Parsley

Turkish Bulgur Salad

I have to be punished. I disappeared for the longest time again. Consider this a lame excuse, but I have been trying to adjust to my new life with a full time job, while juggling a zillion other responsibilities and projects my restless persona keeps creating for myself.  I felt a bit overwhelmed at the beginning, but things are much better now and life is beautiful. Even more so after I learned that Saveur mentioned AZ Cookbook among 55 great global food blogs! What an honor! I am thrilled, humbled, flattered, and grateful all at once. Thank you, Saveur!

I wanted to share something Azerbaijani in celebration of this honor, but since I promised the AZ Cookbook facebook fans  that I will share a bulgur recipe, I have to keep my word. But my next recipe… I will only say it is going to be Azerbaijani and very very delicious.

So, let’s talk about today’s recipe. It is for kisir, my favorite Turkish salad of all. It is made with bulgur that is first soaked in hot water until it is tender, then combined with other ingredients, including lots of fresh herbs, with parsley featured more than others. Kisir is meant to have a tang to it. This is achieved by adding either freshly squeezed lemon juice or pomegranatate paste to it, or both, like in the recipe below. This salad is easy to put together. It is very delicious and addictive. I know from my own experience and they say there is no remedy to cure me. Enjoy!

Turkish Bulgur Salad (Kisir)

Serves 4 to 6

There are perhaps as many variations of kisir as there are families in Turkey and everyone claims expertise:) Perhaps justly so, as kisir is amazing in any form.  The variations are, however, minor. For example, instead of adding chopped onion as is, sometimes it is first fried in oil, then added to the salad. Or, the onion is first  rubbed with salt, then squeezed to rid it of bitterness before tossing it with other ingredients. In another variation, no pomegranate paste is used whatsoever, and the tang is achieved by more lemon juice. I have tried bulgur salad with diced cucumber and tomato, chopped green pepper, and chopped dill added to it – you name it. Sometimes, either tomato paste or pepper paste is omitted, and in some variations none is used. The following is how I make kisir and I am happy with the results. If you want to add tomato and cucumber to your salad (I am not a big fan of these two in this salad), please seed them first – this will prevent the salad from becoming soggy from all the extra juices.

Ingredients:

2 cups fine bulgur (read about it here)
2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoonFUL tomato paste
1 tablespoonFUL red pepper paste (hot or not, to taste)
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 medium lemon
2 tablespoons pomegranate paste (called nar ekshisi in Turkey and narsharab in Azerbaijan)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped green onion
Crushed red pepper (adjust the amount of heat to taste)
Salt

To Serve:
Lettuce leaves

Bulgur

First, prepare the bulgur, using either of the 2 methods below.

Method 1: Put the bulgur in a medium bowl. Dissolve the tomato paste and the pepper paste in the boiling water and pour the water into the bowl with bulgur. Cover the bowl with a lid or a heat-proof plate. Set aside for 20 minutes, to allow the grains to absorb the water and to “cook.” Uncover the bowl. Make sure the bulgur has absorbed all of the water. Fluff the grains with a spoon or a fork.

Method 2: Put the bulgur in a medium bowl. Pour the boiling water on top. Cover the bowl with a lid or a heat-proof plate. Set aside for 20 minutes, to allow the grains to absorb the water and to “cook.” Uncover. Make sure the bulgur has absorbed all of the water. Fluff it. Add the tomato paste and pepper paste. Knead them into the bulgur with your hand until well blended.

Add olive oil, lemon juice, and pomegranate paste (in the picture above I am holding a bottle with especially delicious, tangy pomegranate paste that is imported to the U.S. from Azerbaijan and I received it as a gift – thank you, Elshan.  Azerbaijani pomegranate paste is available in some stores in California, and I will share more information with you as I receive it).

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Lemony Fish Bughlama with Vegetables and Herbs

In Azerbaijan, bughlama is the general name given to the dishes in which the main ingredient, fish, meat or poultry, simmers with minimal or no liquid added to it, typically along with fresh vegetables and herbs. In fact, the word bughlama comes from bughlamag, a Turkic word which means to “steam” or “to cook in its own steam.”

This particular recipe is for fish bughlama prepared with beluga sturgeon (European sturgeon). In California I use swordfish instead.

There are many other variations of bughlama with other kinds of fish, such as omul, karp, and ossetra. Bughlama is especially popular in the regions washed by the waters of the Caspian Sea and the Kura River.  They get to make it with the fresh catch of the day. Nush Olsun!

Lemony Fish Bughlama with Vegetables and Herbs (Balig Bughlamasi)

Serves 4

2 pounds beluga (Eurpopean sturgeon) steaks, skinned and cut into medium size pieces (substitute with swordfish steaks or any other fish with firm flesh)
2 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped (2 cups)
1 Italian green pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped (substitute with Bell pepper), (1 cup)
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 dry bay leaves
1 small lemon, sliced into 4 slices
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

Arrange the pieces of fish over on the bottom of a medium saucepan, wide enough to hold the ingredients in separate layers. Season the fish with salt and pepper to taste.

Top the fish with a layer of tomatoes, follow with layers of green peppers, celery and parsley. Toss in the bay leaves and top with the lemon wedges. Dot the top with the butter.

Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. Serve with bread.

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