the taste space

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on March 14, 2013

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

When I photographed this, I was worried it may look eerily similar to the Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala). Red lentils + tomato + spinach… This one has carrots, isn’t as red and is more soup-like than the curry, though. I think they look reasonably different, so trust me I am not recycling photos! No lost photos for this dish…

In truth, it was the success of the tikka masala that had me throwing bountiful fists of spinach into yet another red lentil dish.

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

I have made the traditional Turkish red lentil and bulgur soup before, having learned it while travelling in Turkey. A humble, yet decidedly filling and nutritious soup, it was one of our favourite meals on our trip, especially when we learned how to cook it ourselves. This version, courtesy of Turquoise, is billed as a humble peasant soup. The lentils must make it peasant-like because there is nothing bland about this. I love the addition of two different kinds of smoked paprika and cumin (I did not stifle the full amount of smoked paprika and it was ok!).  I added in the spinach, because, well, I had tons of it and it is easy to incorporate into thick soups. However, the best part of this soup, is the finishing spiced oil. I am used to this in Indian dishes, which is called a tarka, when spices like cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger can infuse oil that is added at the end of the cooking. This isn’t an Indian dish, so dried mint and smoked sweet paprika are fried at the end to permeate the oil. It was actually very pretty when drizzled over the soup. Sorry, you guys got photos of leftovers! Have no fear, the leftovers tasted as good with the tarka already stirred into the soup. :)

Do you use the tarka method for your cooking? Outside Indian foods?

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Turkish Freekeh Pilaf with Chickpeas and Wild Greens

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on February 26, 2013

Turkish Freekeh Pilaf with Chickpeas and Wild Greens

OK, file this under “I don’t need to try that again“.

Not this dish. Chicory greens.

Chicory Greens

I hunted down chicory greens for my Random Recipe of the month. I was positively giddy to try some new-to-me greens. Pretty little wild greens, eh?

I am warning you: evil. Turns out not all greens are as lovely as spinach, Swiss chard and kale. Chicory leaves look like dandelion greens and they (likely) also taste like them: BITTER! They are cousins, after all.

This dish had such promise. I used freekeh, which is young cracked wheat with beautiful smoky undertones, and chickpeas and spiced it with paprika, cumin and pomegranate molasses. Thyme and lemon, too. Sounds beautiful but thwarted by the bitter greens. The original recipe called for ground lamb (which I obviously omitted) but I doubt that would overcome its bitterness. Next time, I’d suggest using a milder green like Swiss chard or kale. Although, the leftovers were not as vile.. either that, or I slowly became accustomed to it.

I was going to say that, in retrospect, this was obviously not meant for me since I am a pitta (which shuns bitter foods). Although, turns out the joke’s on me: chicory greens are good for pitta. I guess I must take after vata in this regard. Or maybe this is all messed up since it isn’t an Ayurvedic recipe. ;)

So, tell me, do you like bitter greens? If so, how do you enjoy eating them? If I ever try them again, I’ll go with this dish for Moroccan Braised Mustard Greens, which I’ve tried and enjoyed. Maybe I just had a particularly bitter bunch?

Turkish Freekeh Pilaf with Chickpeas and Wild Greens

This is my submission to Dom for this month’s Random Recipes, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Simple and in Season.

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Dolmas (Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by janet @ the taste space on December 18, 2012

Easy Dolmas

One of the things I am enjoying about this sweetener-free challenge is determining how much sweetener I truly need.  Furthermore, I feel less bloated, which is really keeping me motivated to stick with the challenge this long. I love throwing fruit into my savoury dishes, but I know not everyone rolls with me.

Earlier this fall, I made Cherry Collard Dolmas. A little bit more non-traditional because I was lazy and used larger collard leaves but also because sweet cherries were used to complement the savoury spice mix of cinnamon, allspice, mint and dill. Currants and pistachios were also mixed in there for good measure. Brown rice and white beans were used to amp up its nutritional profile. Yes, these were very good.

