Muruvvet’s Sarmas

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Turkish Stuffed Grape Leaves (Etli Yaprak Sarmasi)…

Not only is Muruvvet a wonderful person, she is a wonderful cook!

Everyday she would whip up something so tasty, and still manage to make it look so effortless.
Like any authentic home cooking, what makes it so delicious is the cook’s familiarity of the cuisine, and of course their true love and appreciation for their culture’s food.
There are many reason why I love Turkish cuisine, for example, dishes are based on local ingredients and what’s in season, they use whole ingredients and know exactly where their animal products come from.
Sounds the way it should be, pretty basic, right?
Turkish woman put a lot of time and effort into their cooking and don’t cut any corners in the kitchen, for example they make bread weekly if not daily, soak beans over night, chop onions by hand, and buy fish, chickens and even lamb whole… the list goes on.
What is Sarma?
The term sarma comes from the Turkish verb “sarmak,” which means to roll.
Sarma is pretty much the same at the Greek dolma, the only difference is the name. In Turkish, dolma means “stuffed.” Therefore, Turkish dolmas are things like stuffed peppers, artichokes, eggplants, etc.
Muruvvet used grape leaves from her garden, because like I said, Turks don’t cut corners. But like I did, you can just buy grape leaves from the grocery store. In this case soak them in water for about an hour

Sarma Ingrediants:
About 50 grape leaves
1/2 lb of ground lamb (optional, I used TVP to make it vegetarian)
1/3 cup rice
2 medium onions finely chopped
1 cup chopped parsley and dill
salt and pepper
1 T tomato paste
2 T olive oil
juice of half a lemon
In a bowl combine the first 5 ingredients.
dissolve the tablespoon of tomato paste in about 3 T of hot water.
Add to your rice mixture and mix well.
Prepare a your cooking pot by putting any of the grape leaves that are broken or too torn up to use along the bottom- this keeps your sarmas from sticking to the pot.
Place a grape leaf stem side up, smooth side down on a flat surface
Place about a spoonful of the filling down.
Fold over the sides and then roll up.
Continue until all your leaves or filling are finished.
If you have left over rice mixture you can stuff peppers
Neatly and tightly layer your sarmas
Add about 2 T olive oil, your lemon juice and just enough water to barely cover the sarmas.
This part cracks me up- place a plate on top of your sarmas- this keeps them from moving.
Cover with the pots lid and cook on low heat for 35-45 minutes.
Serve with a fresh loaf of bread and yogurt or cacik

Amaretto Persimmon Bundt Cake

O My Gosh- I have never eaten the batter of anything like I did this! Maybe it was all the liquor that had me licking the bowl clean!

The first time I had a Persimmon Bundt Cake was when my brother Chad (a P.E. teacher at an elementary school) was given one as a Holiday present by a student’s mom.
By the time I finished the cake there was still one more week left of Chad’s Winter Break- which meant I had to wait an entire week before getting the recipe from “The persimmon cake mom”!
During the first week back to school Chad brought me a bag of persimmons and a note that read: “Google Fuyu Bundt Cake”
Ah, yeah!
Thank you Mrs. Persimmon Mom!

The “Fuyu Persimmon Bundt Cake” recipe is everywhere on the internet, and was orignally published in Sunset Magazine in Oct 1978!
Wow, It’s been around for quite awhile- which is why I decided it definitely needed a facelift!

I changed the recipe around a bit to make it healthier and amaretto infused.
My version is Gluten Free and vegan.
I used Gluten Free Flour made from potatoes, which I find can taste a little too starchy. So I went extra heavy on the spices and liquor to cover the starchy taste.
Bob’s Red Mill is a fantastic brand that carries wonderful whole grains, oats, TVP, and all the baking ingredients you could possibley need.

Recipe somewhat adapted:

Preheat oven to 350
Grease and flour a bundt cake pan.

Combine and set aside:
3 cups of chopped Persimmons
2 t Baking soda
1/2 cup Amaretto Liquore (optional)

Beat until smooth
1/2 cup Earth Balance Butter
1 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs – Egg Replacers
2 t lemon juice
3 t vanilla
Mix into the persimmon mixture.

2 cups of Gluten Free Baking Flour (optional, can use regular flour)
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 t ground cloves
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
Stir into the persimmon mixture

(chopped walnuts or raisins are a nice optional addition, 1 1/2 cups total)

Pour into prepared bundt pan.
Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 15 minutes before turning onto a cooling rack

I thought the Bundt looked a little, well, boring.
So I made a glaze to drizzle on top

1 cup powdered sugar
Add Agave (or maple syrup) and Amaretto A LITTLE BIT at a time until you get the right consistency- not too runny or it’ll run right off your cake!

