Before you, a riot of colors.  Not just amidst the tablecloth and on the dinnerware, but within the meal itself.  Vibrant reds, yellows, greens and oranges bejewel the grains, which are crowned with a snowy white dollop and a dusting of crimson powder.  That’s just one part of the plate, too.  Off to the side is dessert, creamy red and garnished in the deepest verdant tones.

This constitutes a Turkish table, celebrating a country situated where Europe becomes Asia, or vice-versa.  Add a generous dose of Mediterranean hospitality and you have a spread alive with the bright sights and tastes of two continents.  A feast worthy a sultan.

Just as Turkey’s cooking speaks of many inspirations, from the steppe wanderers who became the Turks to the Greek Byzantines they ousted, so too does today’s feast.  The BBC’s Good Food site shared recipes for Rose Cream & Raspberry Jellies, as well as the main, Smoky Chicken Skewers.  Meanwhile, chef Özlem Warren uses her site, Özlem’s Turkish Table, to describe preparation of a favorite from her homeland, Firik Salatasi, or Bulgur Pilaf with Freekeh.

That concoction gathers two types of wheat – bulgur, a type of cracked grain, and freekeh, milled green wheat.  The combination, cooked to tenderness, produces a fairly nutty taste with clean herbal overtones.  Studded with tangy tomatoes, spicy onions and fresh green beans, a dollop of yogurt tops it before the pilaf is dusted with citrusy sumac powder.  Though the original uses whole green beans, a French cut improves the aesthetics.

So, how are those green beans coming along?Frenched Green Beans

All Frenched and good to go!

Beside the pilaf are Smoky Chicken Skewers, the bird marinating for hours in a combination of olive oil, garlic, cumin and other redolent spices, then being threaded on skewers and grilled until just cooked through.  The result is tender, succulent and flavorful.   Served with an aioli that’s smoky and creamy, with a touch of tartness, it’s a perfect way to compliment the skewers and to cut through their richness.

Don’t forget dessert either!  Today’s offering is quite simple, mixing raspberry gelatin with cream and rosewater The combination produces a fruity luxuriousness that’s somewhat reminiscent of a raspberry milkshake, but with the consistency of pudding.  Zoom in on this:Rose Cream & Raspberry Jelly

Again, just look at those colors!  Not only in the dessert but in the entire meal.  The tablecloth, the plate and the lantern add interest too.  Variety everywhere.  Oh, and the many luscious flavors they illuminate.  All reflecting the cultural mosaic that became Turkey.  A kaleidoscope to dazzle not just the eyes but the taste buds and sense of history too.  All the senses glitter, a sultan’s treasure.


Smoky Chicken Skewers

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (*1)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces and put them in a medium bowl.  Add a teaspoon of the olive oil, the spices, garlic and vinegar, and toss to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, and up to a day.

Thread the chicken onto skewers. (*2)  If you aim to cook them on a stovetop, set a pan over a medium-high flame and pour in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  Sear the skewers for three minutes per side.

Much better yet, grill them similarly over a medium flame.  Again, three minutes a side.

Either way, serve with smoky aioli (recipe below) if you like.


1 – If you intend to pan-cook the skewer, you’ll need two tablespoons, total, of olive oil.  If you go for the grill (and you should!) one tablespoon is enough.

2 – Though any skewers you have on hand will work, short lengths are best, as the flame takes less time to do its job, thus maximizing juiciness.  Also, if you’re using bamboo skewers, and you are grilling, be sure to soak the sticks ahead of time.  This will make them less likely to char.


Smoky Aioli

  • 8 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon smoky paprika
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, to allow the flavors to blend.


Firik Salatasi

(Bulgur Pilaf with Freekeh, Green Beans and Onions)

  • 2 cups coarse bulgur, rinsed and drained
  • 1 generous cup freekeh, rinsed and drained (*3)
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped (*4)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths (*5)
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped (*6)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cups hot water
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • red pepper flakes, to serve
  • dollop of yogurt, to serve (*7)

Place a a stockpot over a medium flame and pour in 3 tablespoons of the oil.  Add the onions and green beans (*8) and sauté gently for three minutes.  Pours in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and stir in the garlic and the grains.  Stir in the tomatoes and hot water.  Season to your preference with salt and pepper.

Ramp up the flame to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about twenty minutes until all the water is absorbed.

Turn off the heat.  Cover the pot with clean paper towels and place the lid firmly on top.  Let the pilaf rest for ten minutes before serving.  Garnish with a dollop of yogurt and whatnot (*9).


3 – Unless you have a Near Eastern grocer nearby (and you might), freekeh could be difficult to source.  I got mine through mail order.  Short that convenience, though, just use bulgur for the whole recipe, increasing the measurement to three cups.  You’ll miss out on some of freekeh‘s herbal hints, but I suspect it still will be mighty tasty.

4 – Sorry, the belly dancer distracted me (hey, I am a guy), but I could’ve sworn the instructions said “one large shallot.”

5 – As mentioned in the introductory text, Frenching the green beans (i.e., cutting them lengthwise into thinner strips) offers a more pleasing appearance.  Remember, the eye feasts before the taste buds do.

6 – Up to you, but I used rainbow grape tomatoes, as they’re good-to-extraordinary any time of year.  Plus, a nice range of colors.  Do as you will, though.  You’re the cook, after all.

7 – Greek yogurt works best here, as it’s a bit creamier than is more conventional yogurt.  Plus it’s identical to the Turkish yogurt cooks in the sultan’s kitchens would’ve used.

8 – Instead of adding the green beans at first, stir them in just before you cover the pilaf and set it to simmer.  As the beans have been Frenched, they’ll require a bit less cooking time.  Better still, they’ll come to the table looking less tired.

9 – “Whatnot” could be “nothing,” which is fine, as that’s what the original recipe adds, yogurt only.  However, I had some sumac, which is quite appropriate, culturally, and it contributes a mysterious citrusy kick.  Sesame seeds would be another good choice.


Rose Cream & Raspberry Jellies

  • 1 large package raspberry gelatin mix
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater (*10)
  • 12 raspberries, halved, for garnish
  • drizzle of honey, for garnish
  • mint leaves, for garnish
  • pistachios, for garnish

Pour the gelatin powder into a medium bowl.  Boil half a cup of water and pour it over the gelatin.  Stir to dissolve.

Place a small saucepan over a medium-low flame.  Pour in the cream and warm gently, until the cream just begins to quiver (but still is far, far from boiling!).  Pour over the gelatin mixture.  Stir in the rosewater.  Divide the mixture among six glasses and refrigerate until set, at least two hours, up to overnight.

Let the jellies sit at om temperature for twenty minutes before garnishing.  Drizzle honey over them and distribute the raspberries, mint leaves and pistachios evenly among the jellies.


10 – Rosewater likely may be acquired in most larger markets.  Online, definitely.  Skip it if you can’t find it, but it contributes an ethereal warmth, and you’ll be so glad you found it.


3 thoughts on “Kaleidoscope

    1. Much appreciated, Tamara!

      If you pick up smoked paprika the next time you’re at the supermarket, you’ll be glad you did. It adds a lovely ethereal note to the bird. Traces of mystery, even. Flavors just as they must’ve been centuries ago, from skewers cooked over a brazier in the sultan’s kitchens.

      Liked by 1 person

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