Category Archives: Middle Eastern Cuisine

Zucchini Fritters for Meatless Monday

I LOVE zucchini fritters, called “mucver”  in Turkish. They are just a delightful meal, side dish or tea snack. Delicious. Beautiful green zucchini, a few green onions, a little white or yellow onion, dill, eggs, feta cheese, pepper, a few spoonfuls of flour and you are good to go. The recipe I adapted from Ozlem’s Turkish Kitchen is here:

I changed a couple of things. While fresh dill would definitely be ideal, I used dried because I didn’t have fresh and didn’t feel like going to the store. I also used generous heaping tablespoons of flour. I think it is best to taste one fritter before adding salt. The feta may be sufficiently salty that you don’t need to add more. Finally, and this is really important, is that yes, you need to drain the grated zucchini. But after draining the zucchini, dump the drained squash onto a clean kitchen towel. Bring the ends of the towel together. Holding over the sink, twist the towel so that it wrings out more of the zucchini juice. It makes a big difference in how well the fritters hold together. I also think it makes them less greasy since the mixture holds together better, forms a crust and then you have a nice crisp exterior with creamy savory inside. As for all frying, use vegetable oil that you get hot enough so that the fritters cook properly. If the oil is hot enough, but not too hot, you will actually use less oil than if the temperature is too low. And, take my advice here. I tend to multi-task when I cook. Do NOT multitask when you fry. Just stop the other jobs and focus on frying. It will not take much longer and you will have much better results.



One of the best and easiest chicken dishes ever!!!!

I wish I had encountered this recipe years ago. It would have saved me and my family from some boring, blah, tedious (you get the picture) chicken dinners. OMG this is so good. Thank you, thank you, thank you Sam Sifton!!! And the NY Times! Head over there or just click this link for the details:

Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma Recipe – NYT Cooking

I want to share that I made a couple of changes, based on what I had on hand. I used chicken breasts. As one of the commenters recommended, I reduced the roasting time to about 30-35 minutes, removed it from the oven, and let it rest.  After about 10 minutes I sliced the chicken, drizzled a little oil over the top and then broiled it for 2-3 minutes. I didn’t want to fry the meat although I am sure that is tasty. I had guests and wanted to keep the process a little simpler, plus I would use less oil that way. One of our guests was an internationally known cholesterol research scientist, so I try to be on reasonably good behavior. ! Anyway, this is a delicious recipe and very very easy. Make sure you marinate the meat for a few hours. The leftovers are also awesome, so make plenty and you will be set for a few days.

Adaptation of Amanda Hesser’s Spicy Orange Salad

No wonder this recipe appealed to me- it seems that my taste buds may be similar to Amanda Hesser’s. I looked for orange salads, but something with a bit of pizzazz. Amanda’s recipe is on the NYT cooking blog website.

It is also the fact of this time of year and all of the political unrest all over the world. I am so unsettled and the grayness and cold, although the sun is making kind of a feeble attempt to show her face today. So, we are having friends over tonight for a Turkish meat and bean stew, some pilav, some dessert, crusty bread, etc. and we needed an interesting salad.

My husband will probably protest the sweetness of the oranges being in the salad. ( Did you know that sweetness is only for dessert?) No, I didn’t either. But the combination of flavors in this salad, as Amanda Hesser of Food52 created it, is delightful, interesting, and delicious. I’m going to add in some spinach, some toasted pinenuts, and if I had a pomegranate, I would add in some of those beautiful red jewels. I know there is a special name, arils, but I like red jewels better. If I had some parmesan I might consider adding a few shavings. But regardless, you need to try Amanda’s recipe. Add the spinach or baby kale if you want more greens. Jazz it up however you want. Or not. I never would have put oranges and olives together, but they are made for each other.

Do yourself a favor. Go to the recipe on the NYT page. Also, check out Amanda’s blog ( and consider following her.

