It was pure serendipity that we found Carne Restaurant our first night in Istanbul.
Due to a government parade the main streets were closed to traffic so we were not able to honor our much sought after reservation at a highly touted restaurant on the other side of the Bosphorous.
Hungry and jet-lagged, we decided to take a walk and within minutes from our hotel we came upon a small, elegant, warmly lit restaurant enveloped in dark, soft fabrics set off by austerely white walls and contemporary furniture.
We were definitely seduced by the small Hebrew-lettered sign kasher below the name and walked right in to have our first Turkish meal. And what a meal it was. We were congenially welcomed by Tuna Eshkanazi, the manager and shown to a window table where we could observe the parade.
The menus proved far more interesting than the stream of military floats, and our taste buds were preparing for a special culinary experience. Carne is one of the very few strictly kosher meat restaurants in Turkey, and apparently very popular with tourists worldwide plus locals who attend the Etz Chayim Synagogue across the street.
Within moments, we made friends with the diners next to us and even those next to them. One of the young men suggested that we tap the window we were seated at. We did, and found that it was several thicknesses of glass. Unfortunately, we didn't have to ask why.
Our new friends suggested their favorites on the menu, which led us to believe they had been there many times before.
Tuna explained that the entire staff (except herself) was Muslim, including the chef, but all knew the rules of kashrut ardently. Most of the dishes on the menu were Sephardic - with a Turkish twist.
The chef's recipes were not actually available, but I tried to recreate them; the following are my adaptations for a complete meal. End it with fresh fruit.
Pomegranate molasses can be found in the ethnic-food section of your market. I use a brand called Carlo (kosher). You can also use pomegranate juice by cooking it down to a syrupy consistency.
1 Tbsp. red-wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses or vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
6 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and cut into chunks
1 hot-house cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into cubes
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into cubes
1 large red onion, cut into small chunks
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients until well-blended.
In a large bowl, combine the vegetables with half the parsley and dressing. Toss well, taste for salt and pepper, and sprinkle with remaining parsley.
Serves 6 to 8.
Spicy Red-Lentil Soup
(Meat or Pareve)
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp. chili flakes (or to taste)
3 Tbsps. tomato paste
8 cups kosher chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 cups red lentils
2 cups bulgar
salt and pepper
fresh mint leaves for garnish
In a large saucepan, heat oil.
Add onion, garlic and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili flakes, tomato paste and stock. Stir well and bring to a boil.
Add lentils and bulgar, and simmer until lentils are tender about 20 minutes.
In a blender, purée half the soup and return it to saucepan.
Taste for salt and pepper.
Serve garnished with mint.
2 lbs. leeks, white part only, cleaned
1/2 lb. ground lamb or beef
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup matzah meal or breadcrumbs
1 tsp. salt or to taste
oil for frying
Slice leeks and cook in boiling water until soft. Drain, press out excess liquid and chop fine. Mix leeks, lamb, walnuts and beaten eggs, 1 tablespoon matzah meal and the salt.
Roll into balls 11/2 inches in diameter. Roll them first in remaining egg and then in remaining matzah meal.
Heat oil in a skillet, and fry over moderate heat for 3 minutes or until browned. Drain on paper towels.
Serve warm, as is, or with a tomato sauce.
Makes 20 balls.
Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.