Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cena turca: salsine e 'ravioletti'!

Nicola lent me an amazingly pretty Turkish cookbook, and so last week I decided to prepare an all-Turkish dinner. Most of the things that really inspired me were the appetizers: in Turkey there are a lot of interesting so-called 'Meze', which include dips, finger food, and nice little dishes to start the dinner with. If you make enough of them (like I did....), they seem to provide by themselves a wonderful dinner. I loved the dips in particular: so easy to prepare, different in taste, and delicious!
I'll show here a few of them, starting with this delicious walnut and pomegranate dip, which will also be my entry to the 'A fruit a month' event, based on pomegranate!

Salsina di melograno e noci / Pomegranate and walnut dip/Muhammara

'Muhammara' is Arabic in origin, and can be also made with lemon juice instead of pomegranate juice. This recipe and the following ones come from the wonderful book 'The complete book of Turkish cooking', by Ghillie Basan, which I strongly recommend to anyone interested in learning about this great cuisine.

To make this dip, you can either use a mortar and pestle or, if you're lazy like me, a blender. :) Pound/blend roughly one cup of walnuts, 1 garlic clove, and 1 tsp cumin seeds, roasted. Add ~1 slice day old bread, soaked in water, and 2 tsp tomato paste. Add also 1-2 tsp sugar, 1-2 fresh chillies or 1 tsp chili powder and 2 tbsp pomegranate syrup. Instead of buying some premade syrup, I blended one whole pomegranate and added it to the dip.. So my dip looks quite different from the picture in the book, as it is less liquid. Finally, add ~1/2 cup olive oil (I added much less than that), and serve with a decoration of parsley leaves and warm pita bread! I made this dip twice (both times using the whole pomegranate, as I thought it made it really good). The second time I didn't add any hot spices, and it was still delicious!
So this dip goes to Sra at 'When my soup came alive' for the 'A fruit a month' event that she's hosting, themed on pomegranate.. great choice, Sra!

The second dip I'm presenting is based on cheese and yogurt.
Salsina di formaggio e yogurt / Cheese and yogurt dip/Pasa Ezmesi
This is even easier than the other dip: just mash a ~9 oz piece of feta cheese or 'Beyaz peynir' (I couldn't find the latter, unfortunately), add ~1-2 tbsp yogurt (I actually added more, as I thought it was too solid otherwise), 1-2 tsp hot paprika, 1 small bunch parseley leaves, finely cut, and salt to taste. Serve with hot pita bread and lemon wedges, to sprinkle on every bite.. Again, this dip was so good that I already made it twice, once hot and once not, with great results in both cases. Not sure why I decorated it with mint instead of parsley.. :)

I prepared a few more delicious dips, but I have no pretty pictures of those. So, instead, I'm going to describe the last meze we had: Manti! I was very excited at the idea of making manti since I first read about it on the blog 'I love Turkish Food'. Recently, also my friend Elif posted about them. I thought of them as a sort of 'ravioli' Turkish style, but after I really looked up the recipe, I found out about a fundamental difference: Mantis are baked! Ravioli are boiled. Also, the dough for Mantis is spread a little thicker than ravioli, and the traditional shapes are a little different, although I'm sure there are many possible others. The filling that was recommended in the book is not a very traditional one (I was told by Elif), but we all thought it was delicious - and it's vegetarian!

Manti ai ceci / Chickpea parcels
To make the dough, mix 4 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 egg yolk and 1 whole egg. Add as much water as you need in order to obtain an elastic dough. Knead for ~10 min, and then let it rest for ~ 1 h. Prepare the filling: you'll need to have ~14 oz pre-boiled (better than canned!) chickpeas. Mash them (I had to add water for this), and add 1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed, and 1 tsp red pepper or paprika, and salt to taste. For the sauce, saute one onion and 2 garlic cloves in 1 tbsp olive oil + 1 tbsp butter. Add 1 red chilli, finely cut, 1-2 tsp sugar, and 1-2 tsp dried mint (I added fresh mint instead). Then, stir in 14 oz canned chopped tomatoes, and cook until thick. Adjust with salt and remove from heat. For the yogurt sauce, you'll have to mix ~6 tbsp thick yogurt with 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed.
By the time you're done with all this, one hour should have passed, and you can start making the manti: roll down the dough till very thin (we used a rolling pin), and cut it into small 1" squares. Spoon a little of the chickpea filling, and close the edges forming a litter pyramid:
Place the mantis in a buttered oven pan, and bake at 400 F for ~15-20 minutes, till golden. Then, add vegetable stock to it. For this dose of mantis, you should add a total of ~2 1/2 cups stock, so divide it depending on how many pans you made. Cook for another 15-20 minutes, till almost all the broth is adsorbed. Then, serve with yogurt, tomato sauce, and chopped parsley on top.

These mantis are addictive! Elif told me that the dough was right, and also the slightly crunchy consistency of the manti. She never tried the chickpea filling and she really liked it too! So, I was very pleased at this success. To give credit to the right people, I only prepared the sauces and the filling for this - Lucas, Vardha, Filipe and Vlasta did all the rest of the job while I was finishing to prepare the dinner!!! Great job guys!


sra said...

Hi! It looks brilliant. And an unusual combo. I once made a walnut-and-peas chutney, can't say I liked the taste very much. I never tried it again.
Did you skin the walnuts? I'm wondering if the skin gets in the way of the taste.

Finla said...

The pomegranate and walnut dip looks so good, and the color is so beautiful.
Few days ago i had send you a mail for your orange event. Hope you got them.

chemcookit said...

Hey Sra! Thanks, I'm glad you like it - I didn't skin the walnuts, and I thought it was good. Maybe you can try both ways.. :)

Happy Cook - Thanks! As for the email.. no, I didn't get it! This is really weird, lots of people are having troubles. Not sure why - if I send an email to chemcookit from another email address I have, I get it.. Could you please try again, and/or send me the link in a comment? Thanks and thanks for checking, too.

Katie Zeller said...

It all looks fantastic! I love the way the Manti sounds...time to expand my culinary repertoire!
Now to see if I have anything 'Turkish' in my cookbooks.

Namratha said...

Lovely dips Marta, esp the pomegranate and walnut one..very interesting. Those bundles look gr8 too!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

An original combination! Very colorful and delicious!



Simona Carini said...

Thanks for the recipes, Marta. Those chickpea parcels look adorable.

Nora B. said...

It all looks so good! I am expecially intrigued by the mantis. It's wonderful to discover new foods.

have a nice weekend,

Kalai said...

The color is amazing!! Btw, did you get my email about my fresh produce of the month entry?

chemcookit said...

Simona - thanks!

Nora - I agree, it's wonderful to find about new foods. :) Thanks!

Kalai - thanks. I didn't see your email either! I wonder what's going on. But I went on your blog and found your entry.. thanks a lot for participating!