Istanbul & Beyond Champions Uncharted Turkish Delights

Stunning, slice-of-Turkish-life photos by David Hagerman and recipes from remote regions of Turkey, are the focus of Robyn Eckhardt’s latest cookbook, Istanbul & Beyond. The two spent 18 months digging deep into “one of the most gastronomically complex countries anywhere”, as Robyn so eloquently states it. The diverse terrains combined with interactions with neighboring countries has produced a richness that can only evolve through centuries of experimentation with local ingredients.

The breath of the book is expansive and no single recipe defines the cuisine. We found it best to follow our whims through the dense contents. The purple basil cooler is a great place to start with its anise back-notes and cool, sweet refreshment. Robyn tips us off to the fact that alcohol enhancement produces a wonderful cocktail.

Turkish red pepper paste and flakes can be found piled high at almost every market in Turkey.  The liberal use of this important element of Turkish cooking requires chefs to decide on a preferred flavor profile from deep and smokey to fruity spicy and every combination in between. Red pepper flakes elevate the Spicy Egg Salad on page 260 to a dish that complements every meal or snack served throughout the day.

Do not miss Robyn’s green olive salad with pomegranate molasses, a pomegranate reduction, which can be found in middle eastern stores. The recipe is from Hatay in southeastern Turkey, which was just honored by UNESCO for its exceptional cuisine, and after tasting this salad we know why.

Frangrant Orange Cookies from page 75 are just that, and so addicting we are actually afraid to make a batch for fear of not being able to stop at just a few.

Istanbul and Beyond delightfully champions hidden treasure dishes that have made Gaziantep and Antakya cities of noteworthy gastronomy according to the United Nations Creative Cities Network. You are unlikely to find these gems in your local Turkish restaurants. So thank you Robyn for sharing these recipes that we hope to have the good fortune of tasting in Turkey, but until then we’re covered.

Easy Mexican Cuisine with Help from La Tortilla Factory

 

Looking to simplify your Mexican meals at home? The woman to turn to is Jenny Tamayo. As a 3rd generation proprietor and marketing specialist, Jenny is promoting her family’s traditions and recipes for La Tortilla Factory, which was started by her grandparents in 1977.

The reason La Tortilla Factory has remained relevant for decades, is first and foremost their loyal dedication to traditional Mexican flavors. They also keep current with contemporary twists such as hatch chili tortillas and by offering products that align with healthy lifestyle choices. La Tortilla Factory tortillas are thicker, stronger and hold up to a variety of applications without breaking. Try these plump tortillas in dishes such as, Hatch Enchladas Suizas. The recipe below was designed by Chef Marco Zapien of Zapien’s Salsa Grill, voted best Mexican Restaurant on LA’s Hot List for 9 consecutive years. Go Chef Marco!

Hatch Enchiladas Suizas by Chef Marco Zapien of Zapien’s Salsa Grill

2 lbs. Grilled chicken breast diced
2 TB Olive Oil
½ lb. tomatillos
1 clove chopped garlic
½ Diced Yellow Onion
½ each Green Bell pepper
½ bunch cilantro
3 Diced roasted hot hatch chiles
2 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper to Taste
6 – La Tortilla Factory yellow corn and wheat tortillas
6 – La Tortilla Factory original flour Tortillas
6 – La Tortilla Factory smokey chipotle chile tortillas
2 cups shredded jack cheese
1 cup salad oil

Directions:
In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and sauté the tomatillos, garlic, onion, bell pepper, cilantro, and hatch chilies.
Add the chicken broth and cook until vegetables are tender.
In a blender, blend the vegetables until smooth. Return the sauce to the saucepot and bring to a simmer.
Add heavy cream and allow to reduce for 5 minutes
Finish with sour cream and season with salt and pepper.
Heat the salad oil in a sauté pan. Soak the tortillas to soften.
Fill the tortillas with diced chicken and roll.
In a baking dish place the rolled enchiladas. Top with Sauce and cheese. Place in 350 degree oven and heat for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and serve.

Yield – 4 cups

You can also stuff the soft, warmed tortillas with your favorite fillings and a protein or vegetable made in one of La Tortillas super easy Sauce Starters available at Ralph’s, Gelson’s, Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons. These easy-to-prepare sauces and marinades take all the guess work out of conjuring traditional Mexican elements.

La Tortilla Factory also originated a line of crisps, which are a high intensity alternative to tortilla chips. Available in a a variety of flavors, be sure not to miss the churro crisp which adds a new dimension of joy to ending a meal.

