Babagannush

Yes, yes, people spell it in various ways but in Turkish, there is no baba ganoush… It is babagannush (well, s with a dot underneath… I am putting the h at the end to give the sh sound). Simple, straightforward. Now with the blasphemous invention of roasted eggplant in a jar (oh the horror… so salty but damn the gods, so easy and consistently smokey flavored. Seriously though, if using a jar, drain and rinse it prior to use).

This is a good, quick spread that you can serve on a cracker or pita. Make sure you are not overdoing the pita or chips… This is a great dish to serve as a side to chicken or beef as well… Totally doable without  any scooping. Don’t give in to the American thinking that “if it is scoopable, then it must be a spread.” It doesn’t have to be.

Babagannush

Ingredients

  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 1 Tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • A pinch of chili powder
  • A pinch of cumin
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Half bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Prick each eggplant a few times with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until they’re completely soft; you should be able to easily poke a paring knife into them and meet no resistance. Remove from oven and let cool. Split the eggplant and scrape out the pulp, draining any liquid.  Chop the pulp to break strings of eggplant but not until it’s totally mushy.

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients until well mixed. Taste and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Chill for a few hours before serving. Serve with crackers, sliced baguette, or toasted pita chips.

Storage: You can refrigerate Babagannușh for up to five days prior to serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Here are the nutritional facts:

Vegetable Musakka

If all vegetarian dishes tasted this good, I would not think twice about giving up chicken. That statement is a cop out and really annoying to some people but I mean it. This is a great dish. A bit high on the calorie count because of the frying of the eggplant plus the carb content but it is also well-balanced for protein. Even if you are skeptical, trust me and try this once and you will be hooked.

Note: I haven’t taken any pictures of this dish. Will remedy that next time I make it.

Vegetable Musakka (Vegetarian recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb eggplant (one large, or two smaller), cut to 1/2 inch slices
  • 4 oz green lentils, 4 oz
  • 2 and 1/2 cup vegetable stock (preferably homemade, low or no salt version of off the shelf)
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 3 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 8 oz, oyster or crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 14-oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14-oz can, diced tomatoes,
  • 2 Tbsps tomato paste
  • 2 tsps Herbes de Provence
  • 1 and 1/4 cup non-fat yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cheddar, grated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a deep bowl water, soak the eggplants with salt for 30 minutes. Put a plate on top to help soaking.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, simmer the stock with lentils and bay leaf for 20 minutes. Drain.

Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a saucepan. Sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Stir in lentils, mushrooms, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs and 3 tbsps of water. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Drain the eggplant slices and pat dry. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and cook the slices in batches for 3-4 minutes, turning once.

Arrange a layer of eggplants in the bottom of a 9×13 dish, then spoon a layer of lentil mixture on top. Continue layers until all eggplants are gone.

Beat the yogurt and eggs and pour over the layered veggies. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.

Makes 8 very generous servings.

Here are the nutritional facts:

Acuka (Walnut, Hot Pepper Paste, Garlic and Thyme Spread)

Acuka was originally a  ‘breakfast’ spread in rural Turkey. Over the ages, it found its way to the dinner table as an appetizer.  I am sort of glad it did because the last thing I want to do every morning is smell massive whiffs of garlic in my colleagues’ breaths.

This recipe is pretty simple and straightforward. My recommendation is to go light on the olive oil. Olive oil is good for you, yes and it does wonders for bringing this particular spread to a creamy consistency but it also jacks up the calories. I suggest you hold back on olive oil and put no more than what the recipe calls. Add water if you want runnier consistency.

I prefer crunchier, thicker spreads so this works well for me. I am sure there are other recipes out there but this is the one that I made up based on what I prefer… You can find the nutrition facts at the end as usual (you will not be pleased)… Serve it as an interesting side to a grilled piece of chicken that you end up finding not flavorful enough OR simply spread it on crackers OR serve with toasted pita bread. Either way, you will find that it is fairly addictive.

Acuka (Walnut, Hot Pepper Paste, Garlic and Thyme spread)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 5 Tbsps hot red pepper paste
  • 3-5 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped
  • Black pepper, to taste

In a food processor, pulse the ingredients until the mixture forms a thick paste. To make a creamier texture, add a small amount of water and increase the oil amount. Serve with crackers or toasted whole wheat pita.

Makes 1-1.5 cups or 10 servings.

