Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Blending a rich history with a modern presence, Istanbul Turkey is exotic and magical. I was lucky enough to spend a week exploring Istanbul last year and came away with an appreciation for the culture and people of this beautiful city. Highlights included the famous Blue Mosque which enchanted me with its colorful mosaic tiles and ancient artwork. I also loved taking a boat ride on the Bosphorus River which separates Istanbul into two continents;  Europe on the west and Asia on the east.

I was really looking forward to tasting Turkey (the country).  I'll admit, my Turkish food repertoire centered around a few summer shish kabobs, but I knew there was a whole exotic cuisine out there waiting to be discovered. The fabled Spice Market was at the top of my culinary short list and my visit there did not disappoint.

Rows of stalls lined a narrow tunnel deep in the heart of the Old Town. Vendors hawked perfectly manicured pyramids of tumeric, paprika and other spices while the sweet scent of cardamon infused tea filled the air.  Dried apricots and dates hung from the ceiling ripe for the picking. I was mesmerized by the mountains of pistachios and trays of Baklava, a dessert I came to love.

I came back to the States with a camera full of photos and a bag full of spices. Inspired, I  began working on some simple dishes that use fresh produce and spices from my travels which led to a recipe for Turkish Chicken Thighs with Lemon.

Turkish Chicken Thighs

* 2 Tablespoons cumin seeds
* 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
* 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
* 1 Tablespoon paprika
* Juice of 1 lemon
* 1 cup plain yogurt
* 12 boneless chicken thighs, about 2 to 2-1/2 pounds, or 4 half broilers
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* Lemon wedges for serving

Toast the cumin seeds in a small saute pan over medium heat until the seeds are fragrant and start to pop in the pan. Remove from the heat and grind in a spice grinder.

Place the cumin, onion, garlic, paprika, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender and pulse to liquify. Add the yogurt and pulse just until blended.

Put the chicken thighs in a shallow non-aluminum baking dish or bowl. Pour the marinade over the chicken and toss well to coat. Let stand at room temperature at least 2 hours or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the broiler to make a charcoal fire. Thread the thighs if using on 4 skewers. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Broil or grill until the juices run clear, about 6 minutes each side. Serve hot with lemon wedges.

Yield: 4 servings
Source: The Mediterranean Kitchen by Joyce Goldsmith

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