The savory La Tortilla Crisps pair exceptionally well with Melissa’s Hatch Salsa, which is available through Amazon.

A Mexican meal is incomplete without a refreshing beverage. Dragon Fruit Agua Fresca adds an exciting new spin on the concept with its stunning blend of tangy citrus and sweet dragon fruit flesh. The recipe, designed by Chef Savannah Munoz of Melissa’s Produce  is super simple.

Dragon Fruit Mocktail

4 Melissa’s Dragon Fruit, peeled; rough chopped
2 cups of Your Favorite Lemonade
2 1/2 quarts of Your Favorite Lemonade
1 cup Fresh Mint Leaves

Place the dragon fruit and 2 cups of lemonade in a blender and purée. Transfer the mix to a 4 liter pitcher and add the 2 1/2 quarts of lemonade.

Bruise the mint leaves with the back of a knife or mortar and pestal, then add to the pitcher. Stir well and refrigerate overnight.

Strain out the mint leaves and stir. Serve over ice and garnish with fresh mint leaves. Makes 4 liters.

For a memorable finale, heat a can of dulce de leche (a caramel flavored dessert sauce available in most Latin markets or at Smart & Final) in a sauce pan, stir in fresh raspberries, let cool and serve as a smashingly unique fruit dip.

Thanks to Melissa’s Produce, Melissa’s staff and chefs, La Tortilla Factory and Chef Marco Zapien for the delicious recipes provided.

 

Easy Fresh Bowls of Plenty

Meals in a bowl are all the rage.  It’s the new fast food model dedicated to filling a vessel with guests choice of their favorite ingredients for a personalized, satisfying mix that can be as healthy as one sees fit. Here in LA, it seems there’s a new poke bowl or ethnic bowl establishment on every corner. That makes Carolynn Carreno’s latest book, Bowls of Plenty right on point.  And if you’re a fan of this strongly established eating style, you can cut out the middle man and take charge right in your own kitchen.

Carolynn is a James Beard Award winning food writer and co-author of over a dozen acclaimed cookbooks. And now she has pulled together a collection of grain bowls that are completely customizable to suit ones taste, while being just as delightful straight from the undeviated page.

Chapters start with Equipment, Tools and Gadgets and evolve into an undeniably thorough exploration of grains, giving home cooks the basic information necessary to proceed with complete confidence. Starting with Breakfast Bowls, Carolynn delves into unique offerings such as Japanese breakfast or Pastrami and Rye Berry Hash, always showcasing as much diversity possible. What follows are salad bowls, main bowls and finally, yes, even dessert bowls,

We were treated to a buffet which allowed each diner to carefully choose their ingredients and we have to say we found it such a fun, with lots of suitable options for everyone. For those who don’t feel inclined to clean that many dishes, its absolutely acceptable to serve the bowls already assembled.

The key of course is fresh, quality ingredients prepared with care and love. And Ms. Carreno provides encouraging advice with that as well.

Bowls of Plenty is the book for bowl lovers and anyone who wants to simplify meal preparation.  Click through the red link above to go straight to Amazon. Bowl Appetite.

Jet Tila Kills It With 101 Asian Dishes You Need To Cook Before You Die

We have definitely been to our share of cookbook releases and have to say, as far as creative, fun, talented chefs and teachers go, Jet Tila shines brightly at the top of our favorites list. His straight forward, easy going, down to earth generosity is not only engaging, it’s infectious. Jet makes us want to be not only better cooks, but better people. Needless to say, the time flew by as he demoed some dishes from his newly released, first book, 101 Asian Dishes You Need To Cook Before You Die.

Jet is a passionate artisan lit up by studying and cooking the authentic classics that have profoundly defined Asian cuisine. 101 Asian Dishes simplifies the culmination of his deep exploration into the origins of these gems and the spark that makes each cuisine so deliciously seductive to people all over the planet.

Vibrant photography and one page recipes are all Tila needs to explain Kung Pao Shrimp, Szechuan-style green beans or Mongolian beef. And that is the spot on amount of instruction we need to feel “in control” of a new recipe.

He also goes off on some creative tangents in surprises such as Cinnamon and Five-Spice Easy Donuts, where he again simplifies while crafting a mouthwatering dessert. Yet another win win for our hunger to learn and grow in the kitchen.

Already a fan of Jet Tila?  Interested in exploring the best of Asian cuisine from an innovative master? 101 Asian Dishes You Need To Cook Before You Die is the consummate guide for your culinary arsenal.

