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It must have been the Turks who discovered that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. On a recent visit to Turkey, I reveled in the morning repast. At every hotel and inn we enjoyed a feast of delicious offerings.
The breads alone took my breath away. Of course, classic croissants and Danish pastry graced every bread arrangement, but there was so much more. I feel in love with simit, a kind of sesame Turkish bagel that was sold on street corners and ferries and of course in bakeries. These sesame nuggets of goodness are hard to find in the States, but if you are in New York City or New Jersey look for them at the East Coast Turkish bakery Simit and Smith. I imagine they will soon be available across the country.
One of my favorite dishes to get the morning going was scrambled eggs, Turkish style. Menemen is a dish of sautéed onions, peppers and tomatoes with scrambled eggs, enriched with crumbled feta cheese.
I had many versions throughout my Turkish culinary visit. Sometimes the dish had the vegetable mixture on the bottom of the pan and steamed (not scrambled) eggs on top. I prefer the scrambled tangle of sweet tomatoes, mild peppers, golden onion and creamy eggs. I have added a yogurt drizzle spiced with sumac that has a tart, lemony flavor for a touch of Turkish flavor.
My most memorable breakfast was at the Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay. Sitting outside on a private bay overlooking the Aegean Sea, menemen was presented in copper casseroles. The hotel setting was magical. We also visited the Ciragan Palace Kempinski in Istanbul that was situated right on the Bosphorus. The breakfasts, served on the patio, were a sight to behold, occupying an entire room of possibilities. Menemen, of course, was served there as well.
Turkey may seem far away but you can certainly experience this breakfast pleasure in your own kitchen. Start with fresh juices of your choice, a basket of fresh baked breads and croissants, great fruit preserves and a casserole of menemen with the yogurt drizzle as a tasty garnish. No need for Turkish coffee -- cups of steaming tea seem to be the way the Turks end the meal. Enjoy.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 banana peppers, seeded and thinly sliced or diced (you can use a yellow or red pepper instead)
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Sumac yogurt sauce, (see below)
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1. Heat the oil and butter in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Saute the onion for 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the peppers and continue cooking until the onions are golden and the peppers are softened, about 5 more minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the tomatoes are softened and much of the juice has evaporated. Add the salt, pepper and chili flakes, and cook another minute. Lower heat to medium.
3. Meanwhile, combine the eggs in a bowl and whisk to blend. Season with salt and pepper and add the feta cheese.
4. Stir the egg mixture into the cooked vegetables and scramble the eggs until they are just done, 5 to 6 minutes. Do not overcook.
5. Transfer to plates or shallow bowls or serve right from the pan. Drizzle with sumac yogurt sauce and garnish with parsley. Serve the remaining yogurt sauce on the side.
Sumac Yogurt Sauce
1/2 teaspoon sumac
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 minced garlic clove
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
Combine all ingredients in small bowl and mix to combine. Season to taste.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Holidays," and also a James Beard award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)