A few years ago, when my in-laws were visiting from Turkey, we were invited to a 4th of July block party organized on our street. We were told that there would be a bake-off contest and a potluck. So the cooking members of the family, which included my mother-in-law and me only, split the duties – I  was in charge of a baked goodie, while mother-in-law set out to make something savory, which she is exceptionally good at.

Remember my zebra cake picture? That picture was taken randomly at that very party as we waited for the bakeoff to take off and I, in particular, to selfishly grab the winning title. Alas, my zebra cake won a silver medal. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, was crowned as the unofficial winner (as there was no cook-off contest) of the potluck! She stole the show with her olive oil-cooked stuffed mini sweet bell peppers. Cute as buttons and extremely addictive. Everybody loved them!

So, meet the winning recipe  -  zeytinyagli biber dolmasi, one of the many dolma varieties the Turkish cuisine  proudly boasts. Here, bell peppers are stuffed with delicious mint-studded rice filling cooked in olive oil. Typically, large bell peppers are used to make this particular dolma, but my mother-in-law makes them with mini peppers too, whenever she finds them. These stuffed cuties make a perfect prelude to a hearty meal. Try and see for yourself. You’ll love them.

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I wrote on AZ Cookbook facebook page that the epitome of spring and summer in Azerbaijan was coming soon to my blog. I gave a hint, alright, that it was going to be a soup. Most people guessed it right! Dovgha! Yes, it is dovgha, a popular Azerbaijani yogurt soup cooked with lots of fresh herbs!

I  was saving this recipe for my yet to be published (big sigh) cookbook, but since publishers are not knocking on my door (if you are a publisher, write me) or have been rejecting my knockings, and because I am a nice girl (modesty thing again), I am letting the recipe out before the book is out. Not that the recipe is a grand secret, but there are some tips that one should be armed with if aiming for a perfect dovgha, and I will gladly share them with you.

Dovgha has it all to be sought after. A creamy soup, it is generously nutritious, pleasantly refreshing and flavorsome from the bounty of fresh herbs simmered in yogurt, with a good doze of tender bite provided by the chickpeas, which by the way, can be omitted if you are not a big fan of them. I personally like my dovgha with chickpeas. In Azerbaijani countryside, dovgha is particularly delicious; in place of generally known fresh herbs listed in the recipe below, copious varieties of intensely aromatic edible herbs populating the lush fields and mountains, far from the reach of city dwellers, find their way into the soup, making it extra delectable.

How is dovgha served? Typically, chilled dovgha is served ladled into traditional deep individual bowls called kasa that are placed next to serving plates. It is up to you whether to enjoy dovgha as a starter soup before the main course arrives, or afterwards, to wash down a hearty meal. Dovgha is also great as a stand-alone light meal. Serve dovgha either chilled or at a room temperature, always with chunks of bread on the side.

Here’s the recipe with all the right tips you need to succeed in dovgha making. Also, check out my blogger friend Sofya’s (who hails from Baku too) for her dovgha recipe with some fantastic photos.

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