Julie Taboulie Celebrates the Lebanese Kitchen

In her new book, Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen, Julie honors her mother, tells family stories and showcases her love of the cuisine. Her highest hope is that fans will embrace Lebanese food with the same passion she does. The host of Cooking with Julie Taboulie makes that exceptionally easy to do with 295 pages of straightforward recipes, enticing food photography, highlighted staples and a resources section designed to guide readers to speciality ingredients.

Her namesake dish can be made traditionally or loaded up with quinoa. Both versions result in a refreshing salad that is a must have for every occasion.

The Makbouseh is a summer squash stew that celebrates the bounty of the season. It can be eaten hot or cold and pairs well with homemade pasta called Macaroune b Toum (a hand rolled pasta in garlic sauce), found in the side dish section of the book. Yum.

We adore the mezza pages which showcases our favorite middle eastern small plates including a variety of flavored hummus, baba ghanouj and mouhamarah. The stuffed grape leaves, from the main meals section, can be tailored to accommodate vegetarians or omnivores whether served as a starter or main course.

And no Lebanese meal feels complete to us without a hot beverage and sweets.  For those wishing to indulge, it doesn’t get much better than diving into Maamoul, semolina cookies with a variety of fillings, between sips of Arabic coffee or spiced tea.

For those looking to further explore the Lebanese table, Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen is a capitavting addition to the Middle Eastern section of your cooking library.

Deborah Madison Shares From Her Own Cozy Kitchen


When searching for answers to life’s questions we like to defer to the masters, and Deborah Madison certainly falls into that category. She was cooking from an enlightened perspective long before it was fashionable or even acceptable in many circles. From the San Francisco Zen Center to Chez Panisse, Madison has taken every opportunity to engage in the deepest examination of vegetarian cuisine.  And now a lifetime of expertise has been condensed into her latest book, In My Kitchen, a collection of favorite vegetarian recipes she serves at home.

We must start by highlighting the mouthwatering Romanesco sauce inspired by a trip to Spain. This deep, complex, sunny blend is oh so satisfying. We added a big dollop to soup, but honestly we want to slather this winner on everything in the kitchen including the roasted cauliflower recipe she pairs it with in the book.

A crisp, sweet, spicy citrus and avocado salad with lime-cumin vinaigrette atop shredded greens is the definition of invigoration and the ideal accompaniment to heavier dishes of beans or animal protein. Deborah is not interested in pushing lifestyle choices down anyones throat and is thrilled that in this day and age one can choose to be vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or omnivore on any night of the week it calls to them.

That is not to say that vegetarian and vegan dishes can’t be supremely satisfying.  Their hardiness is clearly demonstrated in her potato and chickpea stew with sautéed spinach. It’s a memorable bowl sure to warm the hearts of all who dive in.

Deborah’s rubarb-rasberry compote couldn’t be easier and the tangy, tart, mildly sweet flavor is a winner served with cookies, over ice cream or as a side dish, transforming any weeknight dinner into a special occasion. It is beyond scrumptious and all we had to do was throw a few easy ingredients together, 3 to be exact. We made a triple batch and enjoyed it for a full week before finally scraping the bowl clean.

Worried Deborah’s healthy style will deny you sweet treats? No need, her walnut nugget cookies pair surprisingly well with the rhubarb and raspberry compote.

While encouraging readers to nourish themselves in the fashion that best suits their mood, Deborah makes the process surprisingly easy and we greatly appreciate that. Those ready to dive into a healthy dose of mother natures best would be wise to pick up Deborah Madison’s, In My Kitchen and transform their cooking with instruction straight from the cozy kitchen of one of the shining stars of the culinary world. Bon Appetit.

 

Joan Nathan Sets King Solomon’s Table Beautifully

The award-winning “Queen of American Jewish Cooking”, Joan Nathan, has pulled together recipes from countries near and far in her latest book, King Solomon’s Table. This compilation celebrates the vast reach of both Joan and the Jewish people. Pages overflowing with explorations of culinary highlights from around the world, personal stories, historic insights, biblical references and health and wellness mentions, make this book a captivating read.

You can expect a delightful journey through Joan’s travels, insights, wealth of knowledge and recipes that guide readers to the heart of Jewish cooking. Local ingredients and produce from far flung corners of the globe add new twists and honor the core essence of these ancestral dishes. The book spans the spectrum from light and refreshing summer pleasures such as Herbert Samuel’s Tomato salad, to hardier dishes including Salyanka, a beef and vegetable stew from the country of Georgia.

