Tejate-inspired Holiday Drink

The beginning of summer deserves a new drink. I was exposed to tejate in a food market in Oaxaca, where masa (processed -nixtamalized- corn) and water was being mixed manually. The process looked both impressive and intriguing (see also my Instagram post). And, the concept of masa in a cacao drink is equally fascinating. Lacking talent and patience, I resort to a high powered blender, substituting hyper-local flora with baru nuts (of South American origin) and a final spike (Cacao liqueur)!! This was my Memorial Day holiday’s final drink- a resounding hit. Enjoy!


High powered blender.


Serves 3 small drinks.

  • 2 tbsps (toasted) baru nuts + 2 tbsp good quality cacao powder + 2 tbsp masa harina
  • 2 cups coconut water + 1/2 cup ice
  • 1 dash of salt + 1 tsp almond essence 1 tbsp of maple syrup
  • cacao liqueur (optional)


Run all ingredients, except liqueur, in blender till well mixed. Serve chilled, with a dash (or more) of cacao liqueur.


  1. You could use any other nut like almonds or cashews.
  2. I wanted to use lilac flowers, but I missed the blooming season by a week or so. Alas! May be next year. Orange blossoms or lavender or bergamot could be very good choices too (they are in my list to-experiment list)
  3. Even coffee liqueur is a good choice.

Turkish coffee: my way

I approached the traditional coffee in Istanbul with some trepidation –having heard quite aplenty about strong, unfiltered coffee– But I was mildly surprised with how good and addictive the coffee was (with a dash of sugar). Not at all uncommon to find little, medium or more sugar in the coffee of Istanbul denizens. The coffee is generally served with water (in a little 2 oz glass) and the quintessential confection, a Turkish delight.

The coffee sets with the tiny coffee cups and matching trays, in engraved copper, looked very enticing in Grand Bazaar. I instantly succumbed. I also bought a matching coffee pot (cezve) with intricate carvings in the body and the characteristic long handle. It looked so small to me that I mistook it for a single-cup pot and complained to the shopkeeper; he promptly pointed me to an even tinier (single-cup) pot.

There are even electric coffee makers that one of my Turkish hostesses used, claiming she even carried them with her when she traveled. But I had been seduced by the copper stove-top ones. The coffee is surprisingly easy to make. Here goes.

Coffee grounds: The Turkish coffee ground is very, very fine. Like flour. If you grind your own, use your finest setting. If you use a scale, then approx 7 gms per cup. By volume, 1/2 tbsp (or 1 1/2 tsp) grounds per cup. Each Turkish cup is about 2 oz (a demitasse).

Extraction: For 1 cup (approx 2 oz) of coffee, place 1/2 tbsp ground coffee in a dry cezve. Note, the 2 serving cezve is about 6 oz. Using the serving cup as a measure, pour 1 cup of water into the pot. Mix well. Then place on very low heat. Do NOT stir. In a few minutes, the mixture froths and begins to rise from the sides. Quickly pour about half the contents into the cup with the crema on top. Then put the pot back on the heat and let the remaining half froth up again for the final time. Then pour the second half into the cup. The crema on top is a sign of a good extraction (just like an Italian espresso, although the latter is filtered).

My way: I experimented with half milk and half water OR all milk, instead of all water. And, no sugar. It has been consistently turning out great. With rich crema. Enjoy the way or my way!!

Urfa biber Brownies

Just before setting off to Istanbul, coincidentally, a brownie recipe came my way with the famous raisin-ish, maroon colored Turkish pepper from the Urfa region. The pepper was already gracing my pantry. I adapted the recipe to all-pantry-ingredients for a quick, no-fuss, no-guilt brownie that promises to stun your palate. You will not miss the flour-laden version. Believe me. I may have even done the unthinkable. I packed some for the ten hour flight that awaited me. Enjoy!




  • 1 can (15 oz). black beans, rinsed and drained + 3 large eggs + 3 tbsp EVOO + 1 tsp vanilla essence
    + 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder + 1/2 cup slivered almonds + 1/2 cup sugar
    + 1/2 tsp baking powder + 1/4 tsp salt + 1 1/2 tsp Urfa biber
  • Garnish: Maldon sea salt


Run all ingredients (except garnish) in food processor till smooth. Pour into a greased (with EVOO) baking pan and bake at 350 F for 20-25 mins.
Sprinkle sea salt. Let cool and cut into pieces.


  1. The food processor is powerful enough to mix all the ingredients together. But if you plan to mix by hand, then mix the dry and wet ingredients separately before put them all together.
  2. You can increase the amount of sugar in the recipe, if you prefer sweeter versions.
  3. If you prefer, you can line the baking pan with parchment, instead of greasing it.
  4. You can test the done-ness with a toothpick and adjust the baking time.
  5. The excess brownies can be frozen in freeze bags.

Ajika Millet with Miner’s Lettuce

Georgian seasoning blend, Ajika, brings depth brightening the grains; fish provides the protein and seasonal Miner’s lettuce (purslane greens) tops it off. A quick, easy, toothsome rounded meal. Enjoy!


