The Best Turkish Cold Vegetable Dishes
What if I told you that Turkey is one of the best places on Earth for vegetarians? In Turkish cuisine, fresh vegetables, herbs, leaves, beans, and legumes are used to make appetizers, soups, salads, and main dishes.
Turkish regional cuisine, showcasing local veggies harvested from nearby fields, can be experienced by following the seasons around the country.
Turkey’s vegetable dishes are cooked in their own juices, Turkish vegetable dishes are served cold with a drizzle of olive oil. Zeytinyaglilar (zay-TIN 'yah-LUH'-lar) is the Turkish name for this collection of dishes with olive oil.
The standard is to serve at least one of these recipes with almost every meal. The refrigerator is always stocked with tasty 'Zeytinyagli'.
Zeytinyagli vegetables are all prepared in a similar way. It is prepared by washing and cutting the vegetables into desired shapes, then braising them in a pressure cooker or covered saucepan with onions, seasonings, and sometimes rice.
The key to cooking efficiently is to use as little water as possible. In this way, the vegetables will be cooked in their own juices and won't turn out bland.
Once the vegetables are very tender and the liquid has reduced, then they are kept at room temperature until they are cool enough to handle. A generous amount of extra virgin olive oil is drizzled over the vegetables before they are served or stored.
In addition to giving them better flavor, this also helps to keep them fresh in the refrigerator for several days.
On Sundays, home cooks prepare the week's vegetable dishes, and the family enjoys them throughout the week.
We've compiled a list of the most comprehensive 'Zeytinyagli' dishes available in Turkey. Many of these can be enjoyed by vegetarians as a stand-alone meal.
The vegetables you'll see are likely to be something you've never tried before. Samphire steamed in butter, fava beans, or artichoke bottoms sound appealing to you?
What about roasted eggplant salad or leeks and carrots? Get a taste of authentic Turkish vegetarian cuisine by choosing any recipe from the following list or by trying them all.
Zeytinyagli Enginar (Artichoke Bottoms)
Zeytinyagli Enginar (zay-TEEN' YAH'-loo EN'-geen-ahr) or artichoke bottoms is a dish that can be served as a side dish, starter or salad and is typically cooked with olive oil. Despite being common in Turkey, artichokes are still considered delicacies and served at special occasions.
Zeytinyagli Pirasa (Braised Leeks and Carrots)
This traditional preparation of braised leeks and carrots, or Zeytinyagli Pirasa (zay-TEEEN'-yah-luh Pur-AH'-sa), is popular in Turkey, particularly in winter when leeks are plentiful. If you need more ideas on what to do with leeks than just make soup, try this easy Turkish recipe.
Zeytinyagli Barbunya (Pinto Beans)
The Turkish version of pinto beans, 'Zeytinyagli Barbunya' (zaytEEN'-yah-luh barb-boon-yah), is prepared with fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, and carrots and can be served cold. You can substitute it for classic bean recipes. Instead of baked beans, try this lighter and healthier dish.
Zeytinyagli Deniz Börülcesi (Samphire)
Zeytinyagli Deniz Börülcesi ('ZeyTEEN'-yah-luh Den-EEZ Bor-UL'-jay-see'), known as samphire with olive oil and garlic is a traditional Turkish 'meze,' or appetizer. Most often found in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions of Turkey.
Imam Bayildi (The Priest Fainted)
This classic Turkish dish made of eggplants, onions, and garlic was swooned with delight centuries ago by a Muslim priest. That is the reason it is called 'The Priest Fainted.' You'll love it so much; you'll also swoon over it.
Zeytinyagli Kereviz (Celeriac)
Turkey enjoys celeriac in the fall and winter months. This recipe for 'Zeytinyagli Kereviz' is prepared by cooking celeriac in its own juices. The juice of lemons and oranges is added to the celeriac as well as olive oil. As a side dish or as a cold lunch, it is a delightful, fragrant dish.
Patlican Salatasi (Turkish Eggplant Salad)
It is considered a traditional appetizer or 'meze' in Turkey. For a true eggplant experience, try this recipe with only three ingredients. The main component is roasted eggplant, whipped with olive oil and salt. Mayonnaise or yogurt may also be added.
Turkish Fava Beans
The unique taste and nutritional value of fava beans makes them prized in Turkish cuisine. Fava beans are cooked until they break apart, then pressed through a strainer with olive oil to make this fava bean puree. As a 'meze,' or appetizer, cubes of fava bean puree are cut and served after the mixture has set.