Kisir-A Light, healthy lunch

Kisir is essentially tabbouli with extra pizazz. I like to make a batch and then we eat it for lunch or supper during the hot summer days. It keeps in the fridge for a few days and the flavors meld together beautifully. Here is how to make it:


  • 2 c. fine grain bulgur
  • 2 3/4 c. (or more) very hot water
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 1 T. pepper paste (available at Middle Eastern markets)
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 ripe tomato, finely chopped
  • 1-2 fresh hot peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 T. dried mint or 1/2 bunch fresh mint, chopped
  • 1-2 T. Pomegranate molasses (available at Middle Eastern markets)
  • lemon juice to taste- at least 4 T.
  • 1/4 c. fruity olive oil
  • 1 T. sumac, optional
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 t. cayenne pepper or 1 T. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • optional: toasted walnuts, 1 chopped onion sauteed in olive oil, chopped cucumber

Place the bulgur in a bowl with room enough for the hot water. Add the minimal amount of water first, along with the tomato paste and pepper paste (if using). Stir well and let rest for 20-30 minutes or until the water is completely absorbed. If the water is gone in 10 minutes, add more hot water. After 20-30 minutes all the water should be absorbed. If you add too much water, you will need to drain it off or add a spoonful or more bulgur.

While bulgur is soaking, chop the parsley, fresh mint, tomato, peppers, and green onions and place in serving bowl. MIx together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, cayenne pepper or hot pepper flakes, allspice, cumin and sumac. Pour over the mix. Stir in the soaked bulgur and mix well. Can serve immediately or refrigerate for a few hours. Serve by itself or with romaine lettuce leaves to make kisir-romaine wraps.

8-10 servings

Adapted from Turkish Family Favorites by Helen Akinc.

Turkish Family Favorites

Turkish Family Favorites is the name of my newest book. It is a cookbook, a compilation of family recipes from Turkey, adapted for the Western kitchen. Some of the recipes are familiar to people who like Middle Eastern food. Others are very regional, even in Turkey, so they may not be as familiar. The project began as an attempt to get all the recipes I used into one place so that my kids would have them. As I continued, I realized that our friends and others were interested as well.  Once started, the project grew larger and larger until I had to scale it back again. If you want to buy it, it can be purchased from CreateSpace or

Follow this link for CreateSpace:

Rose Water: a flavoring used in Turkish cooking

Rose water, a flavoring made from unsprayed rose petals, is used in some Turkish desserts, especially asure, a cold, sweet, non-dairy pudding traditionally served on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The pudding is made from a wide assortment of rehydrated dried fruits, mixed with nuts, pomegranate seeds, chickpeas, rehydrated grains, and water and flavored with rose water. It is also used to flavor some varieties of lokum, the traditional Turkish gelled candy, cut in squares and dusted with powdered sugar or coconut. Rose water has a light distinctive flavor, which is often refreshing but also a bit surprising, especially to those unfamiliar with the taste.

Using Sumac

Sumac is a spice I’ve used for many years, but recently have become quite a fan. Sumac is a tart, purply red spice that adds tartness, much like lemon, and a beautiful color to food. It is made from the fruit of some types of the sumac plant, but I do not know which species so please don’t experiment on your own. It can be purchased online from a number of spice merchants and from many Middle Eastern markets.

Most recently, I tried a recipe using sumac in the mix for making kofte. It was terrific. It is also one of the key ingredients in making zaarter, a wonderful spice blend. I used that to make a marinade for grilled chicken thighs. There are several recipes online for that. There are also a number of recipes for zaarter online. The simplest calls for sumac, oregano (or thyme), salt and sesame seeds.

Sumac is indispensible in many Middle Eastern salads. A very simple salad consists of slicing an onion very thinly, sprinkling it with salt, letting it rest at least 15 minutes, then squeezing the onions well with your hands and rinsing off. Add to that finely chopped parsley and sumac and you have a delightful accompaniment to kofte or fish.