I like Big Bundts!

Best Salad Dressing

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I’m not sure where i found this so I’m not taking credit for it… 

This goes wonderfully with a Nicoise Salad
This makes a ton, don’t bother trying to half the recipe, you can keep it in your fridge for ages.
I always keep a glass jar of this dressing on hand.
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Dijion mustard
2 T minced garlic
2 T minced shallots
1 1/2 cups extra virgin oilve oil
sea salt
white pepper

Erin’s Persimmon Caprese Salad

Erin? How should I start? We’ve been friends since elementary school and we’re now roomies.
She’s witty and sassy and most importantly has a true appreciation for healthy, local, organic food.  Erin is sure to know how the cow in her bun was raised or if the cheese on her cracker came from a happy goat.  When it comes to big farms, little farms, corporate and family farms Erin knows it all.  If you are willing to listen, she’s sure to make any meat eater think twice before ordering a BigMac. The Truth.

While taking our stroll through San Francisco’s beautiful farmer’s market and seeing all the wonderful produce it was hard to decide on just one dish to make.  Erin spotted the persimmons and knew she could whip up something creative with them.
Erin decided to put a twist on the tradition caprese salad (Italian salad of tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella) and added persimmons!
While at the market Erin stopped at Cowgirl Creamery, a store specializing in organic and local cheese, to grab the freshest mozzarella they had.

The sweet flavor of the fruit really mixes well with the tomatoes, 
mozzarella and balsamic vinagar- well done ErBear!

Yields 6 servings
3 persimmons
2 beefsteak tomatoes- I hate the name 🙂
1 Ball of fresh mozzarella (buffalo if you can find it)
A handful of chopped fresh basil.
3 T olive oil
2 T Balsamic vinegar
2 cups of arugula 
Slice the persimmons and tomatoes- discarding any extra watery seeds you’d like.
slice the mozzarella.
Toss well with the chopped basil, sea salt and fresh pepper.
Line a serving dish with the arugula.
Spoon the persimmons onto the arugula and drizzle with good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
emem good…

Buttenut Squash & Bulger

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Butternut squash is fantastic this time of year. Not only is it full of vitamins and minerals but it’s tasty and beautiful too. Walnuts, browned butter and sage go nicely with butternut squash too! I then decided to go with bulger as my grain to pull it all together- yum yum!

Slicing butternut squash, peeling it and seeding it can me tedious and exhausting, therefore many grocery stores sell butternut squash pre chopped- this is what I used
I decided to layer this dish- purely for esthetics. But, this dish tastes delightful anyway you serve it.
Also, i was making this dish vegan but feta would go well with this if you’d like to add a chesse
3 cups of chopped Butternut squash
1/2 an onion sliced
1 cup of uncooked Bulger
i couple Tablespoons of butter- I used Earth Balance
A few fresh sage leaves
A handful of roughly chopped walnuts
Preheat 400
Roast butternut squash with the onion in a pan with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper- about 30 minutes depending on size of pieces.

Meanwhile Cook the bulger in a pot of water according to directions. Bulger/water ratio is 2 to 1. Takes only about 15 minutes to cook.
Chop a few leaves of sage.
Brown the butter in a pan and add the sage leaves. Cook until they become soft- 3 minutes.
Combine all the ingredients, add a little S&P and enjoy!

More than just clogs and bikes… it’s Holland!

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Holland is full of Turks- who would’ve thought!?
I recently spent a few weeks in Holland where I was very well aquatinted with what seemed like every Turkish person in town.  
Turkish people are so welcoming and inviting, and really make any guest feel at home.
I do love Holland for more than the friendly Turks they have to offer though…
I love how the entire country rides their bicycles, which is good for your health, the enviornment and your wallet.  
What else? Everyone has style, the architecture is beautiful (and to Western standards, ancient), the streets are cobble stone, the air is cold but the people are warm, on a Monday night you’re bound to find a cafe open til 2am, the food is fresh and the portion sizes just right, the streets are clean and the public transportation system is fantastic.
Sounds tempting to move right?