RHIW Dolmas

This time, I consulted with Tess for a simpler version. Brown rice and chickpeas are the base with fresh tomatoes, dill and fresh lemon juice, wrapped in a salty grape leaf. Seemingly humble ingredients, combined into power rolls, you have a winning snack. I liked them both before I cooked them (the lemon juice was a strong, fresh flavour) but they mellowed out nicely after a 20-minute steam.

I don’t know about you, but there is something so awesome about little nibbly snacks. Finger foods are fun. Serve as an appetizer, a snack, or eat a bunch as a meal. I served mine with a simple tahini dip which contrasted the lemony flavours nicely. A thinned out hummus dressing could work, too.

RHIW Dolmas

There is only one problem with finger foods.  That means I have to assemble a whole bunch of teeny rolls! Trust me, it is worth it. However, if it is a weeknight and you just want to eat pronto, throw it into a larger collard leaf instead.

RHIW Dolmas

This is my submission to this month‘s Herbs on Saturdays, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Tomato-Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Posted in Salads by janet @ the taste space on October 25, 2012

If my Pinterest boards tell you anything, I am scouring the web for interesting dressings.

Each week, I try to make a new dressing to add to whatever wandering salad I may concoct for lunch. Toss it with whatever random veggies I have in the fridge or plucked from the garden.

For this month’s Random Recipe challenge, we were urged to pick a pantry item and randomly try a recipe with it. I picked pomegranate molasses and then randomly picked Turquoise, a cookbook I have been neglecting but adamant about trying more of the drool-worthy recipes.

I landed squarely on the tomato-pomegranate dressing, spiced with thyme, shallots and garlic. I was initially perplexed by the recipe since it seemed to be a dressing infused with the flavours instead of being pureed directly into the dressing. So, I experimented. I made half of the recipe through the suggested (infused) method, and half of the dressing was simply pureed. The verdict? Both were good and more surprisingly to me, the blended dressing was creamier. I thought the pureed shallot and garlic would make this a scary dressing, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t as tart and acidic as the infused dressing. However, once mixed with my veggie medley, it was perfect. Both versions were nice.

Here, in the photos, I paired the dressing with thinly sliced collards, shredded beets and carrots, thinly sliced Roman beans and toasted sunflower seeds. I massaged some of the dressing directly with the collards (like I do for my raw kale salads) and then drizzled more dressing for the rest of the veggies. As you can see, the collard greens didn’t wilt as much as kale, but it made for a tasty salad, mellowing the collards for a simple salad. Later, I also found the dressing paired well with my standard concoction of tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, chickpeas and lettuce.

Looking for another great salad with pomerganate molasses? This one with bulgur and chickpeas (aka, The Old Best Salad Ever) was how I got hooked onto pomegranate molasses!

Do you have any favourite salad dressings?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Random Recipes for cupboard items. (more…)

Cherry Collard Dolmas (Turkish Collard Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Beans and Fresh Cherries -Visneli Yaprak Sarma)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on September 12, 2012

This has been the summer of cherries.

Local cherries arrived early, so by the beginning of July I had already made Almost Raw Chocolate Banana Crepes with Almond-Coconut Cream and Cherries, then balsamic cherries migrated onto a sandwich with rosemary cashew cheese and arugula, and I pickled a bunch in a five-spice spiked vinegar. I kept on thinking cherry season was over, but they continued to be on sale late into the summer. How can you say no to cherries at 99c/lb?

So, yes, I have yet another cherry recipe.

Earlier this summer, we thought I might have been able to join Rob in New York for a mini-vacation. We researched where we wanted to stay (airBnB!), what we would do (opera!) and what we would eat (Pure Food & Wine!). My favourite raw resto to date, it would have been a nice treat. I even scoured their menu to see what I wanted to order. I found it:

Cauliflower Cous Cous with Sour Cherry Dolmas with pistachio, almond, dried fruits, mint, Moroccan tomato jus

Sounds heavenly, no?

Turns out that when we went to book my airline tickets, we were not able to get the flights we wanted. So for the long weekend, Rob went to New York for work, and I stayed at home.

