Fried Mussels with walnut garlic sauce


On most port towns in Turkey, near almost all ferry stations, you can eat fried mussels served with walnut garlic sauce. I used to get this a few times a week as a snack on my way from high school to home, where i used to take the ferry from Karakoy to Kadikoy in Istanbul.  Beer is the quintessential drink that goes well with this bar food.

30-50 Mussels, cleaned
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, separated yolk and white
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
enough beer to create a semi-runny batter

1/2 cup walnuts
1 slice of bread
2/4 cup yogurt
2 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste

To make the batter,  whip the egg white until it forms soft peaks, set aside.  Beat the egg yolk, mix in the flour, beer and salt and baking soda and mix until it forms a semi runny batter, gently fold in the whipped egg whites.

Steam mussels for 5-8 minutes gently in a covered pan and pick the mussels out of its shells and skewer them in 3 inch skewers, 3 on each skewer.  Dredge in the batter and fry them in 350 degree olive oil for 5 minutes until golden brown.

To make the walnut garlic sauce, place all ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth.  sprinkle with red peppers.

Serve fried mussels with the walnut garlic sauce.



Smoked eggplant with pomegranate molasses



For this and many other recipes where I use the flesh of the eggplant, I use Filipino or Chinese eggplant.  These eggplants usually have very little seeds and have a much sweeter taste.  If you can’t find these and use other types of eggplant (the large ones commonly found in markets), choose from the so-called male eggplants, those where the  end of the eggplant is pointy, and do not have a double tip.  These “male” eggplants – in reality fruits don’t have gender, but they somehow named these this way, have much fewer seeds.


2-3 medium sized eggplants
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp olive oil

Skewer the eggplant and grill it on open fire until soft.  Transfer to a dish and cover to sweat for 5 minutes.

Remove skins under cold running water.  Place in a dish and sprinkle with lemon juice.  This whitens the eggplant.

Plate the eggplant in strands; pour the pomegranate molasses and olive oil. Season with coarse sea salt.

Note: If you can’t find pomegranate molasses, you can mix in a cup of pomegranate juice with juice of a lemon and reduce it 1/7 by simmering it low heat.

lambriblets sm

Double cooked Lamb Riblets

lambriblets sm


Lamb riblets are the section of the ribs from the back part of the ribs, with equal parts of meat and tasty lamb fat.  When grilled, the meat close to the bone gets tough, therefore, i double cook this.  Start with cutting the riblets into 3 inch sections and marinating in a mixture of salt, oregano, garlic and olive oil for a day.

First cooking method is braising in low heat – 225F for 1 hour in the oven, then rest for an hour until it gets to room temperature.  Then skewer the riblets and grill over low heat on charcoal grill until the lamb fat is crispy and golden on the outside. Slow braising tenderizes the meat on the bones that have a lot of connective tissue, then grilling it on charcoal makes it amazingly tasty with super crispy lamb fat.


How to make a real charcoal fired Gyro / Doner machine at home (DIY)

ok, this is an incredibly odd post but there are certain awesome foods that can only be cooked by specialty machines. Gyro/Doner kebap is one of them. I am not talking about the ground-beef-bread-frozen-mixture-cooked-on-a-griddle-kind you find at your local Greek diner, but the real real thing. In Turkey, the real Doner Kebap is cooked with a charcoal vertical spit roaster and the meat is prepared very elaborately in layers of thinly sliced beef and lamb meat. Before i explain how the meat is prepared, first you need to make the machine, which is not readily available for sale in United States. The design is very simple and effective, and requires you to have some maker skills and a workshop with some simple tools.  All materials are available from local hardware store like Home Depot.

For everyone’s reference, this is my 5th model in 17 years of making this, built first model in 1997 in from spiral heating elements i took out from a heater, second model followed in 1999 made from electric charcoal lighting rods, third model followed with gas powered ceramic heating elements in 2007, with first full charcoal model in 2013 and this final design in 2014.

