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.
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)
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).
I love love these cute little breads. They are rich, I won’t lie. I hate to lament my muffin tops after I bake the breads in huge batches, without giving a break in between. But if you are less of a glutton than I am and can control your appetite, you will be just fine. You will survive. These mini breads are fantastic. Olives and walnuts - a match made in heaven. I love how the olives peek through the shiny golden crust and the walnuts stay inside for a hidden bonus - crunch and added taste. Pure delight.
Special thanks to my friend Piraye for letting me borrow her Turkish cookbook for the recipe. Piraye, wait for my next raid on your library!
Olive Walnut Mini Breads
Adapted from “Caya Davet” by Fatos Yagci
Makes about 45
While I only tweaked the amount of flour in the recipe and left everything else the same, I changed the shape of these breads. Well, actually they were not supposed to turn into breads. They were meant to be cookies. The original recipe called for the dough to be rolled out, then cut out into shapes with a cookie cutter. I tried this the first time I tried the recipe, but failed - the dough is just too tender for that kind of task. So, I shaped it into balls and voila - mini breads were born. The idea stuck with me ever since. Or, you can call them savory cookies if you want to. They won’t be hurt.
For the Dough:
3+1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
Pinch of salt
2+1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup corn oil or olive oil
4.4 ounces (125 g) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature (it should be really soft to touch)
2 tablespoons apple cider or red wine vinegar
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup finely (but not too finely) chopped walnuts (you should feel the bite)
1 cup pitted sliced black olives
1 egg yolk
Preheat the oven to 380F (190C). Lightly grease the bottom of a large baking sheet.
In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, salt and baking power. Stir to mix. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, butter, vinegar, and plain yogurt. Stir to mix. Add the walnuts and olives. Stir to combine.
Add the flour mixture and stir to mix. If the dough is sticky, gradually add more flour and knead the dough until it is tender, pleasant to touch, but not too tight or sticky.