Domatesli Bamya (Okra Stew)

When we travel abroad, we like to stay in guesthouses for part of the trip to get a “feel” of the local place. I picked a guesthouse that was ranked highly on TripAdvisor, but more importantly was close to bus station. We thought of Selçuk as our base camp for visiting Ephesus, which was only 1.5 miles away. But surprisingly, we had one of our best meals of the trip at our guesthouse.

Upon arrival at the guesthouse, one of the owners gave us the predictable check-in orientation. She mentioned that they cook dinner every night for their guests and to let her know if we were interested, to make sure they’ll cook enough. Eh, at first we brushed it off – said we weren’t sure if we’d make it back in time from sightseeing. I had a couple local eateries listed as places to try anyway. So she said, “sure, no problem.” Then, she said in passing that, “mama’s cooking tonight.”

My food goals for Turkey were to try some street food, some classics, some contemporary cuisine, and some home cooking. I thought authentic, home cooking would be the hardest to find. So when I heard that “mama” was cooking, game over. Done. And we were lucky. Dinner was what you’d expect when you hear a phrase like that. There was nothing fancy, nothing meticulously plated. It was just honest, genuine food.

My favorite dish was this okra in a tomato based stew, hint of tangy but very aromatic. After we left Selçuk and traveled to some other towns along the Mediterranean coast, we saw slightly different iterations of this dish. Turns out, this is called Domatesli Bamya, a Southern Turkish regional dish popular in the summertime. Before Selçuk, I was neutral towards okra. This stew was so delicious, we recreated it the first weekend back in the States.

Directions 

  1.  Wash and drain the okra.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven.
  3. Sauté the onion and garlic for about 2-3 minutes, until the onion becomes transparent.
  4. Add the bell pepper and chopped tomatoes.
  5. Add in the coriander, all spice, cinnamon, pepper and salt. Cook together for a few more minutes.
  6. In a separate cup or bowl, mix together the tomato sauce and water and pour into pot.
  7. Add in the lemon juice and cook together for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Add the okra and stir to combine.
  9. Cook uncovered on medium heat for about 15 minutes.
  10. Reduce the heat to low and let gently simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  11. Serve with bread or rice.

Cook’s Notes

Okra is mucilaginous; this is goo, for lack of a better term, that surrounds the seeds in the pod. Cooking okra for a long time dissolves the goo. But if you’re cooking the pod whole, and break it in the process, then the whole dish will become…slimy. So if you really need to stir the stew, stir gently. And if you break a pod, remove it from the pot. I actually went the whole simmering process without stirring and the stew came out great!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

Welcome to the new Forty*Chestnuts! We’re kicking off this Fall with a new design to help you find more great recipes! We’d love to share with you a very simple and healthy recipe to add to your culinary repertoire.

There’s an excitement and anticipation that comes with eating seasonally. For the past few weeks, I’ve been waiting for the first winter squashes to appear at the market so I can take full advantage of them over the coming months. Spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and our favorite butternut squash. Butternut squash in particular, with it nuttiness and richness of flavor, is a versatile vegetable that pairs well with savory and sweet flavor profiles. We’ve used it in the past in a dish braised with chicken. We’ve also just eaten it by itself baked with a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar. Today, we’ve made it into a soup that’s perfect for the start of Fall.

This is one of the easiest soups we’ve made. So if you need an easy soup that’s sure to be loved, then try out this recipe. We added some pear to this soup to add a bit of sweetness to cut the nuttiness of the squash. Apples would be a good substitute for the pears, if you wish. From Turkey, we brought back some dried sage and used some of that in the soup too. Fresh sage, or even fried sage leaves, would be great as well!

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Peel the squash, remove the seeds and membrane. Cut squash into 2″ chunks.
  3. Peel and core the pears. Cut into quarters.
  4. Toss the squash and pears with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, fennel, and sage. Place in roasting pan.
  5. Roast the squash and pears in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, until they are very soft.
  6. In a pan, heat some olive oil.
  7. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is transparent, about 5-7 minutes.
  8. Working in batches and filling the blender no more than halfway full, place in the blender some of the roasted squash mixture, onion, and chicken stock. Pour into a large soup pot.
  9. Puree the rest of the ingredients in batches until smooth.
  10. Heat through and serve.

Cook’s Notes

If you have an immersion blender, place the roasted squash and pears and cooked onion and garlic into a large soup pot and puree while adding the chicken stock in batches.

Based on how thick or thin you want the soup to be, adjust the amount of chicken stock accordingly.

It doesn’t matter what type of pears you used. We used 2 Bartlett pears. We’ve also made this recipe using apples instead of pears. We used Gala apples and the soup actually turned a bit sweeter with the apples!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

With that same batch of chicken stock that I used to make the Roasted Tomato Basil Soup, I made Chicken Tortilla Soup. And good timing too since I got a bit sick. Chicken soup is great for you when you’re sick. But I get bored from regular chicken noodle soup. The cumin in this soup adds an earthy aroma and mixes well with the piney taste of cilantro. The zing from the lime juice brightens up the soup. It’s a quick and light soup to make assuming you have some cooked chicken breast meat on hand. If not, just run to a store to buy a rotisserie chicken. You won’t be disappointed!

