A must: Olive oil

When I was little, I believed my grandmother had secrets. Before she would bring the salad to the table, she would reach to the dark corner of the cabinet under the kitchen sink and pull out a bottle that contained dark green liquid with a slight yellow hint and no label on it. The bottle would yield a thin pour that would go over the salad several times.

Other times, when cooking vegetables, she would pull another bottle, again no label, and make those lazy swirls on the bottom of the pan, but this time with mostly light green-yellow liquid. The liquid would leave trace after trace on the outside of the bottle with the last drop. Then these bottles would be lost again inside the cabinet. I would wonder if there was someone on the other side of the cabinet that fill these bottles up because it seemed like she never ran out of them.

Olive oil is a staple in Turkish cooking, especially in cooking the light, cold vegetable dishes, a category known as “zeytinyaglilar” (“with olive oil”). The origin of the first olive tree is traced back to Anatolian region of Turkey and we have a substantial olive oil production that supply olive oil to world wide known brands. In Turkey, my family “knew people” on the Aegean side to get the good kind so I never had to pay much attention to the source or labeling. This changed when I started shopping here in the US. I learned that just because it says “extra virgin olive oil – bottled in Italy” on the bottle with a hefty pricing does not mean that it is high quality, single source, and made from Italian olives. It means they purchased the oil from Turkey, Tunisia, Greece and/or Spain and blended it. The more I read about it, the more I learned the drama that came with the false labeling, new markets and new producers. There is a lot to learn! It seems like every big kitchen staple has its own drama.

Olive oil dishes are the easiest ones to make for me and we serve them as side dishes. But I do love eating them as main course, with a big bowl of green salad and crusty bread. Leeks and jerusalem artichokes are two that we make with a little bit of rice and carrots. If you are cooking dark greens, you can saute some onion and garlic as well. Any vegetable would lend itself to a tasty dish when prepared this way. We add 1 teaspoon of sugar in many olive oil dishes, to balance the flavor. The trick is to put just enough water and close the lid, let the steam and water from the vegetables do the work. Keep checking the amount of water throughout the cooking and add more if necessary.

Here are some other olive oil dishes I have posted:

Green Beans



Cranberry beans

Afiyet olsun! :)

Leeks with Olive Oil (Zeytinyagli Pirasa)

  • 3 large leeks
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of white rice
  • 1 medium tomato, grated
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water plus more.
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more for serving

1. Put rice in a small bowl and cover with water.

2. Cut leeks in half lengthwise, then cut diagonal in 1-inch strips. Soak them in water for 10 min to let the dirt settle on the bottom. Wash the leeks well.

3. Peel and cut carrots in 1 inch diagonal slice. Heat the olive oil in a pan about 30 seconds on medium high heat. Add carrots to the pan, stir to coat with olive oil, about 30 seconds. Add leeks, stir.

4. Mix grated tomato and the paste in a bowl. Add to the pan.

5. Add sugar, salt , pepper. Stir. Add water, close the lid tightly.

6. Wash the rice several times to get rid of starch. Add rice and lemon juice. Check water occasionally and add little bit (several tablespoons at a time if it needs).

Jerusalem Artichokes

  • 1 lbs Jerusalem artichokes
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of white rice
  • 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water plus more.
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more for serving

1. Cook according to the directions above, skip the tomato paste/grated tomato step.




  1. by Shelley
    7:59 pm
    Dec 10, 2012

    I always pick up Whole Foods brand Turkish olive oil. I’m going to check my bottle label to make sure it’s single source. Is there a particular brand that you use here in the US?

  2. by Ilke
    7:29 am
    Dec 11, 2012

    I try to get Marmara Birlik from Middle Eastern store but it gets expensive.So I try to buy the brands which list the oleic acid content. For it to be a real extra virgin olive oil, should be below 0.8%.

  3. by Angie@Angie's Recipes
    3:34 pm
    Dec 11, 2012

    I usually use Spanish, Greek and Italian olive oil, but never tried Turkish olive oil before…and those Jerusalem artichokes again, something I really need to find them to try.

  4. by Susan
    9:08 pm
    Dec 11, 2012

    I cook with olive oil almost every day and it’s almost always in my salad dressings. So interesting about the labeling. I usually buy olive oil in bulk at Costco for normal use but love higher end oils for salads and bread dipping. I will look for Turkish olive oil!

  5. by john@kitchenriffs
    7:41 pm
    Dec 12, 2012

    I don’t believe I’ve ever tried Turkish olive oil before – I’ll definitely have to look for it. I usually avoid Italian olive oils simply because of the labeling problem. I tend to prefer Spanish or Greek ones, anyway, so that’s good! Plus they’re a bit cheaper. And either would go well with these terrific recipes. I particularly like the leek one- leeks have tremendous flavor, and I don’t use them nearly as much as I should. Good stuff – thanks.

  6. by Parsley Sage
    5:39 pm
    Dec 14, 2012

    Olive oil is essential in my pantry, fo sho! One of the toughest choices of my day is ‘hmm…should i use olive oil or coconut olive?’ My life is just crazy, isn’t it :)

    Love that leek recipe!

  7. by Terra
    6:29 pm
    Dec 16, 2012

    Okay it is official, you just shared with me something I have never seen, heard of, or read about in any way….Jerusalem Artichoke. I had to look it up on Yahoo I was so curious. They look really yummy, well your recipe with them looks really yummy I should say:-) I love comfort food like both of these recipes, they look wonderful! Hugs, Terra

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