Note: Do not add salt.  Pepper paste is usually salty enough.

Here are the nutritional facts on this dish:

Red Lentil Balls (Turkish recipe, Mercimekli Kofte)

When I was growing up, my mom had a group friends with whom she would hold “silver” days: Everyone in the group would chip in money to buy the host something lavish in silver (or gold sometimes) and the host in return would host a lavish Saturday afternoon gathering, rich with food and drinks. For women only. And sometimes with kids in tow.

It was in one of those Saturday afternoons that my mom dragged me to a ‘silver’ day at one of her friend’s house that I was introduced to red lentil balls… Very simple yet so very delicious. I tried several recipes before I found a version that I can replicate what I liked so much about this lentil appetizer.

Each ball is about 50-60 calories so eat with caution. They are highly addictive. Also, beware of the ‘bloat’: Bulgur expands in your tummy. Have one or two and wait for 10-15 minutes before you eat something else… Great for 20/20 lifestyles if you can stick to 2-3 of these along with some really good fish or chicken.  If you are allowing yourself some wine, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or dry Chenin Blanc would be awesome with it.

Red Lentil Balls (Turkish recipe, Mercimekli Kofte)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • ¾ cup bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
  • 4-6 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon hot red pepper paste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Rinse the lentils. In a 1-2 quart pan, cover the lentils with just enough water to soak in its entirety. On high heat, bring to boil and then let it simmer for 10 minutes. Make sure you keep an eye on the water level. While you don’t want too much water in the pan, you also want to avoid burning the lentils. You can add more water if necessary.

Once the lentils are soft and mushy, remove from heat and add the bulgur to the pan and cover. Let it sit for 20 minutes until the bulgur expands and softens. If you find the bulgur too crunchy at the end of the 20 minutes, add some hot water, stir and cover again to allow the bulgur soak up the moisture.

In the meantime, in a sauce pan, heat the olive oil on medium and sauté the onions until soft, approximately 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the lentil-bulgur mixture with the sautéed onions, the hot red pepper paste, the tomato paste and cumin. Knead it until well combined. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. (I personally do not add salt since the hot pepper paste is usually quite salty. I do put some red chili flakes and black pepper though).

Add the green onions, the garlic and the parsley and knead to mix.

Take a small to medium size ball of the mixture (size of 2 walnuts, the shelled kid) and shape it into a football (American football, not soccer) with your palm and serve it at room temperature.

The individual portion should look be as tall as a roll of coins, but a little thicker, like 2-3 fingers together. You can serve it on a platter layered with lettuce, for looks if you’d like.

Here is the nutrition information I got by entering the ingredients on SparkPeople recipe calculator:

Slow-cooked Green Beans with Tomatoes (Zeytinyagli Fasulye)

I saw an article about braised vegetables on NY Times earlier in the month. It was dedicated to three vegetables dishes (served cold) from the Turkish kitchen. Pretty good article. I will have to admit that although I am very familiar with the ‘served cold’ vegetables of Turkish cooking (heck, I grew up on it and I even posted some here, like Barbunya, for example), I didn’t know about the three dishes in the article… I know familiar or similar ways of servings these dishes but with very different spice combinations… So, I decided to give it a try, for variety’s sake and also to make sure I can cook them with a 20/20 Lifestyles twist so they can be delicious and healthy. It only took one try to get this one right, in my opinion.

You can stick to the original recipes in the article or you can try mine. The difference is the calories and the serving method. By the way, I am getting good at taking pretty pictures of the food on my cell phone. I had two good ones for this one so I am posting both.

The flavors in the recipe are not bold (I prefer bolder) but they are fine.

Slow-cooked Green Beans with Tomatoes (Turkish recipe, 20/20 appropriate)

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut in half widthwise
  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt – OPTIONAL. DO NOT USE IF ON 20/20
  • Black pepper
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped mint
  • Thick yogurt, for serving – OPTIONAL
  • Lemon wedges, for serving – OPTIONAL

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and stir occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, 1 cup water, sugar, salt and pepper and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer until the beans are very tender, about 45 minutes.

Remove from heat, adjust the seasoning to taste and cool to room temperature, uncovered, about 45 minutes. Stir in the mint and serve with lemon wedges. You can serve with some nonfat thick Greek yogurt but I don’t think it needs it.

Makes 6 side-dish servings.

The nutritional information on the dish (without the yogurt) is as follows:

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