Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Turkish Birthday Celebration

Augustine's Turkish Birthday Menu


Beyaz Peynirli Karides Sote
Shrimp-Feta Cheese Saute

Hünkar Begendi
Sultan’s Delight

Ground ChickPeas

Yogurt Garlic Sauce

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Pite Ekmegi
Turkish Bread

Cold Bulgur Salad

Adana Kebab
Spicy Chicken Kebabs

Ezme Salatasi
Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Turkish Delight

Can you believe this menu!?!  These are the culinary delights so lovingly prepared to perfection by our dear friend Emil, for Augustine's birthday celebration.  Turkey has many special memories and experiences for August from earlier in his life.  Emil chose to highlight this period for August with this unique presentation of food, music and art. 

Emil sent me the recipes a couple of days prior to the event and my mouth was watering with anticipation as I began this posting for you.  I closed my eyes and imagined the combination of the garlic, the cumin, the coriander, the peppers, the lamb or shrimp, ohh, I mean "O" at the keyboard. Two very long days of agony just anticipating and waiting. I wanted to be in his kitchen so bad I couldn't stand it!! 

Finally, the appointed time arrived.  I met my husband on his way home from work in front of their entrance.  Now don't get me wrong, I adore my husband, but he was slowing me down.  Kind of like that "don't get between me and my coffee pot first thing in the morning", unknowingly, a VERY dangerous place to be.  Bless his heart.  Anyway we proceed through the gate, up the drive, park, and jump out of the car (I'll kiss him hello later).  Run into the house, I clearly do NOT have time to wait for someone to come to the door, hug, welcome, chit chat and all that crap.  Just let me near this food!!!  The aromas were all I fantasized about, but soooo much more, Oh God, Oh YES!! 

Well, I took a ton of pictures for you, and for myself of course(little private time). And I wonder, just why can't some geek out there hurry up with the smell-a-blog thing for us??  We visited with our dear man of honor, August, and our amazing Chef Emil while they introduced us to some beautiful items from their private collection;  an exquisite oil lamp and utterly beautiful tiny clay containers used to carry and hold the oil, dating back prior to life of Christ, pieces of pottery from the period of Helen of Troy and a beautiful text of a lost language you will see Emil is holding in a photo.  Check out the mortar and pestle, it weighs a small ton, the mortar is carved from single tree trunk.  On the pestle I am able to see actual text or carvings, the motar & pestle; both of which Emil uses in his kitchen.

The lives these two men have lead is truly awe inspiring.  This, I promise, barely scratches the surface.  But more than their experiences, and I am not alone with this opinion, they have pure hearts of gold.  They are dear, deeply loving friends and our lives are infinitely more precious because we are blessed with them.

                                              August, the handsome & dashing man in white.

Precious Chef Emil

So take a few precious moments; bring your taste-buds, and enjoy your culinary journey through the Turkish Empire.  While you find your passport, here is how our journey began and my interpretation.......

Whirling Emil...a mysterious Chef of the Bulverde Order
founded locally in the 20th Century who stands between the
mediocre slop and cullinary masterpiece worlds.  His dance is part of an artistic ceremony
in which the Chef rotates in a precise rhythm.
He represents the ideas revolving in his head while orbiting his sacred cooktop.
The purpose of the ritual whirling is for the Chef to empty
himself of all middling thoughts, placing him in a trance; released
from his body he conquers genius "Oh God" culinary delights.


A Culinary Overview

The Byzantines and later, the Persians greatly influenced and inspired the Turkish, Armenian and Georgian culture and culinary expertise. The Turkish Empire once covered south eastern Europe, Anatolia and the Arab world. In 1680 the Turks helped Hungarian rebels against the Habsburg (Austrian) rule and Vienna was under siege by Turkish armies in 1683. In 1483 parts of Greece were under Turkish rule and remained so until the 19th century.

It is tempting to assume that Turkish food is like Greek food, however, 400 years of Turkish rule in Greece has left its undeniable traces in the cuisine and in some areas, the music of Greece.

Such 'typically' Greek hallmarks such as ouzo and mezédes are just a few examples of Turkish influence. Ouzo is Greek style raki, and many other famous 'Greek' dishes are really Turkish in origin. Mezédes is a word derived from the Turkish 'meze' which means appetizers or hors´oeuvre. The well-known Greek 'dolmadakia' or stuffed grape leaves is of Turkish origin (dolmak is a verb in Turkish meaning 'to fill or stuff'.)

Toward the end of the Ottoman rule, the Greeks suffered harshly and are naturally (and nationally) resentful of any mention of Turkish influence. Still one cannot intelligently deny that the food and of course the dance (especially the sirtaki) is more Turkish than Greek. There are hardly any pre-Ottoman manuscripts on Greek music or food as it was prior to Ottoman occupation. One of the oldest cookbooks written is Turkish and dates from 700 AD.

