Mastering familiar Turkish dishes

Sarmas, Dolmas and Red Lentil Soup are some of the staples of Turkish cuisine. While not foreign to many palates in the United States, the myriad variations for stuffing peppers or leaves often are missing in stateside recipes and kitchens. But there is no reason Americans can’t master these three dishes and find that one of the world’s great cuisines is far from exotic.

Sarmas usually are made with grape, cabbage or chard leaves and stuffed with rice, spices or ground meat. Most Americans probably think of these as Dolmas, which they are. But in western Turkey, rolled leaves are always known as sarmas. Dolmas are stuffed vegetables. In Turkish cuisine, these usually are stuffed green bell peppers – much tastier and less bitter than the green bell peppers we get in the United States.

Red Lentil Soup is often served before lunch and dinner. It is a quick-to-make dish because you don’t have to soak the lentils first.

A key ingredient to the filling for Sarmas and Dolmas is red pepper paste. You likely won’t find it in the U.S., but it’s easy to make once you find maras pepper flakes. Find a recipe online. There really is no substitute for it.

Amounts in recipes for these dishes can be modified to your liking. Like most seasoned cooks, Hayrunisa didn’t measure ingredients.