Turkish Delight (minus the Turkish Delight)

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I was in the throes of creating a Turkish-inspired dinner to help warm me up on yet another cold and rainy night. When I was in graduate school last year, I lived right near Sofra. If you live in the Cambridge area, you probably know what I’m talking about when I say how dangerous it was to live there. (If not, you need to find out!) Sofra is a tiny cafe with odd hours that serves the most delightful Turkish and other Mediterranean food. While I would not say it is overpriced because it is so delicious and fresh, it is certainly not cheap. Thus the danger, when living on student loans and needing to feed myself for a whole week not just one meal.

One of my favorite treats when I occasionally (read: bi-weekly) splurged was the beet tzatziki. I’ve always loved the cool creaminess of tzatziki and, of course, adding beets can only make things better! It never occurred to me to make this myself until last week when I got beets in our first CSA share. I made it last night along with Turkish kofta and sauteed beet and turnip greens. I served the meal with some store-bought naan and, according to my husband, it all ended up on the short list of favorite meals. I started cooking later in the evening and was just finishing up when he got home from his gig (where he’d been playing jazz outdoors), so I’m pretty sure anything warm and filling would’ve made that list, but it was a delightful meal!

How fun is it to have something so incredibly pink on your plate without using any coloring whatsoever?!? Needless to say, our plates were clean very quickly.

For the beet and turnip greens, I had two bunches of beet greens and one bunch of turnip greens in the fridge and wanted to use them up before they wilted. I simply gave them a good rinse and a rough chop. (Side note: I love only washing off dirt, yay fresh produce!) Then I blanched the greens for one minute in boiling water, shocked them in an ice water bath, and quickly sauteed them with a bit of olive oil. You might want to add salt and pepper, but I preferred not to with this dish because all the other elements were so complex.

Because the rest of the meal involved pretty specific recipes, rather than just describe what I did, I’ll finish this post with the recipes for both the beet tzatziki and the Turkish kofta. This will be my typical format when recipes are involved. One final note then down to business, my cousin sent me a link to this blog/recipe today, and you can bet you’ll see my version on here soon! Yum!

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Tonight’s Recipes:

Beet Tzatziki

Adapted from Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, by Ana Sortun (The chef behind Sofra and its parent restaurant, Oleana)

4 beets (I used 3, because that’s what came in my share, but I feel like it definitely could have used one more)

2 cloves garlic, minced finely

4 teaspoons lemon juice

2 cups plain Greek yogurt (full fat, I recommend Fage), strained  –>  for tips on straining Greek yogurt, see the bottom of the recipe. I only strained the Fage for about 5 minutes and it was plenty.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped (I love dill, so I added quite a bit, the original recipe calls for 2 1/2 tablespoons)

Salt and Pepper

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Scrub the beets then simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of cold water. Keeping the beets submerged, the skins should rub off easily by hand.

While the beets are cooking, mix the garlic, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl. Let this mixture sit for about 5 minutes (the lemon juice is “cooking” the garlic at this time).

Once the beets are cooked and peeled, coarsely grate them using a box grater. (This is far easier and quicker than I expected it to be!)

To the garlic and lemon juice mixture, add the strained yogurt and olive oil. Mix until combined and stir in the beets and dill.

Place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will meld, and the pink color will become even more vibrant!

The finished product:

Straining Greek yogurt: (Adapted from this website)

  1. Line a medium-large bowl with a few layers of cheesecloth.
  2. Scoop the yogurt into the center of the cloth.
  3. Bring the four corners of the cloth together and lift the yogurt.
  4. Over the bowl or sink, twist the corners to squeeze out the liquid.
  5. Continue squeezing, putting the yogurt under pressure, to force the liquid out.
  6. Wipe the cheesecloth off with a paper towel and dump it into a bowl for use.

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Turkish Kofta

Adapted from this recipe by Jenny Sanders

1 cup plain whole wheat breadcrumbs

1 lb lean ground beef (I used 80% lean) –> lamb is the traditional meat for this dish, but I don’t care for it

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon dried mint

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 egg

olive oil for cooking

NB: This recipe recommends using a food processor to blend the ingredients for the meatballs. This does create an incredibly even-textured finished product, but it is certainly not necessary. If you don’t have a food processor or don’t want to deal with the raw meat food processor clean-up, go ahead and mix by hand!

In a food processor, combine the meat, breadcrumbs, and egg. Blend until just combined. Add all the spices and blend until it is an even consistency.

Roll the mixture into small balls with water-dampened hands.

Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet (or other heavy skillet). Cook the meatballs in several batches, stirring frequently, until cooked through and evenly browned. I cooked them for about 10 minutes, but I am a compulsive meat over-cooker. The egg and breadcrumbs made it so they were still nice and juicy even after that much cooking.

Eat!! Enjoy!!

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These meatballs are also great at room temperature. I’m in my classroom doing some organizing today and packed quite a delightful lunch:

Until next time, happy eating!

~CM