Turkish cuisine (palace cuisine) was so advanced in the Ottoman dynasty (1299 to 1923), highly developed and specialized that very little foreign influence occurred until Turkish foreign policy opened to the western world (French and English). The use a bechamel sauce is an example of French influence.

Egypt remained part of the Ottoman Empire for four centuries, from 1517 to 1917. Napoleon's brief interlude in Egypt in 1798 was dispelled by an Anglo-Ottoman alliance in 1801. Under Ottoman rule, Egypt flourished and experienced an economical Golden Age as the gateway between Europe and the East. Much architecture and culinary influence remains today of the Turkish occupation and its classical music reflects the Turko -Arabic influence.

The arts, architecture, music and culinary expertise were the benefits of Turkish rule left behind in all occupied countries long after the Ottoman decline and are still present today.

"During the course of its historical evolution from the Turkish tribes of Central Asia to the present day, Turkish cuisine has acquired an individual character which expressed in the layout of the kitchen, the cooking utensils, the range of dishes and cooking methods, the presentation of food and serving. Every branch of cookery is treated as equally deserving of being rich in variety and succulence.

The evolution of Turkish Cuisine has 3 major eras:

Central Asian (before 1038)
Seljuk and Principalities (1038-1299)
Ottoman (1299-1923)

These three eras have left their marks on the evolution of the Turkish cuisine. Although Turkish cookery keeps its origins dating back from these eras, some traces of foreign influence can be seen and today there is a conscious effort to eliminate these traces and restore Turkish cooking to its origins.

"The Historical Evolution of Turkish Cuisine" by Nevin Halici, Image of Turkiye, Issues 42-43, 1991.

Beyaz Peynirli Karides Sote
Shrimp-Feta Cheese Saute

1/2 pound frozen, peeled and de-veined, thawed shrimp
2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, finely copped
1/2 tsp salt
Black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch crushed pepper
1 cup diced tomato, in can
1/2 cup feta cheese, cut in bite size cubes
1/2 tsp oregano

1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

Saute the onion with butter and salt on medium heat. When the color starts to turn, add the garlic. When the smell of garlic comes out, add the tomato, black pepper and crushed pepper. Turn the heat down to low, put the lid on and cook for about 20 minutes.

Add the shrimp, feta cheese and oregano, and cook more for about 6-7 minutes, then turn the heat off. Place the dish on a service plate. Sprinkle parsley and lemon zest all over .

Hünkar Begendi
Sultan’s Delight

For Lamb:
2 1/4 pound boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large tomato, peeled , seeded, and finely chopped
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

For eggplant purée:
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pound)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons finely grated kasseri, pecorino fresco, or semihard sheep’s-milk cheese
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

Braise lamb:
Pat one third of lamb dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then brown seasoned lamb, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and brown remaining lamb in same manner in 2 batches, adding more butter if necessary. When third batch of lamb is browned, return rest of lamb with any juices to pot and add tomato, water, and salt. Cook at a bare simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Season with salt and pepper.

Make eggplant purée while lamb simmers:
Melt butter in a 9- to 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, then whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until roux just begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thick, about 3 minutes.

Add drained eggplant and stir, mashing with a fork, until incorporated. Stir in cheese and salt and season with pepper.

Serve eggplant topped with braised lamb.

Ground ChickPeas

Hummus is a dip/spread that is made from chickpeas. In fact, hummus is the Arabic word for chickpea. You may notice that many hummus recipes call for garbanzo beans, not chickpeas. Don't worry, garbanzo is the Spanish translation of chickpea. They are called cece beans in Italy.

Hummus is one of the oldest foods dating back to ancient Egypt. We know that chickpeas were used quite frequently over 7,000 years ago.


1 can garbanzo beans/chickpeas
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin


In a Food processor, blend all ingredients together until smooth and creamy.
Serve immediately with pita bread, pita chips, or veggies.
Store in a airtight container for up to three days.

Yogurt Garlic Sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes


16 ounces (2 cups) of thick Greek yogurt
4 to 10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup of diced or grated cucumber (Kirby or "English")
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 teaspoons of lemon juice


Prepare all ingredients in advance. Combine oil and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl. Fold the yogurt in slowly, making sure it mixes completely with the oil. Add the garlic, according to taste, and the cucumber. Stir until evenly distributed. Garnish with a bit of green and serve well chilled.
Yield: about 2 1/2 cups

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Sarma refers to a dish that can be prepared with grape, cabbage, or chard leaves. The term sarma derives from Turkish verb "sarmak," which means to wrap or to roll. It can be prepared with rice and spices (vegetarian) or with rice and ground meat. Both are delicious. S ometmes Sarma is called dolma, too, yet on the western part of Turkey, rolled leaves are always called sarma.


