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Turkish CookingTurkey’s fascinating history and unusual geography created a rich and diverse culinary tradition, explored in Turkish Cooking.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

PEGGY BOURJAILY is a cooking enthusiast and the owner of hundreds of cookbooks.

 

June 2006

Product Reviews / Best Reads / Cooking

Lebanese Cooking and Turkish Cooking

For The Connoisseur & The Health-Conscious

 

Perhaps you’ve eaten at a Turkish or Lebanese restaurant, visited the Middle East or bought hoummus at your local grocery store. If you want a bigger taste, two new publications can give it to you: Turkish Cooking by Dawn, Elaine and Selwa Anthony, and Lebanese Cooking by Tess Mallos. Both cuisines have appeal to connoisseurs as well as to the health-conscious.

We tested recipes from both books and were thoroughly impressed with how easy it is to make an exotic, healthy meal from the Middle East, one of our favorite parts of the food world.

Both books are well written in clean and easily understood language. The introductory pages explain a little about each country’s history and what kinds of ingredients to expect. We tested many of the recipes in both Lebanese Cooking and Turkish Cooking. They were well written and clear, leaving nothing to chance. Turkish and Lebanese cuisine is perfect for entertaining since almost everything can be prepared in advance. Across the board, the required ingredients were easy to obtain and fairly inexpensive. We were pleased to find a great selection of healthy recipes with ingredients like olive oil, nuts, lean meats and vegetables. Lebanese Cooking, in particular, offers several options for vegetarians.

Turkish Cooking explains Turkey’s unique geographic position between Europe and Asia and its history as the seat of the Ottoman Empire—and in fact, we identified strong European undertones in the predominantly Middle Eastern dishes. The dishes and flavors are sensual, full-flavored and worthy of a Sultan. We created a feast of:

  • Cerkez tavugu, or Circassian Chicken, a shredded chicken salad with ground walnut and tahini sauce. It’s usually served as a meze, or hors d’oeuvre, but we also greatly enjoyed eating it later on its own, for lunch.
  • Hunkar begendi, or Sultan’s Delight, basically béchamel sauce with pureed eggplant. It is very creamy and distinct and we absolutely understood how it might delight a sultan.
  • Tas kebapi, a braised lamb stew which was extremely tender and flavorful. You can’t overcook it and it’s perfect to make for guests. Serve over rice pilaf with the Sultan’s Delight (Hunkar begendi) and there won’t be any leftovers.

Lebanese Cooking speaks to its country’s history as the home of hospitality. The Lebanese cook always has several dishes prepared or ready to be quickly assembled for visitors. The dishes are healthy and flavorful and intended to appeal to everyone. While there are many dishes new to us, we couldn’t resist starting with our familiar favorites, which were delicious:

  • Baba Ghannouj, a dip made of slowly roasted eggplant. It is very healthy and perfect to have on hand for unexpected guests or a quick snack.
  • Fattoush, a peasant salad consisting of cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs. Refreshing and crunchy, it’s a great alternative to the quotidian lettuce salads we’re so used to.
  • Ma’karoni b’ssaneeyeh, a ground meat and pasta casserole. Though it didn’t sound as exotic as the other dishes, we were more than wowed by the underlying flavors of the mixed spices.
  • B’learwa, the Lebanese term for baklava. Made with walnuts and rose water flavored syrup, it is surprisingly simple to make. Though the pastries last for a few days, we enjoyed them right out of the oven before the syrup fully set.
Turkish Cooking Lebanese Cooking
Turkish Cooking,
by Tess Mallos
Periplus Editions
127 pages
$12.97
Click here to purchase
Lebanese Cooking
by Dawn Anthony, Elaine Anthony, Selwa Anthony
Periplus Editions
128 pages
$12.97
Click here to purchase

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