Directions

  1. In a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, warm some olive oil.
  2. Add the onion and saute until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and jalapeño and cook 1 – 2 minutes to soften.
  4. Add in the cumin and black pepper, cook for about 1 minute.
  5. Add the chicken broth, increase heat slightly and bring to a boil.
  6. Add in the cooked chicken, tomatoes, black beans, cilantro, and lime juice.
  7. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the chicken is heated through, about 10 minutes.
  8. Serve soup into bowls and sprinkle tortilla strips evenly over the top.

Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

I know it’s been a while since we’ve last spoke. Things have been busy at work…we’ve been in a cooking rut…and – yes, of course – you’re right, no excuses. But we’re back and ready to go! After the aberrant snowstorm last week, it seems like winter is coming early. Winter for us, at least while we’re on the East Coast, means soup. And lots of it. There is something just so comforting about a bowl of soup on a chilly day. Maybe it’s the way the savoriness travels down your body, leaving behind its trail of warmth. It’s calming.

What’s more, it’s also great for when you’re sick, which is what our dear photographer is right now. So it’s going to be a soupy weekend. I bought a whole chicken a few days ago, roasted it and saved the bones. A big pot of chicken stock was made and I’m putting it to use. First up, one of my favorite soups, roasted tomato and basil. The ripe plum tomatoes offer a fleshy juiciness that is balanced with the subtle pepper and and sweet flavors of the basil. And my secret ingredient? Instead of any old can of diced tomatoes, I use Trader Joe’s Organic Diced & Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Green Chilies. It adds a kick of heat to the soup, while clearing out your sinuses! It’s perfect for when you’re sick, and also great for when you’re not.

Directions

  1.  To roast the tomatoes, preheat the oven to 400F. Place the tomatoes halves, facing upward, on a baking sheet.
  2. Season them with black pepper and drizzle liberally with olive oil.
  3. Roast for 45 minutes and set aside.
  4. In a stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat, warm some olive oil and the tablespoon of butter.
  5. Saute the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes until the onions start to brown, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme and chicken stock (or water).
  7. Add in the roasted tomatoes along with any liquid on the baking sheet.
  8. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.
  9. Pass the soup through a food mill or pulse on low speed in a blender until the roasted tomato halves are just blended.

Cook’s Notes

Canned tomatoes generally have a lot of sodium in them. I try to buy the sodium free kind when possible, but the Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Green Chilies doesn’t come in that option. So I try to eliminate sodium in the rest of the cooking process: I opted not to sprinkle sea salt over the plum tomatoes before roasting and did not add any salt into the homemade chicken broth. Generally, if one ingredient is contributing a lot of sodium to a dish, I try to cut out salt from the rest of the ingredients.

Wonton Soup

It’s officially Fall! And what better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon than to make wontons? Hot, soupy dishes are perfect for this season. They’re pretty common in Asian cuisine. It’s a filling meal, but not too heavy since it’s mainly broth. Wontons are a type of dumpling. They differ from traditional dumplings, or potstickers, in that the filling of wontons is mainly meat with a little bit of chives. For potstickers, there is a higher proportion of vegetables, such as chives or cabbage. It’s easy to find frozen dumplings in stores but frozen pre-made wontons are not as easy to come by. But you can buy pre-made wonton (square or round) wrappers. Or make your own. I made my own this time. But either way you’ll have to wrap them. Here is a visual step-by-step on wrapping them.

Step 1: Place a wrapper on one hand and place a scoop of filling in the center.

Step 2: Fold the wonton wrapper vertically and bit off-center so you get drapey edges. How I did it – I took the bottom right corner and loosely folded it up so that the corner extends slightly above the top and is placed just to the right of the top left corner. Then seal the wonton by “burping” the air out of the interior and pressing firmly around the shape of the filling

Step 3: To fold it, turn the wonton 90 degrees to the right so that the first corner that you grabbed to fold the wonton up in half is pointing to the edge of your hand opposite your thumb. I then hold it as pictured below. I have my thumb supporting the wonton from the bottom side and I have my index finger slightly pushing down on the filling.

Step 4: I then take the two edges on either side of the filling. In the picture above, I’m grabbing one edge with my other hand and the other edge is right above the thumb supporting the filling from the bottom. Bring the two edges together and fold the corners on top of one another. Your index finger should still be slightly pressing down on the filling at this point. Once the corners have been pressed together, pull out the finger. This will create the loose shape of the wonton.

Step 5: Flour a baking sheet or cutting board and place the wontons on it until ready to be cooked.

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil.
  2. Cook the wontons in batches so the pot is not overcrowded. After the wontons are dropped into the boiling water, bring the water back up to a boil.
  3. After the wontons rise to the surface, add a couple of minutes and they will be cooked.
  4. Remove cooked wontons from the pot and start serving them into individual bowls.
  5. Repeat so that all the wontons get cooked.
  6. In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil.
  7. Add in your desired amount of bean sprouts and watercress. Cook until watercress turns bright green and tender.
  8. Pour the broth and vegetables over the served wontons.