1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cup finely chopped onion
2 cup rice
1/4 cup currants
1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
Salt, pepper
1 cup warm water
1 bunch of parsley (and/or dill optional)

For assembly and cooking:

grape leaves (16 oz jar should be sufficient for this amount of filling)
2.5 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 – 2 lemons to decorate

-If you have fresh grape leaves, boil water in a pot. Cook grape leaves ~1 minute in boiling water . Take out and let cool.

-If you are using jarred grape leaves, soak them in cold water for an hour; they tend to be salty.

-Mix all the ingredients.

-Save the broken, faulty leaves. Use them to cover the bottom of a pot with grape leaves to prevent them from burning.

-Take one leaf. Place it on a smooth surface the vein side up/shiny side down. Place a spoonful of stuffing at the bottom center of the leaf close to the stem. Fold in two sides first and then the bottom. Then roll it neatly like a cigar. Keep rolling until all the leaves are gone. If you still have stuffing, you can use it to stuff small bell peppers.

-Stack stuffed grape leaves in the pot tightly layer by layer.

-Add 1,5 tbsp olive oil or butter, juice of half lemon and water to barely cover the sarmas.

-Place a flat-ish plate on top of stuffed grape leaves so that they won't move around. Cover and cook on low for 35-45 minutes.

-Serve with crusty bread and yogurt.

Pite Ekmegi
Turkish Bread

Bread, (“ekmek” in Turkish) is the main staple food in Turkish cuisine. Varieties include: pide ekmeği (flat bread), somun ekmeği (bread loaf which is very soft inside and crispy on the outside), sac ekmeği or yufka ekmeği (paper thin bread made on a large iron convex griddle), tandır ekmeği (thin bread made in a clay oven that is comprised of a hole in the ground and covered with clay inside), lavaş ekmeği which is also a thin type of bread baked in a clay oven.

For the Dough:

2.5 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup warm water

For Braising and Garnishing:

¼ cup warm milk
1 tbsp sesame seeds (black and white)

Preparation of the Dough:

Using a Stand Mixer:

Place the yeast in a bowl and add warm water. Mix well and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Place the rest of the ingredients for the dough in the mixer bowl and attach the dough hook. Add the yeasty water to the bowl and mix using speed 2 and increasing to 4 and then 6 until the dough is soft. This should not take more than 3 minutes.


Place the yeast in a deep, large bowl and add the warm water. Let it sit for about 20 minutes. Place the rest of the ingredients for the dough in the bowl and start kneading. You may need to dip your hands in the water so that the dough does not get too dry. Knead for 10-15 minutes until the dough is soft.

Making the Bread:

Cover the dough with plastic wrap or wet cheese cloth. Let the dough sit for 1 hour. The dough will rise during this time. Push the dough down and let it sit for a half hour. Divide the dough into two parts and make a ball with each one. Sprinkle some flour on the dough balls, so that the dough does not stick to your hands. Sprinkle some flour on a baking tray and let these two balls of dough rest for 15-20 minutes.

Flatten each ball with your hands and start stretching it until you reach the desired size. You could also make an oval shape instead of a round shape. With the tip of your fingers, press on the flat dough randomly to make the bread uneven on the surface. Brush with milk and sprinkle sesame seeds.

Bake at 475º F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. While the bread is baking, braise with warm milk every 5 minutes or so. Enjoy warm during breakfast or with any meal.

Cold Bulger Salad

Prep Time: 15 minutes


1/2 cups bulgur wheat (fine or medium grade)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cucumber chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill
2 tablespoons parsley
juice from 1 lemon
medium tomatoes, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons red pepper paste or tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
red pepper to taste
boiling water

In a bowl, place bulgur wheat with enough boiling water to cover. Allow to sit for about 15 minutes. This is a good time to chop veggies if you haven't done so already.

Combine red pepper/tomato paste with veggies, herbs and spice. Mix well.

Drain bulgur wheat from water and place on towel and squeeze out excess water.

Combine with red pepper paste and mix well.

Cover and refrigerate a few hours before serving.

Serve with grape leaves, romaine lettuce leaves, and fresh pite ekmegi.

Adana Kebab
Spicy Chicken Kebabs

This is named after the forth largest city in Turkey. The trick to this is that you really should let marinate over night for optimum taste. Sumac is also used in this recipe it can be found in any Middle Eastern store or online.

The sumac cannot be omitted or the dish will not have any resemblance to its native origin or taste.

