Fresh Fridays

October 31, 2014
Vol. VI No. 21

In This Issue
Resting on the banks of the Mediterranean, Turkey is a country in which traditional cooking is valued as much as fresh ingredients. People have been cooking the same way here for centuries, yet still manage to adapt to changing cultural demands and trends.

Throughout its history, Turkey has been been a crossroads, constantly adapting and embracing ethnic groups, traditions, and cultures very different from their own. As a result, the cuisine is a mixture of foods from all over the world! A constant stream of nomads passed through the country as early as the 8th century, such as the Uyghur Turks and the Seljuk Turks. It is thought that the Uyghur brought the custom of stuffing vegetables with them as similar dishes appear in Northern Asia (where they came from) as they do in Turkey. The Seljuk Turk influence is said to have contributed to the presence of game meat, yogurt, cheese, flat bread, and bulgur wheat in the Turkish diet.

In 1453, the Turks conquered Constantinople, ushering in a long period of expansion of the Ottoman Empire. Food was very important to the Ottomans; the conquering sultan, Mehmet, had a huge four-domed kitchen installed in his new Topkapi Palace which fed the entire court! This included HUGE amounts of food, all grown and hunted in the surrounding land. Thus began the Turkish value of cooking with only the freshest and most local ingredients.

In modern day Turkey, every region has its own traditional foods, and it wasn't until very recently that these dishes were known or consumed in other parts of the country. There has been a mass migration into urban areas, so people are being introduced to foods from different areas. Certain chefs in big cities like Istanbul have started to put their own spin on some of these dishes and cook them in their own restaurants. In their beautiful book Turquoise, Greg and Lucy Malouf write about a Turkish chef named Musa Dagdeverin who has over 1,000 local recipes ready to cook in his restaurant Ciya, also a favorite restaurant of Chef Ana Sortun of Oleana Restaurant, a fixture of Oldways culinary journeys in Turkey. Preservation of traditional cooking styles and practices has always been important in Turkey, and now chefs are starting to understand this as well, and put these traditions on display.

Even though they are now long gone, the Ottomans did leave behind the idea that taking risks and experimenting is important. You can do this from your own kitchen as you cook one of these three recipes.

Click on a photo or recipe title below to link to the full recipe. 
This simple and delicious recipe for kisir, a traditional bulgur recipe was created by Turkish food writer Ayfer Unsal, and adapted by Oleana Chef Ana Sortun for the 2012 Oldways culinary tour in Gaziantep and Istanbul. Ana first tasted this kisir when Ayfer organized a potluck lunch in 1996, with almost 20 home cooks from Gaziantep.

Recipe courtesy of Ana Sortun and Ayfer Unsal. Content courtesy of Oldways. Photo: iStockphoto.
A classic in most Turkish and Middle Eastern restaurants, this flavorful soup is easy to turn into a home classic. It's perfect when you want comfort food, and happily, it also happens to be healthy!

Recipe courtesy of Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, slightly adapted from Anya von Bremzen's Original Lentil Soup with Dried Mint and Tomato; content courtesy of Oldways; photo courtesy of Global Stomach.
Spinach Lamejun
Lamejun (lah·me·june) is very much like a pizza, only with a much thinner crust. The dough is traditionally topped with minced meat and minced vegetables, but we love Ana Sortun's recipe featuring spinach, yummy haloumi (a semi-hard, unripened brined cheese from Cyprus made from a mixture of goat's and sheep's milk) and crème fraîche or labne (lab·neh). Labne is made by draining full-fat yogurt.    

Recipe courtesy of Ana Sortun, for Oldways' Culinaria in Turkey in 2012; content and photo courtesy of Oldways.

Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be. 

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        





Let the old ways be your guide to good health and well-being.       



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 Our 2015 Culinaria
to Turkey has

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by Greg and Lucy Malouf
In Turquoise, Greg and Lucy Malouf visit spice markets and soup kitchens, enjoy fish sandwiches on the Bosphorus, and drink in ancient teahouses. The recipes inspired by their travels capture the enticing flavors that define Turkish cuisine from the ancient ruins of Pergamum to modern day Istanbul.

by Ana Sortun
In this gorgeously photographed book, Sortun shows how the artful use of spice creates wonderful dishes. The book is organized by spice, detailing the ways certain spices complement one another and how they flavor other foods, and creating in home cooks a kind of sense-memory that allows for a more intuitive use of spice.

by Sarah Woodward
This book explores the culinary traditions of the vast Ottoman Empire, which at the height of its glory spread East-West from Baghdad to Tripoli and North-South from Budapest to Cairo.
It offers a collection of practical recipes for up-to-date versions of classic dishes. Interwoven with illuminating tales of history and culture are over 100 photographs-- stunning recipe photos and evocative location shots of modern-day life.

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