Vegetarians, Vegans and Omnivores will all be nourished by the handsome photos, clear direction and comforting properties of recipes including Quinoa Salad with Squash, Feta and Pecans.

Don’t miss one of Joan’s favorites, Harira, a spiced Moroccan vegetable soup made with chick peas, cilantro and lemon that warms the body and soul.

There are treats in the book as well and we couldn’t stop eating the Pizza Ebraica, which is not pizza at all, but a fabulous Italian dessert made with nuts, dried fruit and wine.  These little slices of heaven will be gone in a flash when served at any happy gathering, which is its tradition.

King Solomon’s Table extols the virtues, blessings and warm embrace that Jewish food has always brought to the table. And Joan’s incorporation of a wide array of cultural influences, entices indulgence into the historic traditions and cuisine of the chosen people. To meet up with Joan, check out her book tour schedule and discover when she will be signing books at an event near you.

 

The Perfect Blend Is Just That

Tess Masters, also known as The Blender Girl, always delivers an engaging wealth of information on eating healthy.  So it’s no surprise that her new book, The Perfect Blend, keeps up the tradition with one hundred blender recipes designed to energize and revitalize.

One of our favorite dishes from her stunning, image-rich book is, Gentle Lentils. This sensational soup is impossible to put down. The addicting qualities radiating from the bowl are due in part to the incorporation of her Basil-Is-The-Bomb sauce, which helps forward this transcendent pairing. Try this soup!

Tess puts a new spin on everything. The book is broken into chapters titled for what they can do for you instead of a more traditional organization. You can look up instruction that will help promote detox, energy, immunity, weight loss, probiotic formation, and so on. We love knowing how our meals are benefiting us. Bravo Tess.

Raw Broccoli Brilliance, transforms raw broccoli florets into a panoply of textures that complement the bright, tangy, sweet and spicy flavors of her dressing. You’ll find this one in the protein chapter. Be sure to check out the chart on page 2 of the introduction to discover which categories ingredients fall under. Produce, spices, herbs, seeds and nuts all play into a number of benefits and readers are introduced to a basic understanding of how each supports stellar health.

Cauliflower rice is a base which can be doused with a vegetable rich melange, featuring sweet potatoes, Swiss chard and roasted almond butter in Sustenance Stew. Supremely satisfying.

Tess believes that the blender is the greatest tool we have for making delicious, beautiful, healthy, fast food. This book enables home chefs at every level of expertise to easily incorporate plant power and body revitalization into everyday meals. Look for lots of unique produce like Melissa’s fresh coconut water, where the sweet, natural nectar runs circles around bottled alternatives.

There are also treats, from Classic Cheesecake to Chocolate Mint Mania, lest you think eating healthy is out of alignment with a sweet tooth. The two come together beautifully.

The Perfect Blend, dishes out practical step by step guidance and health benefits of blending, combining and cooking hero foods. Be prepared for a focus on eating well and having fun. What’s not to love about that? The Perfect Blend can be purchased on Amazon through the title links in red. It is definitely time to dust off the blender and enjoy mother nature’s delicious bounty.

 

Turkish is an Inspired Addition to Westwood’s Eclectic Culinary Mix

Our exhilarating explorations through Istanbul, GaziantepUrfa and Cappadocia in Turkey last year, left us hungry for the UNESCO honored cuisine we sampled there.  Special thanks are in order to culinary connoisseurs, Faye and Yakir Levywho introduced us to The Kitchen @ Westwood.

This quaint, centrally located, gem of a restaurant, offers dishes we thought we could only indulge in after a 13 hour flight.  For starters they display samples of the quintessential Turkish snack and breakfast specialty,  borek. These flakey pastries, either baked or fried, savory or sweet, are filled with a wide variety of tempting ingredients from meat to cheese, potato to spinach and feta. But alas these tasty wonders are just the beginning of an array of inspired Turkish delicacies.

A sampling of The Kitchen’s dips proved to be a great choice.  We savored the smoothest, creamiest hummus from a secret recipe (all we know is that tahini is involved) that is worth its weight in gold. The smokey eggplant dip is about as habit-forming as they come and the refreshing yogurt with cucumber revitalizes the palate when eaten with or between any items on the menu.

The Fusion Salad is a reminder that although Turkish ingredients are used, this restaurant is firmly planted in Los Angeles, where our quest for the best tasting and healthiest salads mimics what the Turks have known all along; healthy food can be delicious. This combination of dark leafy power greens, broccoli, quinoa, strawberry, apple, sliced almonds and a pomegranate vinaigrette are the pinnacle of cuisine combining. We could eat this riot of health and wellness on a plate every day and strongly recommend doing just that.