1 lb ground lamb
1 lb ground veal
For the purposes of the party we substituted the lamb and veal with ground chicken, as to provide more variety in the meat dishes.
4 teaspoons olive oil, for brushing on pita's
4 teaspoons salted butter, small cubes
2 red bell peppers, minced
2 medium yellow onions, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 medium red onions, sliced very thin
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon lemon juice
8 pieces pite ekmegi
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sumac

1. In a large mixing bowl add lamb and veal.
2. Then add minced bell peppers and onions.
3. Add all spices and mix well.
4. Cover and put in fridge overnight.
5. Mix red onion, sumac, lemon juice in small bowl cover and put in fridge.
6. Using your hands shape mixture into 6 inch long kebabs and about 2 inches wide.
7. Place on a hot grill and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.
8. Kebabs will be done when they feel spongy.
9. When done place kebab inside of pita.
10. Top with yogurt sauce and sliced red onion mixture.

Ezme Salatasi
Cucumber and Tomato Salad


1 Large Tomato
1 Cucumber
1 Small Onion
1 Tablespoon Fresh dill
Two Green chili peppers, chopped very fine
1 Tablespoon Vinegar


6 servings

Oil & lemon dressing Cut tomatoes into 10 wedges. Pare the cucumber; cut it in half lengthwise & then in thin slices.

Cut onion in half lengthwise & then slice paper thin.

Put the onion slices into a bowl, sprinkle with salt & squeeze in the palm of a hand.

Rinse & pat dry.

On a platter, arrange in succession rows of tomatoes, cucumber slices & onion pieces.

Sprinkle with the dill, salt & chili pepper.

Mix vinegar & dressing & pour over the salad enough to moisten it well.

Turkish Delight

Lokum has been produced in Turkey since the 15th century


4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups cornstarch
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons rosewater
1 cup confectioners sugar
Vegetable oil or shortening


In a 9 inch baking pan, grease the sides and bottom with vegetable oil or shortening.

Line with wax paper and grease the wax paper.

In a saucepan, combine lemon juice, sugar and 1 1/2 cups water on medium heat.

Stir constantly until sugar dissolves.

Allow mixture to boil.

Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine cream of tartar, 1 cup corn starch and remaining water in saucepan over medium heat. Stir until all lumps are gone and the mixture begins to boil.

Stop stirring when the mixture has a glue like consistency.

Stir in the lemon juice, water and sugar mixture. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to low, Allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently.

Once the mixture has become a golden color, stir in rosewater.

Pour mixture into wax paper lined pan.

Spread evenly and allow to cool overnight.

Once it has cooled overnight, sift together confectioners sugar and remaining cornstarch.

Turn over baking pan containing Turkish delight onto clean counter or table and cut with oiled knife into one inch pieces. Coat with confectioners sugar mixture.

Serve or store in airtight container in layers separated with wax or parchment paper.

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  1. This feast sounds unreal! I've made Sultan's Delight before and absolutely adored it. I am bookmarking all of these recipes. Just amazing!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing all of this deliciousness! I can't even believe how mouthwatering this post is.

  3. What a wonderful post. It is so nice to see this kind of friendship. He prepared a real feast for your husband. It must have been a perfect day. I hope you had a pleasant weekend and are looking forward to the week ahead. Blessings...Mary

  4. WOW...this is amazing! You live a charmed life, my dear. What an exotic evening.

  5. I'm drooling just looking at all of that absolutely delicious and gorgeous food! What a beautiful tablescape:D

  6. oops sorry. Leslie I just drooled all over your pretty blog!
    After living in Saudi Arabia for so long and traveling so much to the Greek Islands. we lived on this food for so long!!! I am freaking out looking at this post. I am seriously still salivating!!haha.. thanks for this I am actually going to try some of these brilliant recipes!

    PS the eggs are amazing I'll save you some!

  7. What a fascinating post! Thank you for sharing not only the recipes, but the stories!! What wonderful memories you will have of this event!!

  8. OMG.....what a beautiful presentation of our party and what wonderful words about us. You are incredible. I am so glad you had a good time. I just did not get to visit with you enough. You are such a treasure, we love you so much.

    Emil & August

  9. FANTASTICO!Emiliano, come hai fatto a fare tutte quelle splendide cose?!?!Tanti Auguri alla tua dolce metà!
    grazie per avermi segnalato questo blog, lo visiterò spesso!
    un abbraccio e a presto

  10. Great spread of dishes but to set things right, it was Archestratos in 320 B.C. who wrote the first cookbook in history. Greece has a culinary tradition of some 4,000 years. That says it all!!

  11. Stumbled upon this post while searching for Turkish birthday traditions. What a wonderful menu. My husband (half Turkish, grew up in Istanbul) has been trying to describe a Turkish dish of little shrimp and tomato that his mother used to make. I think your shrimp-feta saute is it! Will have to make it now. Thanks so much!


I'm so glad you stopped by and I can't wait to read your comments. I will stop by your blog shortly!