup can be made days in advance and stored in an airtight container.

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For the Love of Pudding

A few days ago I promised you a Turkish post, but I’ve got something better. Ever since I wrote about Peter’s Greek Christmas Cookies I’ve been thinking, rather remembering, more about what this blog means to me. Blog existentialism, if you will; Olive Juice was born out of necessity. I needed a place to jot down and compile my recipes, experiences and, most importantly, the memories that would inextricably become a part of those experiences.

A mathematician by day, I realized that I can use a blog to pursue what genuinely inspired me: food, something that a lot of friends and family thought was a silly crush that would soon fade away. Seven years later, the passion is still here, and admittedly, stronger than ever. As I write this I’m eager to share with you more about the other aspects of food that make me giddy, but that will have to wait for another post. Today, as promised, is going to be about Turkey and the traditional pudding called Muhallebi that I chose for my inaugural Turkish entry.

The detail that makes this pudding better than simply ordinary, besides its ease and wonderful flavor, is its history. When I first read on Wikipedia that Muhallebi was Turkish, I became curious. Not because it was Turkish in particular, but because Muhallabi, rather محلبية (pronounced Mahlabiye), was a dessert I had always considered as Middle Eastern – a childhood favorite, in fact. It was the pudding I could never get enough of. The pudding that would make me (voluntarily) set the dinner table only to reach dessert mere minutes sooner. The pudding I knew I had to blog about.

mise en place

Upon reading that the pudding was originally Turkish, the skeptic in me also wanted further proof of the fact. A few Google searches later landed me on Warda’s blog, 64 sq ft kitchen, where she writes about Muhallebi as a staple Algerian/Moroccan pudding also reminiscent of her childhood. A pudding that her grandmother would quietly, but often predictably, put together in a matter of minutes. The ultimate indicator being the unmistakable fragrance of the orange blossom water that carried through from the kitchen. It was stories like these that made me fall in love with this pudding all over again.

The pudding is a trooper, a survivor of sorts. A simple milk-based dessert that dates back to the Ottoman Empire, which for hundreds of years grew to include most of the Mediterranean, including parts of North Africa and most of the Middle East. This explains a lot of the influences that carry over, with slight variances, across the more recent country boundaries. On that note, here’s what you’ll need to do to bring Muhallebi into your own kitchen:

In a small saucepan, whisk together milk, rice flour and sugar until dissolved. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until it reaches a boil. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until you can coat the back of your spoon (when you can make a line with your finger without the liquid coming together, you’re set). I didn’t time it, but Warda says this takes about 15 minutes total.

the streak test

Once the spoon test clears, you’ll want to turn off the heat and add a few drops of the orange blossom water. Pour the thickened pudding into ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. A light dusting of ground cinnamon and a sprinkling of chopped nuts is traditional. I used pistachios, but almonds are also popular (I’ve even seen both used together).

muhallebi

The pudding is a mix between a velvety custard and a rice pudding, but with a little more to offer. The subtle fragrance of the orange blossom water is present, but not prominent. After just 15 minutes in the kitchen you can leave with piece of mind, knowing that dessert is already covered. It’s this dish that will leave your guests smiling, and remind you why you fell in love with food in the first place.

Muhallebi

approx 4 servings

Components

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp rice flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 tsp orange blossom water
  • cinnamon
  • pistachios and/or almonds

Putting them all together

  1. In a small saucepan whisk together milk, sugar, rice flour and salt until dissolved.
  2. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer.
  3. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until you can coat the back of your spoon (when you can make a line with your finger without the liquid coming together, you’re set).
  4. Remove from heat and add the orange blossom water.
  5. Pour into ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. Dust with cinnamon and sprinkle with almonds and/or pistachios for garnish.

note: You can find orange blossom water at Whole Foods or any Middle Eastern market. 

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creamy rice pudding