Materials and Tools required

1) 8″X12″ terra cotta (clay) chimney flue (here is a link that is active as of this posting)


2) U profile aluminum, shelf brackets from ikea (link here)


3) 2 Adjustable grill grates (link here)


4) 6 red clay paver bricks 12″x6″x1″ (link here)


5) Fireplace mortar (link here) that comes in tube form that can be used in a caulk gun

Tools required

1) 4 1/2″ Angle grinder with metal cutting disc and a masonry cutting disc

2) Tap and Die set to open threads on the brackets



1) cut the clay flue as indicated in the picture above using an angle grinder with the masonry cutting disc


2) Cut one of the brackets into 4 pieces and bore holes as indicated in picture below


2) flip the 2 front pieces upside down and attach to the back piece using the bracket pieces, two on the top, two on the bottom as shown in picture below.  Use 1/2 inch #10-32 screws to sink the screw into clay pieces.



3) Cut the adjustable grill grate as shown in picture below


4) Glue the clay pavers to the sides of the flue using fireplace mortar, then place the adjustable grates on top of each paver as shown in picture


5) attach a round cake pan on a pottery banding wheel and bore a hole on top, place a 1/2 inch diameter aluminum or steel rod on top

roundpan amaco_decorating_wheel

6) Final assembly looks like this


Enjoy!  Recipe to follow



P1090979 matlube

Maklube (Upside Down)

This is a dish I tasted last year in Antakya at a restaurant for the first time. I don’t know why my aunt never cooks this dish, i believe it has an Arabic origin than a true Antakya dish. It is a one dish meal, with vegetable, rice and meat all in one. It is slightly flavored with allspice, which blends the tastes very well together.  Make sure the spices are used in a subtle way to balance the delicate taste of eggplant.

P1090979 matlube

2.5 Lbs Eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick lengthwise
2 lbs beef chuck, irregularly sliced between 1/2 in-1 in cubes
1 tomato
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 onion, diced
1 stalk of leek, finely chopped
1 carrot, cut into 3 pieces
1 bay leaf
pinch of oregano
2 1/2 cups medium grain rice (calrose, goya spanish, baldo rice)
1 tsp allspice
2 pieces of cloves
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black pepper
1 tiny pinch cinnamon

Salt the eggplants liberally and let them sweat for 1/2 hour. Wash under cold water and squeeze dry. Lightly fry them or brush them with olive oil and bake them on a baking sheet.

In a dutch oven (takes about 2 1/2 hours) or pressure cooker (40 minutes), salt and brown the meat, set aside. Sautee onions, leeks, carrots until translucent, add tomato paste, and the rest of the spices and salt to taste. add just enough water to cover the meat. Cook until tender. Remove from heat and strain the juices and set aside.

Soak the rice in boiling water and salt for 5 minutes and well rinse under cold water 5 times until all the loose starch is washed away. Drain and set aside.

In a 4 inch deep dutch oven, arrange the eggplants to cover the base and all the sides, with enough height to fold over. Add the meat to on top, and the rice, then 6 cups of stock from the beef (if not enough stock, add boiling water to make it 6 cups total).


Cover and Place in a 425 degree oven for about an hour, check to see if rice has absorbed all the liquid. Remove from heat, let stand for 10 minutes and turn it upside down on a serving dish.  Slice just like a cake and serve.

Tuzlama (Tripe)

Tuzlama (Tripe) Soup

Not for everyone’s taste, this is a soup usually drunk late at night before going home in specialty restaurants open late into the morning. These restaurants, usually called “Iskembeci” specialize in offal and all other “non-standard” parts of the animal, most notably Kokorec (Pronounced ko-ko-retch) among others. Tripe is one of the four stomachs of the cow, namely Iskembe (Rumen), Borkenek (Reticulum), Kirkbayir (Omasum) and Sirden (Abomasum). Most soups and stews are made from the first two parts (Iskembe and Borkenek)–which are the first two connected parts of the stomach.

