I had always dreamed of visiting Turkey, Istanbul in particular. Istanbul, which sits at the crossroads where Asia meets Europe signalling the start of the ancient silk road. Well, I was fortunate enough to visit Istanbul two years ago and Istanbul is everything you can imagine it to be and more.
Warm, colorful, gorgeous, delightful and as expected truly magical. The country and people are wonderful and the cuisine is simply exquisite.
We are lucky to have a Turkish friend here in Las Vegas; Belkis, who invited us to her home for dinner. It was fantastic to have a chance to participate in the renown tradition of Turkish hospitality.
The roots of this tradition can be traced to the nomadic origins of the Turks. Back then, hospitality literally could mean life or death as nomads depended upon each in the desert to survive thirst, hunger and enemy raids.
Belkis set a beautiful fall themed table. We started with a delicious assortment of cold dishes. There was patlican salatasi or eggplant salad which was mashed grilled eggplant with onions and green peppers.
Patates salatasi or potato salad which was cubed boiled potatoes with onions, parsley with a light lemon juice and olive oil dressing which was so refreshing.
Czeytinyagli dolmas or grapes leaves stuffed with rice and onions and lahana dolmas or cabbage leaves also stuffed with rice. These were tender, fresh and superb in taste and presentation.
Kuru fasulye or white kidney beans in tomato sauce and onions. Kuru fasulye is usually eaten with rice and is considered a staple in Turkey. Barbunya which is pinto beans in olive oil.
We had 2 different types of borek, which is baked pastry made from Phylo dough. A triangular-shaped one which was filled with spinach and feta cheese and a square potato filled one which was sprinkled with sesame seeds.
We had 3 kinds of dessert! Irmik which is a semolina based custard with a chocolate wafer filling. Cevizli tatli which is a cinnamon and walnut pastry.
We ended our Turkish feast with baklava which is a sweet pastry made with layers of Phylo pastry, filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup. The baklava was delicate, light, crunchy and not too sweet. In short, perfection itself.
It was a wonderful evening. Belkis is a generous host and was so gracious to prepare these wonderful dishes. All the recipes for the food she prepared had been lovingly transcribed into a book for her by her now deceased dad.
Belkis was able to honor her dad, his memory and help share their great family tradition of warm hospitality simply by that very special and kind act of cooking and breaking bread with friends.
So teşekkür ederim or thank you Belkis! Thank you for opening your heart and your home and transporting us for a few hours to your magical and beautiful homeland of Turkey. You are like your country; warm, gregarious, unpredictable and full of wonderful surprises.
If you like what you see and are interested in trying these delicacies yourself, you’re in luck because Belkis is starting a catering service! She can cook for any number of people from 2 to 200 or probably even more.
So why not try Turkish cuisine for your next dinner party? Your guests will be raving! She can be reached at 702-476-8825.
p.s. I would also like to apologize for the poor quality of some of these photos. I got a new camera and am still learning so please bear with me. Thanks!