With a bit of extra time on my hands, I decided to tackle my own cherry dolmas. In retrospect, a raw version would likely have been quicker, but I opted for a more traditional cooked dolma.  As traditional as cherry dolmas can be. When I visited Turkey, I was not wowed by dolmas. They were not on my radar. However, traditional dolma recipes typically include savoury spices like cinnamon and allspice, so I was sold. Instead of pine nuts, I used pistachios. Instead of traditional raisins, I used a touch of currants.  The majority of the sweetness comes from the cherries.

Instead of a rice-based dish, I beefed it up by including white beans. Doing so made me have a lot more filling than I had initially bargained for, so I scrapped the grape leaves and plucked collards from my garden instead. With a cooked filling, a cooked collard seemed  more appropriate, instead of my typical raw collard wraps. Pre-steaming the collard leaves made them much easier to wrap the filling and keep their shape.

The dolmas are simmered in a cherry-infused broth to complete the cooking of the rice. If you cooked your rice all the way through the first time, I think you could save yourself the final cooking step. It was a pretty labour intensive recipe but at least I didn’t have to wrap 100s of dolmas in tiny grape leaves. ;)

In any case, these were so flavourful, they were definitely worth the effort. The rice filling alone was delicious, so if you just want to make that, I understand. :)

I made the cranberry-lemon-tahini dip for the dolmas but I didn’t find it needed a dip. In fact, the sweet on sweet clashed. If you want something to serve it with, a plain yogurt would be nice.

With all my cherry fodder this summer, Rob came back with a surprise present for me from New York: a cherry pitter!

This is my submission to this month’s Herbs on Saturday, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to Simple and In Season.

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Turkish Red Pepper, Chickpea and Cilantro Soup (Nohut Corbasi)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on May 7, 2012

I can’t believe that a year ago this weekend, I was already biking to-from Toronto and Kitchener (120 km, one-way). While I am planning to cycle to/from Toronto and Niagara Falls in June (160 km, one-way), our fall-back is a shorter course that leaves from Burlington (90 km).

With so many things happening this spring (moving, Colombia, hiking training, etc), it has been hard to dedicate as much time to long-distance cycling. Funnily enough, I have still clocked more kilometers on my bike due to my long daily commutes (780 km already clocked this year). However, nothing beats the long rides on my road bike as true training. Two weekends ago, Rob and I did a short jaunt in the cold for 35 km. True, I cycle that much on a typical day but it is spaced out. But that was enough for me. By the end, my back was sore for some odd reason. One really needs to ease into these long distance trips.

I know I’ve been posting a few recipes highlighting high protein options for typical carb-heavy meals, but my main focus for protein-friendly meals will always be a combination of beans and veggies. Brendan Brazier has always recommended a 3:1 to 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio, preferably a liquid for easiest digestion after recovery from sports. This is easy to get from bean- and veggie-centric soups and stews.

While I didn’t encounter anything like this in Turkey, the recipe for this Turkish red pepper, chickpea and cilantro soup came from Classical Turkish Cooking. I bookmarked it while searching for ideas with celeriac. I really liked how fresh and vibrant this soup was without being heavy. The simple soy milk makes this creamy along with the pureed chickpeas. The red pepper confers sweetness, celeriac a hearty celery background and the parsley/cilantro combo complemented it all really well. It has simple flavours that worked so well together: perfect as a light yet filling soup for the spring. The original recipe suggests pureeing the whole soup and then straining it, but I don’t like pureed soups, so I used my immersion blender to puree it partially. I was able to enjoy the benefits of the texture from the veggies as well as the additional heft from the puree.

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month‘s Simple and in Season, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Priya, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Sunday Night Soup Night, and to Cookbooks Sundays.

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Tel Kadayif (Turkish Shredded Phyllo Dough with Walnuts, aka the Easiest Baklava!)

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on January 13, 2012

While my Mom made new recipes for me, with new-to-her ingredients (TVP-what? chickpea flour-oh my!), I also reciprocated by bringing yet another Turkish dessert for my parents to enjoy. Yes, I will still bake with ingredients that I don’t eat myself. They both adore my baklava and were tickled pink by the Nightingale’s Nests I made last summer. When I spotted shredded phyllo dough at the grocery store (No Frills at Don Mills and Eglinton, for my Toronto peeps!), I knew I had to try to make Tel Kadayif, another Turkish dessert.

