May 15 2012

Classics Redefined fromTurkey with Love

Published by at 9:20 pm under Middle eastern,Poultry,Salads,Turkish,Vegetarian

Turkish Platter (Sugerme, Roasted Tomato Bulgur Salad, and Grilled Rosemary-garlic Chicken)

Turkish Platter (Sugerme, Roasted Tomato Bulgur Salad, and Grilled Rosemary-garlic Chicken)

A Tasteful Take on Turkish Traditions

Every couple years, my in-laws make the 5,526 mile trek to come visit us in Chicago. For the four weeks they stay with us, the kitchen comes to life with the aromas of Istanbul, the perfume of oregano, simmering slow-cooking stews boiling with tomatoes, and freshly cut mint permeate our home welcoming my husband and me home from a long at work.

Every morsel of Turkish cuisine is accompanied with yogurt. Sometimes she plays the role of the condiment, a balancing agent that cuts through the heaviness of a meaty stew, other times she’s a savior that rescues your tongue when the turkish red pepper in the dish needs to mellow out, and sometimes she is the star, yes the one that needs no accompaniment other than perhaps a wedge of toasted pita. Sugerme is a turkish eggplant and yogurt dish that I first met at Turquoise, our favorite Turkish restaurant in Chicago. It is usually served as an appetizer dish alongside warm bread. It’s perfect for dipping, or even serving alongside a Turkish-style anti-pasti platter of olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta. My in-laws were in for a treat, because I made this dish, on my own, with the help of my husband’s interpretation of some Turkish recipes I found online. This is my rendition using the traditional ingredients.

Sugerme Recipe

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

4 medium-large eggplants

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 pounds of Greek Yogurt

6-8 garlic cloves

Toasted walnuts

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon Turkish red pepper or cayenne

Halve the eggplants and brush with olive oil, ¬†and sprinkle with oregano, salt, and pepper. Place them in a 450 degree oven face up on a baking sheet for 20-30 minutes, until it softens and browns, or my preferred method, place face down on a hot grill for 7-10 minutes, then flip and grill for another 7-10 minutes. Keep the lid closed to ensure the eggplant cooks through. If the grill marks are perfect but the eggplants don’t give when you push with your finger, place them on the top rack or away from direct flame, and keep the lid closed for another 5-10 minutes.

After your remove the eggplants, allow them to cool. Then, take a spoon and scoop out the inside of each halve as you would an avocado. Place into a bowl and mash.

Smash your garlic on the cutting board and sprinkle some salt, take the back side of your knife and run it against the garlic repeatedly to form a paste. Once you have your garlic paste, add it to the bowl. Add the yogurt and fold until it is well combined. Finally, gently fold in your roughly chopped toasted walnuts. For the complete package, add a little decadence with the Turkish pepper butter sauce. At Turquoise restaurant, they drizzle this while it’s hot right on top of the sugerme, and it is divine! All you do is combine the Turkish pepper and butter in a small sauce pan and let it simmer.

Turkish Platter Continued…

My mother-in-law made a dish the first time she visited my husband, when were just dating, and I absolutely fell in love with it. It’s a light bulgur wheat dish, that can still hold its own as a meal or as a side dish. It’s best served room temperature or cold, so it’s perfect for picnics or parties. When I watched Ozden, my mother-in-law make this for the first time, she used 2 cans of tomato paste, and I thought it was odd, considering, this isn’t a meal you cook, so the tomato paste is essentially raw. The second time, I watched her make it, we didn’t have any tomato paste in the house, so she opted to use fresh Roma tomatoes. She must have used at least 1/2 a dozen, and it just wasn’t reaching that desired deep orangish red color. As much as I enjoyed this dish, I wanted to make it my own and give it the same concentrated tomato flavor without using tomato paste from a can. So, I thought: why not roast the tomatoes, until they naturally reach a sweet concentrated state? And that for me was perfection!

Roasted Tomato Bulgur Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of grape or Roma tomatoes

1 small or 1/2 a medium red onion

1/2 seedless cucumber

1/2 red bell pepper

2-3 garlic cloves

1/4 teaspoon of turkish red pepper or cayenne

1 cup fresh parsley

1/2 cup fresh mint

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 lemon

Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle oregano, salt, pepper, and turkish red pepper. Place in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes or whenever the tomatoes start to char and burst.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a bowl.

Take a cup of bulgur and place in 2 1/2 cups of boiling hot water for ten minutes, or until the water evaporates keeping a lid on it. Then, remove the lid, and fluff with a fork. Transfer to bowl with roasted tomatoes.

Chop the onions, parsley, mint, cucumbers, red pepper, and garlic cloves finely. Add all (except the diced cucumbers) to the bowl with roasted tomatoes. Use a masher, or as my mother-in-law, Ozden, does it, use your hands for a good five minutes, the more you do it, the more the bulgur will absorb all the flavors you’ve added, and it will become a beautiful deep orangish-red color. Finally, fold in the cucumbers (if you mash them they will fall apart). You may serve this at room temperature or cold. Squeeze with lemon when ready to serve.

The Final Act…for the Meat-Eaters

If you want to serve the sugerme and roasted tomato bulgar as sides, the perfect companion would a rosemary-garlic grilled chicken breast.

Rosemary-garlic Grilled Chicken Breast

Serves 4

2 large chicken breasts (1 lb total)

2 long sprigs of fresh rosemary

4 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

salt

pepper

1/4 teaspoon Turkish red pepper or red crushed pepper

Finely chop the rosemary and garlic and add to a small bowl. Pour in the olive oil and mix it in.

Butterfly each of your chicken breasts, which basically means to slice through the middle of each chicken breast, but not all the way so that each opens up like a book. Place parchment paper on your chicken breasts and pound your chicken with a mallet or the back of a frying pan until the breasts are about 1/2 -3/4 inch thick. Liberally season each side of the breasts with salt and pepper. Then rub each side with the rosemary-garlic olive oil mixture. Let it marinate for at least five minutes.

Get your outdoor grill or indoor grill pan hot. Then grill the chicken for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Because, they are thin, they will cook quickly. Remove from grill and tent with foil until you are ready to plate and serve with your two lovely side dishes. Add as splash of lemon for more of a zest.

 

 

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