A kerai or wok.


  • 1 cup millet cooked as per packet instructions (simmered in 2 cups water, for 20 mins)
  • 1 Can fish (5 oz Albacore tuna OR wild sardines)
  • Sofrito: 1 tbsp oil + 1 small shallot diced + 2-3 garlic pods minced
  • Seasonings: 1 tbsp Georgian Ajika + 1/2 tsp black lime powder + 1/4 tsp urfa biber (Turkish) pepper + 1 tsp dried crushed mint greens + salt to taste
  • Topping: 1 1/2 cup Miner’s lettuce (purslane greens)


In a wok, heat the sofrito ingredients till fragrant (3-4 mins). Add the seasoning ingredients and mix in till the spices bloom (2-3 mins). Add the canned fish and let mix well, breaking up the fish into smaller pieces. Mix in the cooked millet. Finally add the greens, cover and let wilt (2 mins).

Serve hot.


  1. You can use any seasoning of your choice (for example adobo or curry or Bayou seasonings). This is a very forgiving recipe.
  2. The black lime powder is a tangy flavorful agent worth experimenting with, if you have not already done so.
  3. The recipe is resilient enough for any other grain (rice, farro, spelt, barley, rye, … ) as well.

Stuffed Turkish Apricots

I am looking forward to my upcoming Istanbul trip. In anticipation of the exquisite cuisine that awaits me, here is a dirt simple, 2-ingredient, super-quick amuse bouche that is astonishingly mind-blowing as well. Enjoy!




  • 6-8 Turkish dried apricots (without sulphates!)
  • 1/2 cup drained yogurt
  • Topping (optional): crushed walnuts or pistachios


Rehydrate the apricots in a cup of water by microwaving for 2-3 minutes. Let cool. Stuff each apricot with a tsp of drained yogurt. Optionally sprinkle with crushed nuts and lightly pour the apricot syrup (from rehydration).

Serve warm or cold.


  1. DO NOT USE THIS TREATMENT ON DRIED APRICOTS WITH SULFUR DIOXIDES. For these poach in apple juice gently over the stove, till softened.
  2. Note there is no added sugar in the recipe. Just the natural sugars in the apricots. For this minimal treatment, I would avoid the ones that use sulphates.
    Surprisingly, the warming of the apricots in water (albeit in the microwave for a few scant minutes) turns the whole house redolent with the aromas of an Indian mithaiwala‘s ! Many Indian sweets revolve around sugar syrups of various consistencies.
  3. The recipe was inspired by a master class from CIA.

On Memorial Day, these apricots were stuffed with gajar halwa and topped with ground pistachio (from Istanbul) and cashewnuts. The apricot was gently, poached in the microwave, 1 minute at a time, until tender. Was a smashing hit, even with the most pernickety.

Kibbeh Casserole

A meat-n-wheat sumptuous casserole for Superbowl. A little unusual but mighty addictive. Also, with guilt-free mustard greens. Enjoy!!


A food processor; oven; 5 qt casserole.


Makes enough to feed a small party (8-10) of Superbowl revelers.

  • Stuffing:
    • 1 lb ground meat
    • 1/2 cup onion diced
    • Spices: 1 tsp ground allspice + 1 tsp cinnamon powder + 1 tsp cayenne pepper
    • Salt to taste
    • 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • Bottom and Top Layers:
    • 3 cups bulgur wheat grains (cooked in 5 cups water for 10 mins till soft and fluffy — or follow package instruction)
    • 2 bunches (8 oz each) greens (mustard or spinach or any other green)
    • 1 lb ground meat
    • 1 cup diced onions
    • Flavoring: 1 tbsp dried marjoram + 1 tbsp dried mint + 1 tbsp dried basil + 1 tbsp allspice powder + 1 tbsp cinnamon powder + salt to taste


Stuffing: In a saute pan brown the ground meat. Mix in the rest of the stuffing ingredients. Set aside.

Lightly oil the bottom of a large casserole dish.

Use the food processor to make the bottom and top layers. Given the volume, you may want to process the bottom and top layer separately. Halve the recipe for each layer. I use kitchen scissors to coarsely chop the greens right into the processor. Run the processor for a minute or so till the greens are coarsely and evenly chopped. Then add the rest of the ingredients and and process till homogenous. Dump this into the casserole dish and press for an even bottom layer.

Layer the stuffing on the bottom layer. Process the top layer as per the bottom layer. Carefully spread the processed mix, in about 1/2 cup chunks over the stuffing. Then gently press the top into an even layer.

Score with a wet, sharp steak knife as in picture. Brush with water. Tightly cover with aluminum foil.

Bake at 475 F for 40 to 50 mins [test doneness by piercing with knife]. Remove foil, broil for 10 mins.


  1. This meat in a meat-n-wheat casing (kibbeh) is adapted from The Lebanese Kitchen by Monique Bassila Zaarour.
  2. The ground meat can be lamb OR bison OR bison/beef mix. I have not tried with poultry or tofu- but that could be a good experiment.
  3. I added the greens to round out the nutrition profile.