When I originally spotted the recipe in The Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan (recipe here), it looked like the most simple baklava. Instead of patiently layering each sheet of phyllo, you have a mess of shredded phyllo dough on the bottom, a middle of sweetened crushed walnuts, topped with more phyllo dough dusted with butter, then doused in a (not too) sugary syrup. Super easy and super tasty (so I hear). While we didn’t use all of the syrup, I think next time we’d even use less, because as you can tell by the photos, it was sopped up by the top layer as well.

While travelling in Turkey, my favourite dessert discovery was kunefe. I think I was in Fethiye, on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, when I stumbled upon it. I was wavering between kunefe and Noah’s pudding (asure) on the menu. As I typically do, I consulted with the waiter – which did he recommend? Kunefe, hand’s down, he told us, if we didn’t mind waiting 20 minutes. It was made to order, he explained.

What arrived was a bowl full with toasty, crunchy shredded phyllo with a cheesy filling, doused with a not-too-sweet syrup. Delicious, melted cheese.

After I discovered  it in all its cheesy glory, I wanted to try it again. Sadly, the price doubled by the time we made it back to Istanbul (such is life in a larger city). But what was even more sad, even after I bit the bullet of the higher price, was that the restaurants were somehow “out” of kunefe that night. I couldn’t even find it! Too difficult to make, made-to-order, shenanigans is what I figured. We weren’t travelling during tourist season so they had likely scaled back their desserts. Sadly. However, if you swap this walnut filling for a cheese filling, you have kunefe! For a more glorious single serving, I think it gets made in a small frypan, made to order. Neither of my parents like cheese too much, so that’s one Turkish dessert, I likely won’t be making for them. :P

Up next? Who knows? But it may be Turkish delight! How does Bryanna’s Pomegranate and Walnut Turkish Delight sound to you?

(and a big thank you goes to Rob for the photos, since I didn’t even bring my camera to Ottawa!)


This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Simona.

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Middle Eastern Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions (Mujaddara, Mengedarrah)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on August 27, 2011

This week, my belly needed a rest. After a few Ottolenghi and Cotter recipes, literally bursting with flavour, as well as a potluck dinner that left me in pain, I knew I needed some tummy down-time. I didn’t even want to cook, it was that bad.

Thankfully, Rob was eager to make me a nice, simple Nepalese lentil and rice dish (recipe to come!).

When I finally had the motivation to turn to the kitchen myself, I still didn’t want an elaborate meal. I wanted something homely and comforting. I didn’t want too many flavours. I wanted something simple. Enter another spin on lentils and rice, Middle Eastern-style.

In Olive Trees and Honey, Gil Marks outlines the progression of lentil and rice dishes from different cuisines. Apparently, the traditional version of lentils and rice with caramelized onions from Turkey is called Mengedarrah, whereas Mujaddara (which is what I thought I was making) is from the Levant and spiced with allspice. Then you have the Indian khichri/kitchree with cumin and garam masala. Or the Egyptian version, koshari, with noodles such as macaroni or spaghetti with tomato sauce. The book actually has a map that chronicles the name changes as well: kichree in Iraq, ados pol in Iran, mejedra in Greece, enjadara in Yemen and jurot in Uzbekistan. I wonder how my bastardized red lentil and quinoa kitchari fits into this?

There are a few ways to tackle this dish, and I think I’ve discovered my favourite way. You could cook your lentils and rice separately, although in my case the rice cooker was already in use and we all know I have trouble cooking rice on the stovetop. More traditionally, though, some recipes, including the one in Olive Trees and Honey, recommend partially cooking the lentils, then removing all of the cooking water, then returning the proper amount of water to cook the rice with the lentils. This is necessary when using white rice since the rice would be finished before the lentils. However, brown basmati rice and green lentils take nearly the same amount of time to cook, which lends to a perfect match and less fuss.