Tuzlama soup

You can find Tripe (Iskembe) at many Mexican supermarkets or high-end butchers.

1 whole Tripe (about 3 Lbs)
1 Large onion, cut in half
1 head of garlic, cut in half
4 quarts of water
2 eggs
1 cup yogurt
3 tbsp flour
Juice of one lemon
Salt to taste
1 tbsp black peppercorns
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp red pepper flakes

Cut tripe into large pieces (about 4×4 inches), place it in a pot with water, onion and garlic, peppercorns and 2 tbsp salt. boil gently for one and a half hours. Remove the tripe onto a cutting board and slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Strain the soup and discard the onion and garlic. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, lemon juice, flour and yogurt, slowly mix in some of the hot soup to temper, then mix in the sliced tripe. Simmer for 5 minutes stirring constantly until it boils.

Warm up butter and red pepper flakes, pour over the soup right before serving. Serve with crushed garlic, and red wine vinegar.


Confit of smoked eggplant, roasted peppers and tomato

This is a very traditional Turkish recipe cooked in many regions, but i’ve elevated it by letting it confit in olive oil over low heat in the oven, then fill canning jars with it and let it infuse in the fridge for about a week or two.  it will keep for at least a month or two in the fridge.


2-3 medium eggplant
2 medium green peppers
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 medium sized tomato
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil

Skewer the eggplants and peppers and grill it on open fire until peppers have blistering skins , and until eggplants are soft to the touch on the stem side.  Peppers will cook much faster than the eggplant.  Transfer to a baking dish and cover to sweat for 5 minutes.

Remove skins under cold running water.  Place in a dish and add the lemon juice.

Chop the eggplants, green peppers and tomato roughly the same size. Place in a baking dish, adjust the salt, add the garlic and about 1/2-1 cup of good quality olive oil.  Place in a preheated 250 F degree oven for 1 hour.  Remove from oven and fill up sterilized canning jars and cover to cool, then place in the fridge for about a week.  Enjoy with toasted bread.




This is a new recipe I’ve tried i’ve heard from a family friend.  It is an easy to make appetizer that is good spicy finger food.

1 lb. lean ground beef
3/4 lb fine bulgur
1 medium onion, very finely chopped or grated-if finely chopped, rub it with salt to break it down.
1 tbsp pepper paste (or 1 large fresh bell red pepper, finely ground)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
salt/pepper to taste

Mix the bulgur with onion, 6 oz of water, red pepper paste, salt/pepper, cumin and let rest for 10 minutes.  Mix in the meat and slowly mix in another 4 oz of water, and knead for 5-10 minutes until it becomes almost a paste-like consistency.  Make 1 inch balls out of it and place on a floured surface.

Boil 5 cups of water and cook the meatballs for 15 minutes.  In a separate bowl, mix in the ground garlic and olive oil.  Drain the meatballs and mix in with the garlic and olive oil.  You can garnish with parsley and red pepper flakes.


Ful (bakla) – Broad bean stew/dip


This is a very traditional recipe from southeastern Turkey and all around the middle east.  Eaten as breakfast or lunch, a very filling light, healthy, tasty dish

2 Lbs Fava beans (either soaked overnight and cooked over low heat or canned)
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped coriander
1 tomato, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
salt/pepper to taste

Drain fava beans and add 4 cups of water and all remaining ingredients, cook over low heat for about 1 1/2 hour, mixing every 10-15 minutes, making sure there is enough water. If needed, add water. Smash with the back of the spoon, and remove from heat, add another chopped clove of garlic and some good olive oil. Garnish with a good squeeze of lemon, onions, tomato, coriander and green hot peppers, serve with bread to dip and cucumber, radish and pepper pickles.

Unique dishes and recipes from Anatolia and the Levantine