Coming from America, one of the great things about cooking in Turkey is the familiarity of the ingredients. The seasons for growing are very similar here: tomatoes in the summer, peas in the spring and pumpkin in the fall. The difference is the approach to using ingredients. At the morning markets in Istanbul, groups of men gather around tables to eat piles of raw vegetables, cheese and chunks of fluffy bread for breakfast. This is a country where veggies are at the heart of meals, and seasonal eating is a rule.
This dish is inspired by what's called meze here in Turkey. Meze (literally translating to 'appetizer') refers to a selection of cold or room temperature vegetable dishes. We served this at a meze-style dinner we cooked for our Turkish friends here in Istanbul. It fit right in alongside the roasted peppers with pistachios, stewed beans & spinach, spiced carrots and salmon in dill sauce, but still garnered its own praise.
This recipe is a hearty dish for two people. A larger version would certainly be a welcome addition at Thanksgiving.
2 celery root, peeled and sliced into rounds, 1/4 inch thick
1 potato, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 leek, pale part only, cut into 1/2 inch rounds and rinsed very thoroughly
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 pear sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch, or less, thick.
2 oz cheese, broken into bite-sized pieces (cheeses from Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, etc. often get lumped together under the category of Feta, although they can be very different from each other. Look for a feta that is a bit creamy and wet. If that type of cheese is hard to find, a young white cheddar, ricotta salata, manchego or a number of other cheeses would work well)
3-4 spicy pickled peppers, preferably small green ones, sliced into thin rounds
1 Tbl parsley, chiffonade
Salt to taste
Lemon and olive oil to taste
1 large plate or baking sheet lined with a cloth rag or paper towel
1. To roast the celery root, heat a sauté pan and add enough vegetable oil to lightly coat the surface of the pan. Working in batches, add slices of celery root, allowing space for each one to lay flat. Cook on a medium-high heat, without turning until one side is dark brown, even slightly burnt around the edges. Turn them over for a moment to cook through, and drain on the lined plate. While they are hot, sprinkle a pinch of salt over them.
2. In a sauce pot, cover the potatoes with cold water and season with a few pinches of salt. Bring to a low simmer. At this point taste the water. If it isn't a bit salty, add salt until the water tastes salty. Once the water is seasoned, add the leeks. Cook until both the leeks and potatoes are very tender. Drain in a colander.
3. On a wide serving dish place the celery root, potatoes and leeks in a flat layer. Drizzle some olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt over them. Next, put the cheese, pickled peppers, pear, pomegranate and parsley on top of the previously arranged items. Again drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. This can be done artfully, or just tossed together, it looks and tastes great either way.