So, I simmered my brown basmati rice and green lentils with a cinnamon stick. In a separate skillet, I caramelized my onions. You could start the lentils and rice after the caramelized onions are finished so they can get added to the cooking liquid, but I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to cook my onions, low and slow, to get the perfect caramelized onions. Since I had to wait 40 minutes for my lentils and rice, this timed out perfectly. I threw in some onions into the lentil-rice mixture before it finished and kept half for the garnish. Using Rob’s large non-stick wok helped me get perfect caramelized onions, much better than when I added them to my socca with oven-roasted cherry tomatoes.

Now, I know this is a deceptive bland looking dish: lentils, rice, onions, cinnamon, smidgen of oil and salt. But it is so much more than that. It is a comforting bowl of lentils and rice with sweetness from the onions. The cinnamon is optional but it adds a little depth of flavour. Next time, I may try the Syrian version with allspice, as I have a feeling this may become another potluck favourite – made from pantry items, simple to prepare, tasty, healthy and great as leftovers and served at room temperature. While this seems like a daunting meal with the long caramelization process, it is a simple meal to prepare. This is a great emergency meal to have under your wings, both when you have nothing in the fridge and when you are not feeling well.


This is my submission to E.A.T. World for Turkey and to Ricki’s Summer Wellness Weekends.

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Turkish Nightingale’s Nests (Bulbul Yuvasi)

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on August 7, 2011

Nope, this is neither vegan nor free of refined sugars and flours.

But it wasn’t for me to eat.

It was a gift Rob and I made for my Dad.

This weekend, we travelled to Ottawa to celebrate his upcoming big 6-0 birthday.

Homemade gifts always appeal to me because you can taste the love in every bite. :)

My Dad adores baklava, but I decided to make him a different Turkish treat for his birthday. Not that he would balk at a repeat of baklava (I just gave him a batch for Father’s Day), but I wanted to try something new. There must be something wrong with me…. I can’t make the same recipe too often! Even if I don’t eat it myself, it would be too boring to prepare it a second time! Ack!
(But for some reason, I made Roasted Cauliflower with Dukkah and 15-Minute Zippy Garlic-Basil Marinara with Zucchini Noodles for everyone this weekend without problems.. AND to positive reviews).

I consulted the same Turkish cookbook, The Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan, for another possible dessert. I picked out a few contenders, but was fixated on the Nightingale’s Nests which as you can see, are cute nests of phyllo dough filled with walnuts and topped with pistachios and a not-too-sweet syrup. Basically all the same ingredients in baklava, just in a different shape. After watching this video, it honestly looked less tedious than baklava. I just needed to find a thick stick first.

The Turkish rolling pin, or oklava, is a rod-shape and quite thin. Ozan suggested using a dowel from the hardware store in a pinch. Rob and I got creative, though. We found an old clothes hanger with a thick base and wrapped it in wax paper. It worked like a charm!

The beginnings of our own oklava… we wrapped the thick sheath in wax paper..

You begin by coating a piece of phyllo dough with butter and lightly dusting it with ground walnuts

You fold it in half, leaving an inch free, then wrap it around the oklava…

You leave about an inch from the end, and then crinkle it in like a scrunchy..

Then you twist it together to make a circle… bake, then top with pistachios and a sugar syrup…

Baked and ready to eat!

With a holey nest, you could almost consider this a light dessert…. yeah right, who are you kidding? ;)

Once you figure out the technique and have a good oklava substitute, this is easy to make.  Baklava is easy, too, just tedious, especially when you layer 2 packages of phyllo dough. But dare I suggest that this looks even more remarkable than baklava? You’d think we slaved in the kitchen, but we know better than that! It is a good thing my Dad doesn’t pay much attention to my blog. ;)

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Turkish Cranberry Beans and Tomatoes Simmered in Olive Oil (Barbunya Pilaki)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by janet @ the taste space on November 26, 2010


I could be described as quirky. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

One thing that still baffles most people is that I don’t own a cell phone. I have a landline, but refuse to convert to a cell phone until the reception and reliability have improved. For now, I am content with my landline.

I definitely see advantages to having one of those ‘do everything’ phones. Like when you want to check the ingredients of a recipe you hadn’t planned on making. (You can tell what is important for me, ha!)