Someday I will write about Dutch recipes, but for today we’re sticking to Turkish Delights!
Muruvvet’s Sarmas and Lentil Soup recipes
More pictures of Holland:
Beautiful town of Utrecht

House on a river that runs all the way from the Swiss Alps
My favorite Turk walking through town
Complimentary cookies with our cafe
CHEESE stand at the out door market
3 pieces for 5 euro!
French Fries with Mayo, onions and Peanut Butter- 
don’t ask- gross I know!
Fried Food Machines

Girls Dinner Party

My dear friend Alex came home for the weekend from law school in Boston, so what better excuse than this to have an All Ladies Dinner Party!?  The girls and I set the date and arrange who brings what- the best part is that all my friends eat super healthy and mostly vegan!
Erin, Kathryn, Alex, Jacquie, Kaity and Vanessa
Here’s the menu to our guilt-free feeding frenzy! 
Hummus served with and assortment of veggies and a sliced baguette 
Prosecco (Italian Sparketing Wine) with pomegranate seeds
Main Course:
Butternut Squash with Bulger (recipe)
Erin’s Tomato and Persimmon salad  (recipe)
Vanessa’s Focaccia Pizzas (recipe)
CAN’T believe it’s Vegan Chocolate Cake (recipe)

Chocolate Cake

This cake is really great and so simple to make!
I added slivered almonds just for a little decoration
I love this recipe because you don’t even need an electric mixer to make the batter.

A few changes I made:
The recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar, but I think that’s a little too much, I halved that and it still tasted great, plus it’s healthier.
Instead of 2 cups of water, I used 1 cup of soy milk and 1 cup of water- I think that makes it a little smoother.
Batter recipe somewhat adapted from The Vegan Connection
3 cups of flour
1 cup of sugar
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/2 cup of coco powder
3/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 T vanilla
1/2 T almond extract
2 T cider vinegar 
2 cup of cold water
Preheat 350 degrees
In a bowl sift the flour
In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients
Combine all ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Stir for about 2 minutes until there are no more lumps.
Grease and flour your baking pans (I love doing this- I think it looks so pretty)
I used two 9 inch round pans
Bake for 30 minutes
cupcakes: 20-25 minutes
9×11 inch: 50 minutes
Sheet pan: 40 minutes 

It’s important that your butter is at room temperature when you make the frosting.
I also add 1/2 a Tablespoon of almond extract because I knew I was adding the slivered almonds for decoration.  Otherwise, just use 1 Tablespoon on vanilla extract.
Also, I doubled the frosting recipe because I was making a layered cake and wanted lost of frosting.  No need to double the recipe for cupcakes or a flat cake…
1/2 cup of Earth Balance butter 
2 cups of sifted powdered sugar
1/2 T vanilla extract
1/2 T almond extract
2 T soy milk
1/3 cup of coco powder
In a mixer combine the softened butter and sugar until smooth.
Add the remaining ingredients.
Add a little more soy or sugar 1 tablespoon at a time if you need to reach the right consistency.
Using a metal butter knife (I find that works rest) frost your cake.
at this point a added slivered almonds (optional)
Enjoy without guilt!

Pantry Makeover

Carbs- you gotta love ’em!
Gluten free flour
Healthy crackers and bread (I like Wasa crackers)
Rice (brown, wild, red, black…)
Whole wheat flour for baking
Whole wheat pasta
Spice it up
Cinnamon.  Great for your body and adds flavor to things like oatmeal and rice pilaf 
Cayenne Pepper
Fresh Garlic
Sea Salt
Fresh pepper

Sweet Tooth?
Dried fruit (I’m munching on figs now!).  Pruns are a favorite too, not too many though 🙂
Good quality dark chocolate.  Have you noticed that you need less of the good quality stuff, it satisfies my craving much better than cheap milk chocolate
ChaiTea- enjoy in a big glass with soy milk- yummy!
Agave.  great as a sweetener in coffee, tea, even baking
Protein Packed
Lentils are the best- fat free and super high in protein and iron
Quinoa is the only grain considered to be a “full protein”
Canned beans.  They’re great to add to salads, couscous or soups for a quick healthy meal.  Canned beans really are the best thing since sliced bread
Canned tuna or salmon
Dried or Roasted nuts and seeds
Don’t forget
Canned/ Jared Tomato sauce and paste
Soy, rice or another type of milk alternative
Green tea, yerba mate, organic coffee (really, buy organic.  Coffee is one of the most processed and contaminated food products)


Cacik is a Turkish yogurt dip that can be eaten with any meal in the day.  To Greeks, and most Westerners, this dish is most commonly know as Tzatziki.  Cacik’s mild, refreshing tastes makes it especially nice paired with hot, heavier foods, like a lamb dish.  Cacik is perfect for dipping vegetable or simply eating alone.

