Eating breakfast is an important part of Turkish family tradition. Despite a culture rich in regional cuisine, you'll be surprised to find that basic breakfast fare is fairly standard all across the country. Typical items include fresh white bread, a slice or two of Turkish cheese like white cheese or 'kaşar' (ka-SHAR') cheese, black olives, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and either honey or fruit preserves.
The good news is, It only gets better from there. Now it's time to do as Turkish people do. That is, embellish this basic fare to create a magnificent breakfast line-up. A perfect dish to add is a light, juicy scramble of diced vegetables and eggs called "menemen" (men-EH'-men). If you're a fan of vegetable and Mexican omelets, you'll definitely enjoy this dish.
Begin with sauteed onions, then add diced sweet and hot peppers, juicy tomatoes and spices. Pour your scrambled eggs over the top and let it simmer without stirring. The result is a light, juicy version of scrambled eggs and vegetables that are great for dipping bread.
I like to experiment with different kinds of peppers, both hot and sweet. Make sure your tomatoes are good quality and nicely ripened. If good tomatoes are out of season, you can substitute canned diced tomatoes. Some cooks also add Turkish white cheese, similar to Feta, or firm, a yellow cheese called 'kaşar' (ka-SHAR').
When you serve 'menemen,' make sure you have slices of crusty bread for dipping in the buttery juice. For a traditional touch, you can cook and serve your 'menemen' in a typical Turkish copper skillet called a 'sahan' (sah-HAN'). Try 'menemen' the next time you're dreaming of a veggie omelet and add some Turkish flare to your next breakfast.
- 6 eggs
- 4 tablespoon butter
- 1 large onion (finely chopped)
- 2 large tomatoes (ripe)
- 2 sweet red peppers (like Corno di Toro peppers, or 1 large red Bell pepper)
- 2 sweet green peppers (like Anaheim peppers, or 1 hot chili pepper)
- 1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Optional: 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- First, peel and dice the onion. Also, peel the tomatoes with a very sharp knife and dice them, saving the juice. Remove the seeds from the peppers and dice them as well.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet. Sautee the onion until tender and translucent. When the onions are cooked, add all the diced vegetables and spices and stir to combine.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat. Let the mixture simmer gently until the tomatoes and peppers soften and release their natural juice.
- Remove the lid and continue to simmer, letting some of the liquid evaporate. Lightly salt and scramble the eggs in a separate bowl, then pour them in the center of the pan. Don't stir the mixture. Let the eggs travel through the vegetables on their own. You can help them by moving the skillet around.
- Let the mixture continue to simmer until the eggs are cooked. If the tops of the eggs still seem raw, cover the pan for a few minutes.
- Your 'menemen' should be fully cooked but still very juicy. You can drizzle some extra melted butter over the top before serving if you wish.