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Shish Kebabs

“LowLast week we hit the road and went to an exhibition in Istanbul. It was great to get away from the damp spring weather in Germany, and it was an interesting cultural and culinary experience. We were curious whether it would be possible to eat low-carb in Turkey, and it turned out to be harder than we expected. While Turkey's beach hotels usually offer a varied buffet that includes low-carb options, we had to rely on restaurants in Istanbul. It wasn't a problem to make substitutions for carb-rich side dishes, but we hadn't anticipated that the portions of meat and vegetables in the main dish would be so small. The result: after two or three appetizers and a main course, we still weren't full. I even ordered two main courses. This went on for a few days until we found a couple of restaurants that offered good, filling low-carb meals. I talked with the chefs to find out what they recommended.

Grilling is always good for low-carb fans. But, of course, it always raises the question of side dishes. The Turkish eggplant kebab has a built-in side dish and is delicious as well. We've also included recipes for two great Turkish "salads" that work as appetizers or side dishes:

Eggplant Kebab to serve 6

3eggplants (long thin ones work best)
600 gground lamb
1long green pepper
2cloves of garlic
2eggs
50 ggluten
1/2 TLsalt

Cumin, coriander, some olive oil

Pepper Salad (Acili Ezme)

6long green peppers
1/2eggplant
1onion
1/2cucumber
2 ELolive oil
100 gsun-dried tomatoes

Oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil

Okra Salad (Vendakka Kichadi)

400 gpickled okra
500 gTurkish yogurt (10% fat)
1bunch of dill
2 ELolive oil

Salt

Grilled Tomatoes and Peppers

Preparing for your cookout will be quick and easy if you do some smart shopping first. Visiting a Middle Eastern grocery store is a good idea. Here in Germany they can be found in almost every city, and are an inexpensive source of meat and vegetables.

The Recipe:

For the eggplant kebab, mix ground lamb with 2 eggs, 1 TL salt, and plenty of cumin and coriander. Mince 1 green pepper and the garlic and add them to the mix. Knead everything together and then, while continuing to knead, add the gluten. This will stiffen the mixture and make it easier to shape. Then cut the long thin eggplants into 10 slices. (NOTE: It's very important that the eggplants be thin. Otherwise they'll take much longer to grill.) Spear the eggplant slices on skewers (5 slices per skewer), alternating them with layers of the meat mixture. Brush some olive oil onto each skewer. Your shish kebabs are ready for the grill.

For the pepper salad (Acili Ezme), put dried tomatoes in a bowl with just enough hot water to cover them. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and let sit for half an hour. Cut a pepper into large pieces (we chose the darkest of our stock of peppers, since dark ones are hotter). Place the pepper pieces in a skillet (without oil) and sear them. Dice the onion and eggplant and add them to the skillet. Now you can add a little oil. Puree the contents of the skillet with the half cucumber and the drained tomatoes. Season to taste with oregano, thyme, and a little salt.

“LowOkra is one of the oldest cultivated plants, although it's not common in Germany. Preparing fresh okra is somewhat complicated, so we use pickled okra from a jar. Pour the okra into a colander and drain it well, rinsing it thoroughly with water 2-3 times. This gets rid of the slimy juice (which is edible but gives the salad a, shall we say, unique texture). Combine 500 g yogurt and 2 EL olive oil in a bowl and stir until creamy. Season with plenty of fresh dill and then add the coarsely-chopped okra. Add salt to taste.

We invited friends over for our Turkish barbecue. Everyone was excited to experience the new flavors. Along with the recipes above, we grilled tomatoes and peppers. We thought we'd made way too much food, and the fact that almost all of it got eaten speaks for itself!

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