Pide, is often referred to as Turkish pizza because of its obvious resemblance to the world famous pie. At the kitchen we found a delightful version topped with cheese, egg and Turkish sausage that rivals pide in Istanbul. A meal in themselves, one can also share a variety of uniquely topped pide as an appetizer when dining with a large group.

Turkish doner is recognized locally as shawarma and prepared traditionally on a rotating vertical spit. The dark meat and skin elevated by Turkish spices, keep the chicken well marinated and succulent.

Shaved hot off their towers, the doner is presented in numerous ways, from stuffed inside sandwiches to plates piled high. The luscious, moist, mildly spiced meats showcase the high quality ingredients and skill that go into the preparations.

The beef doner is topped with crispy lamb skin and fat, keeping it super tender.

Kebabs of chicken, beef or salmon are also charred to perfection, plump chunks, complemented by grilled vegetables and rice or layered into sandwiches with customers choice of pita or French bread. Try not to miss the in-house baked focaccia which exemplifies the culinary diversity and expertise of the talented chefs.

Another Turkish, under-the-radar dish is manti, which are beef stuffed ravioli smothered in yogurt and paprika sauce. This pasta plate is a warm and comforting tradition enjoyed throughout Turkey.

Iskender Kebab starts with beef doner that is lovingly placed on top of cubed bread and then doused in a rich tomato sauce. It is served with yogurt, pickles and pita bread.

Turkish tea is a staple at breakfast and throughout the day. We consumed more cups in Turkey than anywhere else we have traveled. So our meal was not complete without many glasses that we enhanced with just a touch of sugar.

However the sugar may not be necessary if you choose the flakey, buttery, pistachio laden baklava that is the pride of Gaziantep. The Kitchen’s version is on point and a scrumptious interpretation we would happily indulge in with our Turkish tea for an afternoon snack, dessert or anytime we need a well balanced sweet.

As one of the few Turkish restaurants in Los Angeles offering stunning renditions of Turkish favorites, we encourage visiting The Kitchen @ Westwood for a chance to savor this specialty, hard-to-find cuisine right here in our own UCLA centric neighborhood.

Sara Moulton Makes Life Easy

Sara Moulton is sharing her best tips, techniques and secrets with the goal of making all of us better home cooks through guidance from her latest book, Home Cooking 101.  The TV Chef superstar incorporates step by step instruction and photos, giving readers a visual manual that instils confidence and promotes efficiency.  Fans can easily follow along and craft dishes that make dining at home a pleasure.

She decodes the mysteries of the culinary arts that prevent many of us from achieving success. Pointers in the details, various preparations, flavor pairing, timing, equipment and how to stock a pantry make the magic accessible.

Interested in traditional dishes like fancy stuffed eggs? Sara lays out uncomplicated and enticing versions with advice on fashioning stunning presentations of the melt-in-your-mouth standard.

Moulton points out that King’s Hawaiian rolls are the perfect, comforting foil for her Beef Stroganoff Burgers. If your family adores substantial, meaty dinners, try these.  Not to worry if carbs are not your thing, she gives alternatives such as sour cream, dijon mustard and porcini mushrooms which replace the bread and top the burgers beautifully.

Spicy creamed corn is a swoon inducing dish, uniting summer’s freshest (in winter frozen corn can be used) with Serrano chilies for a zesty kick punctuated by fresh lemon or lime. This heavenly combination is a winning side dish that complements everything you serve.

Chef Moulton takes into consideration dietary preferences, with her omnivore focused book giving nods to vegetarians and vegans through blissfully versatile menus.  Dishes such as root vegetable bourguignon highlight the rich umami found in the original beef based dish without a trace of animal derived ingredients.

Something Sweet, the last chapter of the book, simplifies all those gorgeous desserts we thought were too difficult to even attempt. Now we can impress with the best of them.

Robert Schueller, produce expert and director of public relations at Melissa’s Produce let us know that colorful, prepackaged, simplified preparations of fruit and vegetables are what’s trending in 2017.  We think color and easy to use produce are philosophies that are here to stay and in perfect alignment with Moulton’s message of ease and joy in the kitchen.

If simplicity and grace are what you’re looking for, Sara Mouton’s Home Cooking 101, delivers expertly to those of us who lack the training but still embrace the desire to put out stunning meals for friends and family. Thank you Sara.