By Suzanne Parker
If you love to watch cooking shows, why not do it up close and personal at the Turkish Cultural Center Queens? Turkish cooking classes, a project of the TCCCQ Womens’ Association headed by Deniz Ozbudak, are held there monthly on the second Wednesday.
On a recent Wednesday, eight women and one man gathered around a table already laden with Turkish snacks. Three were married to Turkish men. The rest came to feed their foodie passions, one all the way from Jersey City. All were there to watch, try their hands at preparing a three-course Turkish meal and, finally, devour it.
According to the Turkish Cultural Association handouts, Turkish cuisine (Turkish: Türk mutfagÄ±) is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. Turkish cuisine has in turn influenced those and other neighboring cuisines, including those of western Europe. In other words, we have the Turks to thank for good stuff like yogurt and pastrami, which evolved from the Turkish bastirma.
The featured dishes of the evening, which change with every class, were Coban Salatasi (shepherd’s salad), Beyti Sarma (ground beef kebab in bread), and Sutlac (rice pudding). Sila Asa, a Bayside mom by way of Bursa, Turkey, showed off her culinary skill with the first two dishes. The salad was as easy to prepare as it was delicious, working magic with commonplace ingredients.
The kebabs, on the other hand were more challenging in terms of both skill and esoteric seasonings. They are intended to be formed on Turkish style skewers that are flat and wide. Skinny skewers will not work, but forming the meat mixture into long thin patties achieves an equally tasty result. Asa acquired her stash on a recent trip to Turkey, but the necessary authentic Turkish ingredients can be purchased at Turkiyem Market, 46-31 Skillman Ave., Sunnyside, 718-937-3456. The lesson and meal drew to a sweet close with Melek Secilmis’ rice pudding.
Afiyet olsun (bon apetit)!
IF YOU GO
Turkish Cultural Center Queens
43-49 45th St., 2nd Floor
When: Second Wednesday of the month (first Wednesday in December), 7–9 pm
Cost: $25 per class, two classes for $40
Cost: $25/class or 2 classes/$40
Çoban Salatasi (Shepherd’s Salad)
1/2 cu. cucumbers (preferably Persian) diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cubanelle pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cu. fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cu. Italian parsley, chopped
2 tsp. lemon juice
2-3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Salt & pepper to taste
Place all vegetables in a medium sized salad bowl. Add salt & pepper to taste. Add feta, lemon juice and olive oil. Toss well. This salad goes especially well with lamb dishes.
Beyti Sarma (ground beef kebab in bread)
1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tbs. Turkish red pepper paste (biber salcasi)
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped (reserve some for sprinkling on finished roll)
1 tsp. Turkish crushed red pepper (urfa biber)
1 tsp. salt
1 packet original tortillas (small flour)
1 tsp. butter, melted
Yogurt (Turkish or Greek-style)
1/2 cup of crushed tomatoes (fresh , grated, or canned crushed) heated up with a few tablespoons of water.
Crush the onion with salt very well. Add in all the kofte ingredients and knead. Take a fist sized ball and skewer it starting from near the tip of the skewer. Squeeze and flatten it on the skewer to form a long flat kebab. You must use Turkish style flat wide metal skewers. If you don’t have Turkish skewers, it is better to make long, flat patties without skewers. Thin skewers will pull out of the meat.
Preheat barbecue, or broiler. Place skewers (or patties) on the rack. Turn so that all sides cook evenly. Roll cooked kebabs in a tortilla, but only one layer. Brush surface with melted butter. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and cut in 2 inch sections.. Arrange on plate with yogurt and tomato sauce. Serve hot.
Sutlac (rice pudding)
4 1/2 cu. Milk
2 tbs. rice
1 cu. Sugar
2 tbs. corn starch
1 egg yolk
Put rice in a pot. Add just enough water to cover the rice. Cook rice until fully cooked. Add the milk and sugar. Stir mixture well enough until sugar is dissolved. In a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch with a little water until it dissolves. When the milk comes to a boil, add the cornstarch mixture. Mix in the egg yolk and stir for an additional five minutes. Remove from stove and pour into individual heatproof bowls. Place bowls in a tray partially filled with water. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. Brown in tray under broiler.