When I serendipitously stumbled upon fresh cranberry beans the other week, I couldn’t remember how many I needed. 1 cup? 2 cups? Well, I bought 4 cups just to make sure I wasn’t short. Suffice it to say, the cranberry bean mole with roasted butternut squash only needed 2 cups of beans.

So I searched out other ways to use my creamy fresh cranberry beans. It turns out they are also common in Turkish cuisine, which is one of my favourites. Beans simmered in tomato sauce may sound bland, but I knew it would be anything but if it were a Turkish recipe. I worked with Esra’s recipe at Carte du Jour and modified it slightly to use less oil and added more garlic. Her recipe is fantastic because it includes a lot of possible substitutions.


A plate of beans may not sound that exciting, but I enjoyed them. This was a lighter dish, and while other recipes don’t necessarily add the water during the simmering, it made it a bit more saucy which I enjoyed. It would be nice to try this again without the extra water and without the sugar. Keeping with the Turkish theme, I paired the beans with fine bulgur for a complete meal. I have talked about the nutritional superiority of bulgur compared to brown rice before, and it is incredibly easy to make as well (7 minutes to “cook” in boiling water).  Mixed all together, the sauciness coated the bulgur nicely for a light yet hearty meal.

This is my submission to this round of Blog Bites 9, holiday buffet, potluck-style!

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AWED Turkey Round-up

Posted in Events/Round-Ups by janet @ the taste space on October 31, 2010

I am so excited to share all these tasty Turkish treats that were submitted as part of AWED. Turkish cuisine is so varied, with everything from delicious appetizers, to flavourful main dishes and sweet desserts. Thanks again for collectively creating a fabulous collection of Turkish recipes. Enjoy the following menu:

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Turkish Eggplant, Tomato and Lentil Stew with Pomegranate

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on September 7, 2010

The summer lends well to cooking Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. Local, fresh produce is at the heart of many of their dishes. Eggplants, tomatoes, and zucchinis abound in grocery stores and my cookbooks simultaneously.

When I spotted this Turkish casserole stew, also known as mualle, I knew I had a great summer dish. I don’t immediately think of stew as a summer dish, but here, layers of eggplant, tomatoes and lentils are slowly braised with mint and pomegranate molasses to create a melt-in-your-mouth dish. Aleppo chili flakes add a nice burst of heat.  Sweet, salty, sour, spicy, it has all the components of a great dish. I didn’t even need to turn on my oven, to boot!

After the long stove-top braise, I allowed the stew to return to room temperature. Leftovers were phenomenal. This stew was delicious served with a toasted baguette. By the end of the week, my bread was more stale, but I plopped it in with the stew for a few hours before lunch, and it was great. I can finally start to see the appeal of a bread salad like panzanella. Others have recommended serving it with rice and garlic-spiked yogurt, which is more authentic.

This recipe was adapted from Almost Turkish Recipes, who adapted it from Food & Wine (July 2004). I will decrease the olive oil a lot next time (2 tbsp may even be sufficient), as can be found in a very similar recipe by Paula Wolfert in Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking.


This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Graziana from Erbe in Cucina (Cooking with Herbs).

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Turkish Baklava (The Best Baklava Recipe)

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on August 17, 2010

I will not delve into the debate of where baklava originated because it is a common dessert across the Middle East. However, I will let you know that I play favourites:  I like Turkish baklava the most.


Before I visited Turkey, I did not like the oftentimes sickeningly sweet walnut and phyllo dough pastry drenched in honey. When I went to Turkey, though, I was hooked after our first bite the night we arrived. We sampled baklava at nearly every restaurant we encountered it on the dessert menu. I wanted to try a variety of Turkish desserts, but my dad only wanted baklava (I never would have discovered kunefe if I only stuck to baklava!). It was never tooth-aching sweet. It was nice and light, usually with a pistachio filling. There was a sweet syrup but it complemented the pastry as opposed to clashing and overpowering the dish. It wasn’t like anything I have had in Canada.

