Prairie Fare: Kebabs a taste of traditional Turkish fare
"Mom, do you think he will bring us some Turkish delight?" my 16-year-old son asked after I told them we would be having visitors. "I'm thinking they might bring some, since you liked it so much when he visited. "The entire family is coming for a...
"Mom, do you think he will bring us some Turkish delight?" my 16-year-old son asked after I told them we would be having visitors.
"I'm thinking they might bring some, since you liked it so much when he visited.
"The entire family is coming for a few days," I replied.
We were referring to a friend of ours from Turkey who had visited a couple of years ago.
Sure enough, when our guests arrived from Istanbul, they brought some candy and several gifts from Turkey. My son opened the candy box quickly, and the confection was devoured by the time our guests left a few days later. I think I had two pieces.
I hadn't seen the entire family in 19 years. I couldn't believe that the years had passed so quickly. We were graduate students studying food science, and their son wasn't quite 6 years old when they went back to their home country.
Along with visiting about the "old days," I was hoping for a cooking class featuring Turkish food. My friend and her son were happy to prepare a delightful Turkish meal consisting of kebabs, a salad, bread and baklava for dessert.
Kebabs are a traditional Turkish food. Lamb is used often, although chicken, pork, fish, goat, tofu and other protein-rich foods may appear on skewers around the world. The word kebab means to "burn" or "char." In fact, kebab is spelled in various ways, including kabab, kebob and kabob.
According to some sources, cooking small amounts of meat on a stick was a way to overcome the shortage of cooking fuel in parts of the world. Smaller amounts of meat cook more quickly.
We learned quite a bit about kebabs that day as we shopped and then prepared the meal. When I visualized kebabs, I thought of chunks of beef or chicken and vegetables arranged on skewers. When we were shopping for ground beef, I was perplexed about how we would keep ground meat on a stick.
To make the ground beef kebabs, for each pound of meat, they added one small grated onion, about Â¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley and Â½ teaspoon of thyme, along with salt and pepper. Then they carefully pressed meatball-sized portions of meat along the upper half of two wooden skewers.
My husband learned some new grilling techniques, although he nearly had a couple of kebab casualties. Some recipes use an egg to bind the ingredients together or call for prechilling the kebabs, so we will try one of those techniques.
Spraying the grill grate with nonstick cooking spray also is helpful. These also could be baked in an oven, but you won't enjoy the grilled flavor.
The salad we prepared, which appears with this column, was a tasty, heart- healthy blend of white beans, onions and tomatoes, with fresh lemon juice and olive oil as the dressing. Although we didn't add feta cheese, I think that would be a nice addition.
Beans are a healthful, economical ingredient high in protein and complex carbohydrates. Canned beans contain a fair amount of sodium, but some research shows that a simple process in your kitchen can make a big difference.
A study published in the Journal of Culinary Science and Technology showed that draining and rinsing canned beans decreased the sodium content by 41 percent.
Simply draining canned beans (without rinsing) reduced the sodium content by 36 percent. In fact, a serving of undrained canned beans often has 21 percent of the daily value for sodium, while a serving of drained canned beans has 13 percent of the daily value.
If you want a complete Turkish meal, you might add baklava to your menu. We didn't tackle preparing the sweet dessert made with phyllo dough layered with butter, syrup and chopped nuts. It was available in the frozen-food section at the grocery store. Next time, we will add that dessert to our culinary arts adventure.
Here's the tasty and easy salad recipe we enjoyed.
Mediterranean Bean Salad
2 (15.5-ounce) cans white beans (great Northern), drained and rinsed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped coarsely
Â½ cup chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Â½ tsp. salt, or to taste
freshly ground pepper (to taste)
Feta cheese crumbles (optional)
Drain and rinse beans. Rinse vegetables and prepare as indicated. Gently mix beans and vegetables in a bowl with oil and spices. If desired, sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese.
Makes eight servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 5 g of protein, 22 g of carbohydrate, 8 g of fiber and 190 milligrams of sodium.
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.