The finest in Turkish cuisine, from ground-lamb pizzas to sweet semolina and dried-apricot pilaf.
Food & Wine
1 of 12
This cool chicken salad in a creamy walnut sauce supposedly got its name because its color resembles the pale complexions of the Circassian beauties in the sultan's harem during the Ottoman Empire. The mild, slightly nutty chicken is traditionally served as part of a Turkish meze assortment, and can be drizzled with red pepper oil. In this version, Turkish red pepper replaces the pepper oil.
At her takeout shop in Istanbul, Kantin Dükkan, Semsa Denizsel tops her pizzas with ground lamb (flavored with sweet sun-dried tomatoes and a little spicy red pepper), but you can substitute ground beef instead. To make the pizza even more substantial, bake it with an egg on top; the runny yolk is terrific with the whole-wheat crust.
For his take on the ubiquitous dip, Istanbul's star chef Mehmet Gürs uses earthy green lentils instead of chickpeas but stirs in a little of hummus's classic ingredient—tahini—for nuttiness. He also likes to flavor his hummus with spices, like cinnamon, or in this case, cumin.
Turks call these sandwiches balik ekmek and make them with grilled fish—like mackerel—from the Bosphorus. For his version, Mehmet Gürs spreads grilled bread with a creamy roasted-garlic puree and tops it with smoked mackerel, arugula and slices of red onion and tomato.
Ground Lamb and Shallot Kebabs with Pomegranate Molasses
Burhan Cagdas makes ground-meat kebabs (kofta) from hand-chopped lamb mixed with diced lamb-tail fat. In place of the fat, Paula Wolfert uses crème fraîche, which keeps the meat rich-tasting and meltingly tender.
This is one of Defne Koryürek's favorite dishes from chef-owner Semsa Denizsel at Kantin restaurant. The rice is glossy and sticky, and full of tender calamari and mussels. The addition of spices like allspice and cinnamon, plus some currants, gives the dish a slightly sweet edge.
One of Defne Koryürek's favorite homemade sausages includes beef, lamb, red peppers and garlic; she loves eating it alongside a creamy salad of lentils, roasted peppers and sautéed pears. The recipe is also delicious when prepared with spicy, rich merguez sausage.
This lovely dessert or late-breakfast dish is made by toasting coarse semolina and almonds in butter, then simmering them with sweetened milk and dried apricots. The result is crumbly, aromatic and pilaf-like. It's called helva in Turkey, though it's not to be confused with another Turkish dessert called halvah, which is made with tahini and is fairly common in the U.S.