One of the greatest things about baking yourself is that you can recreate these dishes at home. No longer are you a victim to honey baklava, which reigns in Greek and Persian stores. And while it may seem difficult, baklava is easy to make at home. It is time consuming, but very straightforward. The bad news is that most recipes make a lot of baklava, so you will have to share this treat with family and friends. If they weren’t your friends before, they will be now! Is that such a bad thing after all?


I made sure to get a baklava recipe from a Turkish cookbook and the recipe in The Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan fit the bill well. It was exactly how I remembered the best baklava in Turkey, except the filling was with walnuts. I remember pistachios being a phenomenal filling for baklava so I will try that next time (update- I have made it multiple times, and pistachios are hands-down my favourite filling!). Ozan specifically mentions to use clarified butter which is simple to make at home. It is an important step to make sure your pastry layers are nice, light and fluffy and to reduce any sogginess that can come with the milk solids. It also allows your baklava to have a longer life at room temperature. Personally, they were gobbled up so fast, I didn’t have to worry about that. ;)

This is my submission to AWED-Turkey, hosted by me this month, and to this week’s BSI featuring butter.

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Turkish Bulgur, Pomegranate and Almond Salad

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on August 11, 2010


I love when I discover new healthy ingredients. (I have totally fallen in love with pomegranate molasses now, but I am not talking about that infatuation.)

I recently visited Shelburne Farms, a working farm estate using sustainable farming and environmental practices, in Shelburne, Vermont.  We had a fabulous dinner at their Inn, but snuck in a tasty salad from their Farm Barn for lunch. It was an incredibly delicious balsamic bulgur salad with fresh produce from their organic gardens. I have cooked with fine bulgur before, but this salad used coarse bulgur. It was delicious, creamy and plump at the same time. It was a lovely play of textures for my tongue, in addition to the fresh flavours from their garden. When I returned home, I picked up some coarse bulgur to make my own salad (I used Bob’s Red Mill Cracked Bulgur).**

This is definitely one superb salad. Absolutely delicious!  Dare I suggest the best salad ever?  Oh yes!

This is a Turkish recipe, based on kisir, a bulgur salad with tomato.  Mine was adapted from Desert Candy, who adapted it from Food & Wine (January 2004).  The creamy bulgur is mixed with soft charred cherry tomatoes, crunchy toasted almonds and nutty, creamy chickpeas. Pomegranate seeds add flavour and pop. The dressing wraps everything together – sweet and tart from the pomegranate molasses, tart from the lemon juice and a bit of a kick from the Aleppo chili flakes. I loved it!  The bulgur can absorb a lot of the dressing, so I dressed the salad just before serving.

I wanted to highlight how wonderful the salad was before anyone got turned off by the health benefits of bulgur.  In a 1/4 cup (raw), there are only 140 calories but also 7g of fibre and 5g of protein. It has less calories and more nutritious than brown rice, with more iron and calcium and less fat. But most importantly, it tastes great. I love the paradoxical creaminess. It is completely different than fine bulgur. Some say that fine bulgur is best for salads and kibbeh (meatballs), and coarse bulgur is better for pilafs and main dishes. But here, I loved the coarse bulgur as a salad.

Run, do not walk, to make this incredibly tasty and healthy salad.


I plan on investigating more salads with coarse bulgur, and here are others that have caught my eye:

Basil and Bulgur Salad (aka Pesto Tabouli) by Fat Free Vegan
Bulgur Salad with Cranberries by Delicious Days
Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas and Red Peppers by Smitten Kitchen
Bulgur Salad with Feta, Olives and Sun-dried Tomatoes by Feelgood Eats
Chickpea & Bulgur Salad with Soft Boiled Egg & Breadcrumbs by Bitchin Camero
Chickpea Hot Pot by 101 Cookbooks
Beautiful Bulgar and Spinach Pilaf with Labneh and Chili Roast Tomatoes by 101 Cookbooks
Herbed and Honeyed Bulgur Wheat Nut Salad by Not Quite Nigella
Bulgur Salad with Oranges, Cashews & Fresh Herbs by Enlightened Cooking
Balsamic Roasted Onions with Bulgur, Cinnamon & Pine Nuts by Made by Frances
Broccoli Rabe with Bulgur and Walnuts by Bon Appetit
Bulgur and Grape Salad with Walnuts and Currants by Fine Cooking

**Remember how I ventured across town to buy pomegranate molasses for muhammara? Well, when I found coarse bulgur at No Frills (Eglinton/Victoria Park), they had pomegranate molasses as well! Along with orange blossom water and rose water (on sale, to boot!). It astounds me what I can find in grocery stores in Toronto if you look in the right neighbourhood. So there you have it, you can find pomegranate molasses at No Frills in Toronto. I even updated my post for other local seekers of pomegranate molasses.