good quality plain yogurt (nice and thick)
one medium cucumber, seeded and chopped
dill, roughly chopped
olive oil
I’m not too worried about measuring for this recipy.  It’d be hard to mess up, it’s so easy.
Chop the Cucumber
Juice the Lemon
Pour in the yogurt
Mix in S&P, dill, 2 T lemon juice and a little olive oil
I enjoy the Cacik on healthy crackers with a salad for lunch

Moist Zucchini Bread

I finally had enough of the giant zucchini sitting on my counter for a week and felt it was time to take action.  
The one problem, I love zucchini too much to decide on just one recipe.  
Zucchini really is great! You can bake it, fry it, stuff it, add it to pasta or pizza, make it into an appetizer or a dessert bread, so pretty much anything!
The result: an incredibly moist, and healthy, loaf of zucchini bread!  
Another bonus, it takes less then 20 minutes to prep.
I have experimented with many Zucchini breads but they usually end up too dry for my liking.  I have combined a few ideas and came up with a few on my own in order to create the perfect loaf of Zucchini bread.  
I used currents (baby raisins) which added a nice texture and sweet flavor.

You will notice that when baking I usually choose to omit eggs and use apple sauce in stead.  This is because egg’s only purpose is to act as a binder in recipes (while adding cholesterol and fat), apple sauce works just as well as eggs and makes recipes come out so much more moist! Also, no apple taste is left behind- don’t worry.

Yields 2 Loaves (one for you and one for a lucky friend)
3/4 cups apple sauce
1 cup vegetable oil 
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons cinamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
one cup raisins or chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
For the topping:
Combine a handful of oats, cinnamon and sugar and about 1/4 cup chopped nuts.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
grease and flour the loaf plans.
In a bowl combine the first 5 ingredients.
In another bowl combine the next 6 dry ingredients, and nuts or raisins if using.  Add this to the zucchini mixture and stir.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
Sprinkle the oat mixture on top of your loaves.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until a tester inserted comes out clean.
By the end of the night it will look something like this:

Mom’s Birthday Brunch!

September in San Francisco could not be more perfect, the weather is warm and so many fruits and vegetables are in season, so you can imagine how excited I was to surprise my mom with a birthday brunch party.

The Menu:
Heirloom Tomato & fresh buffalo Mozzarella stacks
BBQ Shrimp on Rosemary skewers
Spanish Style Potato & Zucchini Torte 
Baked Peach Puff Pastry for dessert: recipe
Heirloom Tomato & Buffalo mozzarella stacks:
Yields 6
3 Heirloom tomatoes (different colors if possible)
3 balls of fresh buffalo mozzarella
fresh basil leaves
quality extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper 
Slice the tomatoes horizontally into sixths 
Slice the mozzarella into sixths
layer the tomato, mozzarella slices and basil leaves beginning with tomato and ending with the end piece of mozzarella.
garish with basil
drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with corse salt and fresh pepper
BBQ Shrimp on Rosemary skewers:
Yields 6 
about 24 shrimp prepared
fresh rosemary
olive oil
Prepare 12 rosemary skewers:  remove the leaves off the bottom 2/3 of the rosemary branch.
In a food processor combine the removed roesmary leaves, some parsley, fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil and S&P
Marinate the shrimp in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
Skew the marinated shrimp onto the prepared rosemary skewers
BBQ or heat an ungreased frying pan and cook on the stove for about 7 minutes, turning once
Spanish Style Potato & Zucchini Torte:
about 3 potatoes, sliced
about 3 green zucchini, sliced 
one yellow onion chopped
1 clove of garlic minced
1 T of any fresh herbs chopped (optional)
6 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil 
preheat 350 degrees F
cook the potato slices in the olive oil- about 20 minutes
transfer and drain the potatoes on a plate lined with paper towels
In an oven proof frying pan…
cook the onion for a couple minutes 
add the garlic
add the zucchini and cook for about 5 minutes
add the potato and arrange evenly in the pan
In a bowl combine the eggs with 2 T of water, S&P and wisk.
Pour the eggs over the potatoes and zucchini and cook for about 10 minutes moving the eggs around to insure even cooking.  Be sure you’re lifting the bottom of the eggs ensuring that they’re not sticking to the pan.  Be gentle.  Try and keep eggs in the firm shape as the pan. 
Sprinkle on your herbs and cover with a lid.
Bake for 10 minutes
Remove from the oven
Slide your spatula under all edges of the torte ensuring it’s not stuck to the pan anywhere.
Slide your torte onto a platter.