I grew up hating vegetables. Not that I couldn’t appreciate a crisp romaine salad with Nona’s perfectly balanced oil and vinegar dressing or a fresh from the dirt tomato and cucumber salad. However, outside of salad, it wasn’t happening. Maybe the trauma dates back to boiled brussel sprouts (sorry, Dad) or the frozen peas on tuna fish and peas on toast (popular 70’s dish in my family…you didn’t miss much).
We will try to forget the few years in high school/college I spent as an avid animal rights vegetarian when to avoid eating meat I would order a McDonald’s hamburger without the hamburger. I would really have called myself a carbetarian and with that came a really poor immune system. Well, when you don’t like vegetables, you really make quite a terrible vegetarian.
Somewhere along the way, things began to slowly (read…slooowwwllly) change. Where I really began to appreciate a good vegetable was when I began to be introduced to foods of other ethnicities besides my own.
Coming from Erie, Pennsylvania, USA this was anything not Italian, German or Polish.
Upon moving to Pittsburgh, a place where diverse ethnic groups were beginning to thrive, it was so cool to taste vegetables that had some real flavor. These weren’t bland, boiled sprouts! Thai and Indian curries, dips and dishes from all over Asia sprinkled in a sunset of tumeric, sumac and paprikas. Finally.
So as you can see, this past summer spent in Turkey was thrilling in so many ways and surprisingly exciting due to some delicious vegetables
Our group spent one hot and languid afternoon at the restaurant of a brilliant home cook who to me has got to be the mother of vegetable magic. The restaurant of Bizim Ev Hanimeli located in Selcuk, Turkey (located near the ancient city of Ephesus) would be worth the trip to Turkey alone. All of her dishes on the buffet were sublime and for one of the few times in my life, I passed up cheese and meat for vegetable-based dishes. Sure there were lamb and bechemel casseroles, baked fish, perfectly spiced kefta, lamb and beef stuffed peppers/eggplant and silky beans. Yet the one dish I kept going back for was the sauteed green beans. Yep, didn’t expect that one. Green beans.
If any of these dishes intrigue you, these recipes as well as some sweet stories can be found in her delightful cookbook filled with homestyle and traditional Turkish cuisine from the home of the Mercan family and served everyday at their restaurant. The woman you see below, Hatice Mercan, is the magic cook. Her daughter, Cansu Tucker, had the brilliant idea to pass on her mother’s recipes via her cookbook, My Mother’s Kitchen: Homemade Turkish Cooking.
One of the most delightful recipes I have been able to try since being home is that simple dish that elevates the green bean to a dish worthy of a main course, or at least a brilliant side dish that any meat eater would give pause to. It yields the silkiest, most flavorful bean I have ever tasted. Try out the dish and let me know what you think. If you end up getting her cookbook (it would not be a waste of shelf space, I can tell you that), let me know what you try.
This recipe is slightly adapted from the Sauteed Green Beans in the book. And please note you teally should chop them finer than I did in the pictures. The beans can carmelize better. I get antsy when I am hungry.
- 1 lb. fresh green beans (french are ok too)
- 1 medium onion
- 2 fresh slicing tomatoes
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cane sugar
- 3 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp sweet red paprika
- Wash the green beans well. Chop off the tips. Chop the beans very thin (even thinner than above, really) and mix with the salt. Set aside.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute the onions and paprika in the olive oil until soft. Chop the tomatoes coarsely. Add one tomato. Saute about 5 minutes. Add in the chopped beans, the second tomato and the sugar. Saute until very soft. If you wish, sprinkle with a little aleppo pepper for a kick!
If you can’t make it to Turkey but would like some lovely Turkish or Aleppo pepper, this one looks nice. You need to use a good quality sweet paprika with this recipe to really bring out the flavor. This is a good paprika as well. Love, Sheila