"Eat Istanbul": Cooking the Books

Andy Harris and David Loftus’ new book, “Eat Istanbul, A Journey to the Heart of Turkish Cuisine,” gives readers entrée to the city’s food and culture. Knowing something about either is helpful, but not required. Still- if I have a complaint, it’s that the authors don’t give readers more information about the city’s fascinating history and unique geography, since both have played a very important role in the development of Turkish cuisine. Limiting the focus does have its rewards, however.This is an interesting cookbook, complete with excellent recipes, beautiful photography, and sufficient cultural information to whet your appetite for more.

Recipes:

Baked Summer Vegetables

Baked Summer Vegetables


Turlu/Baked Summer Vegetables
Serves 6-8
2 large eggplants, thinly sliced
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
4 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 green bell peppers. Seeded and sliced
6 zucchini, trimmed and sliced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried mint
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, including stems, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve
Slab of feta
Dried oregano
Olive oil, for drizzling

Equipment
Baking dish about 12”x12”

Soak the eggplant in a bowl of salted cold water for 30 minutes to remove their bitterness. Drain them in a colander and place them in a large bowl.

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees F. Add the onion, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, oregano, mint and parsley to the bowl of eggplant. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put the tomato paste in a measuring cup, add 1 ¼ cups boiling water and mix well. Pour this over the vegetables in the bowl, add the olive oil, and mix everything well.

Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and bake in the preheated oven for 1 ½ hours or until the top has browned and the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. (Cover the dish with foil if it looks like the vegetables are burning but be sure to remove the foil again 30 minutes before the end.)Let cool before serving warm or cold with feta and dried oregano sprinkled over the top, and drizzled with olive oil.

Roast Chicken and Pilaf

Roast Chicken and Pilaf


Tavuk Pilav/Roast Chicken and Pilaf
Serves 6

4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon Kirmizi biber flakes or paprika
1 whole chicken, cut into 6 pieces
2 fresh bay leaves
¼-cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 ripe tomatoes, quartered
6 long green peppers
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pilaf

3 tablespoons dried currants
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 ¼ cups long-grain white rice, washed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Use a mortar and pestle to pound the garlic cloves and ½ tablespoon sea salt to a paste. Add the allspice, cumin, cinnamon, and Kirmizi biber flakes to the mortar and continue to pound for a few minutes until the mixture is well combined.

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and rub the spice mix all over them. Add the bay leaves and drizzle with half the olive oil. Refrigerate, covered, for a minimum of 30 minutes or longer if you can.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, transfer the chicken pieces to a roasting pan, and let them come to room temperature for 5 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425-degrees F.

Season the chicken generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle the chicken pieces with the remaining olive oil and smear the butter over them, then pour about ½ cup cold water into the roasting pan.

Roast the chicken in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350-degrees F and continue to roast for about 1 ½ hours, basting occasionally with the juices in the pan, or until the meat is tender and the skin is crisp and golden. Thirty minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the tomatoes and green peppers around the chicken in the pan. At the end of the cooking time, remove the pan from the oven and let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the pilaf. Put the dried currants in a small bowl, cover with warm water, and let them soak for 20 minutes. Heat the butter in a large pan over medium heat and sauté the onion and pine nuts for 7 to 8 minutes until softened. Add the rice and cinnamon and season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour in enough hot water to just cover the rice, stir in the drained currants and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover with a lid, and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender-about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave it covered for 10 minutes.

Serve the pilaf with the roast chicken pieces, tomatoes, and green peppers.

Stuffed Apricots with Honeyed Yogurt and Pistachios

Stuffed Apricots with Honeyed Yogurt and Pistachios

Stuffed Apricots with Honeyed Yogurt and Pistachios
Serves 4

24 dried apricots
1 cup granulated sugar
Grated zest of one lemon
1 cup thick yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, ground or very finely chopped

Put the apricots in a bowl, cover with cold water, and let soak overnight. The next day, drain the soaked apricots well in a colander and transfer to a bowl.Using a sharp knife, make a slit in each apricot by slicing about three-quarters of the way through the flesh.

Put the sugar, lemon zest, and about 1 2/3 cups water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the apricots and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Transfer the apricots to paper towels using a slotted spoon and let drain well while you put the remaining syrup back over medium heat. Sook for 15 minutes or until it has reduced by about half. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Combine the yogurt and honey, then spoon it into a pastry bag, squeezing the mixture down to the bottom of the bag. Squeeze a little honeyed yogurt into the halved apricots and carefully push one-half of the apricot down on the yogurt.

Arrange the stuffed apricots on a serving dish, drizzle with the ground pistachios, and drizzle some of the syrup over the top.

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