This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring mint, this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona at Briciole, to PJ for this month’s Healing Foods featuring tomatoes, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Nithu for this month’s Cooking with Whole Foods featuring chickpeas, to Blog Bites #6, potluck-style, hosted by One Hot Stove, to Torview’s food palette series featuring red dishes, to Jayasri for this month’s Cooking with Seeds featuring pomegranate seeds, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays and finally, to AWED, featuring Turkish cuisine this month, hosted by me. (This recipe was meant to be shared!) :)

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Muhammara (Syrian Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip)

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on July 21, 2010


I went on a mission the other day to find pomegranate molasses. I know I could make it myself, but I wanted to find it in a store. It was harder to find then I thought. My trusty Bestwin did NOT carry it. I turned to google and found another local food blogger who went through the same ordeal to find pomegranate molasses in Toronto. Her post brought me uptown to Super Khorak, a Persian grocery store on Yonge just south of Steeles. The staff were incredibly helpful when I began looking for the pomegranate molasses. After pointing me to shelves carrying at least 5 different kinds of pomegranate molasses/concentrate, they also proceeded to show me pomegranate juice and fresh pomegranates. I sampled their freshly made flatbread (only $1.59! Freshly made in-house, you can watch them make it!) and it was delicious. I also picked up some baklava with a walnut filling, but found it too sweet for my liking.

**update July 31: Without looking for it, I found pomegranate molasses at the No Frills on Victoria Park, next to the orange blossom and rose water (on sale this week, to boot!). It was next to the bulgur and wheat berries.

You see, I went on a mission to pomegranate molasses because I really wanted to make muhammara, a Syrian/Turkish roasted red pepper and walnut dip. Many versions of Muhammara exist, with some recipes having tomato paste, others do not, some do not use pomegranate molasses, and some don’t even have roasted red peppers. I ended up adapting the Muhammara recipe from Gourmet (December 1993).


And the dip was delicious. I had everyone curious as to its components as it was quite complex in flavours. Slightly sweet from the red peppers, slightly sour from the pomegranate molasses, slightly spicy from the garlic and chili pepper (use more if you want real heat), add some bulk from the bread crumbs with a smoothness from the walnuts.  I brought it, along with my peanut butter hummus, and chopped flatbread to dip, to a work potluck and it was enjoyed by all. Funnily enough, the hummus disappeared faster, but the muhammara received more compliments.  Doesn’t matter – both were delicious.

Now that I’ve used 2 tsp from my bottle of pomegranate molasses, what to do next? No worries, I have amassed a few more recipes in my treasure troves of recipes to try:

Vegetarian Eggplant Moussaka from Esurientes
Fouliyeh (Fava beans and rice)
from Taste of Beirut
Eggplant Stuffed with Cheese and Nuts
from Taste of Beirut
Pasta with Muhammara Sauce
from Taste of Beirut
Stuffed Cabbage (Mehshi Malfoof)
from Taste of Beirut
Bulgur Salad with Pomegranate Dressing and Toasted Nuts
from The Wednesday Chef
Bulgur, Pomegranate and Walnut Salad
at Food & Wine
Spoon Lamb
from the New York Times
Pomegranate and Date Lamb Tagine by Closet Cooking
Pomegranate and Pistachio Couscous Salad by Closet Cooking
Roasted Eggplant, Red Pepper and Green Bean Pomegranate Salad by Closet Cooking
Pomegranate Molasses and Pistachio Cookies by Avocado & Bravado

This is my submission to Sara for this month’s Monthly Mingle featuring party treats, and to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Mondays.

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