Water Borek- Su böreği

Today was one of those day where I was easily distracted, and while watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations about Istanbul, I had a craving for Turkish food. Not a plate of hummus or a gyro sandwich. Like the real-deal street food. So I got a taste for water borek, which is similar to a Spinach Pie, only the layers of phyllo dough are not flaky and crisp, and it usually does not have spinach, but just cheese, or cheese and parsley. Since I did not have any phyllo dough in the freezer, or anything else I could manipulate into layers, i decided to make my own. Easy enough, no? For a regular person, sure. But dough is my kryptonite. Somehow, I manage to add too little or not enough flour, knead too much or not enough, and always end up with holes in my dough when it sticks to my counter top, despite flouring.  Anyways, I tried and didn’t fail miserably, even though any encounter with dough-based recipes results in a lot of cursing and pleading, which are all in vain. I was pleasantly surprised that this came out very similar to how I remember it tasting. Success.

This is normally served as a breakfast food but it goes well with tea or coffee as a snack…or lunch…or dinner..or dessert. Basically, I will eat it anytime.

For the dough:

3 cups of flour

4 eggs

1 tsp. salt

1/3 cup water


1 1/4 cup of feta ( we use tam yağlı or “whole fat” cheese, which is unlike the dry, domestic feta. But use what you can find)

1/3 cup of grated kashar cheese ( I substitute mozzarella)

1/3 cup chopped spinach (you can use parsley, too)

Start by boiling a large pot of salted water. Also prepare another large pot or bowl of ice-cold water and a strainer.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

You will need a pan- I used a broiler pan which was about 9×12, but you can use a round pan, as well. Just make sure it is deep, and not thin like a cookie-sheet.

Make a well in the flour and salt mix and crack your eggs.

Mix with your hands and slowly add water and knead to form a stiff ball.

Cut 2 large balls off, and cut the remaining dough into 8 small balls.

Place them on a tray and cover with a damp towel.

Prepare the filling by combining the feta, mozzarella and spinach and set aside.

Roll out your first large ball to the size of your pan. Lay it in your greased pan. Brush with oil.

Roll out the remaining small balls, as thin as possible, and one at a time, drop them into the boiling water.

Boil them separately, 1 minute, and then toss into the cold water to stop the cooking.

Transfer to the strainer and continue until you have cooked all 8 balls.

Layer a few of your cooked pieces in the pan, oiling in between.

You can layer filling as you go, or just make one center layer, like I did.

Spread the filling out as evenly as you can and layer the remaining cooked dough pieces, oiling again. Roll out the last large ball and lay on top, brushing with oil.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden-brown.


Zeytinyağlı Pırasa- Leeks cooked in olive oil

I have to start out by saying that this is one of those meals that doesn’t look like much but tastes a lot better than you expect. Plus, it is vegetarian, and full of vegetables, but you could add ground beef or lamb or even chicken if you’d like to add to it. This being said, it is just as filling on it’s own with some great pita bread.

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Lahmacun- Pita topped with ground lamb mixture

First of all, let me inform you that this is not a regular post. This particular entry is to be categorized under “failed attempts” but the recipe is correct and did not have anything to do with this dough-y disaster.

I should start out by saying that one spring afternoon while I was shut-in due to weather an utterly bored, I decided to make lahmacun. Now this isn’t something you just whip up out of nowhere, but have to prepare ahead of time.

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İçli Köfte- Meat-stuffed Bulgur Shells

Whenever my family and I go to Turkey, we are greeted with two meals right off the bat: stuffed eggplant dolmas and these stuffed bulgur koftes. This is a dish that my mother-in-law would prepare only for special occasions, mostly because it is very time consuming and not worth making in small portions. Over the years as her arthritis progressed, daughters and nieces and granddaughters took over preparing the koftes, but no one has come close to matching the flavor and texture of these delicious morsels.  When my kaynana passed suddenly in February, my husband traveled to Turkey for a month and to surprise him, and to honor her, I decided to “try” to make these. Try is the operative word because this is a dish that I have been discouraged to make.

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Patates Salatası – “Not-your-mother’s-potato-salad”

When we were in Turkey in the middle of August, the entire family gathered in the rural village for a reunion. This tiny enclave nestled in the mountains offers the only solace from the extreme humidity that we were used to in Southern Turkey during this time of year. Even in the somewhat cool temperatures, everyone was just laying around lazily with no intention of hiding out in the closed off kitchen to prepare anything that required an oven.

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Kabak Dolması- Stuffed Zucchini

This recipe is very versatile, as it can be made with zucchini, green peppers, grape leaves, eggplant, tomatoes..the list goes on and on! I have chosen zucchini because the eggplant has been scrawny and overpriced, and we have found that we prefer the grey squash variety. I use the same filling interchangeably, whereas people that have prepared stuffed zucchini for me have usually used more dill and less tomato and pepper paste. This combination has come out of lots of experimentation, and when I make it for myself, I never stick to the measurements, so it comes out differently. So fell free to add more or less spice, herbs, meat, or rice to your liking. This version is still mild, but we like it with more red pepper paste and crushed red pepper flakes and more of the lemon juice or pomegranate syrup.

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcakes- Kabaklı Çokolatılı Kek

This is not necessarily  a Turkish recipe, but more of a remedy for a lot of leftover zucchini used in a traditional dish. Whenever I made stuffed zucchini, I usually tossed out the inner scrapings. But once I saw how much I was tossing out, I felt pretty horrible about it and looked for a solution, preferably one that I wouldn’t be the only one eating! Seeing as the Stuffed Zucchini I made was usually only favored by my son for the inner stuffing and not the zucchini at all, I decided to disguise it in one of my kids’ favorite treats: cupcakes.

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Şekerpare- Almond Sugar Cookies

I have to first say that these cookies translated into English do not emphasize that they are a total dessert. If you like Baklava, with the sugary syrup drizzled over the top, then you may be comforted by the same syrup in this recipe. Think of a basic sugar cookie, based with butter, with blanched almonds and sugar syrup, and you have a great pairing for an after dinner coffee or tea.

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Izmir Köftesi-“Meatball Casserole”

         This recipe was inspired by one of our favorite meals at a restaurant we used to own that specialized in Turkish flatbreads and entrees like this that were dubbed “home food”, in reference to a typical meal you’d find in a Turkish home, but not a fancy establishment. It was most often prepared in the winter by one of our chefs, who used to spice the koftes a bit more, which you can do, or keep them mild if you are serving a family. This recipe is adapted from The Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook by Özcan Ozan, and from tasting and experimenting!

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