Does the word “türlü” mean anything to you? Probably not — not unless you possess an intimate knowledge of the Turkish language. According to Mehmet Coskum, a native of Turkey, and owner of Artemis Mediterranean Bistro, in a kitchen context the word can denote a mixing together, or a casserole. In this instance, he uses the word in reference to a vegetable stew he makes for patrons.
“It’s a classic Turkish food that you would find in a home, but maybe not in a restaurant. My mom, when she came here (from Turkey to visit) a few years ago, she showed me how to make it from the family recipe. It’s a peoples’ dish — traditional,” he said, adding that his casserole is not only vegetarian but vegan as well.
This casserole, or türlü, features some of the usual suspects: green beans, eggplant, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and garlic. These are combined in a sauce that produces a dish likened to a stew, but without the beef, lamb, or chicken.
“So, first I cut all the veggies — bite-sized — and then sauté them in corn oil. No butter, which makes it a vegan dish. Then I prepare a special sauce for the casserole; tomato paste, red-pepper paste, some vegetable seasonings, some salt, and we cook them down into a stew of vegetables (see photo),” he stated. All that is done on the stovetop, which places it in the category of a stew. We enjoyed the veggie dish as part of a recent meal Artemis prepared for us, and it is delicious and satisfying. My sense is that it will tantalize the tastebuds even for diners who may not be vegetarian or vegan. We loved it! Especially good using pieces of pita bread as scoops.
What makes this dish Turkish? In part tradition and location, having been a recipe found in and around modern-day Turkey dating back to Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian times when the region was considered part of the Fertile Crescent. The millennium surrounding those civilizations leaned heavily on vegetarian diets, hence finding türlü on the family menu should be no surprise.
Another factor is found among the ingredients — red-pepper paste specifically. “It’s not very common in the states (the USA). I use red-pepper paste in a lot of my recipes,” he claimed, including the veggie casserole. Red-pepper paste, mild, flavorful, is made from red bell peppers. It and a variety of herbs and spices from Turkey are used to season the food at Artemis, adding to the authenticity of the dishes selected by diners-out.
Coskum offered amplification on Turkish ingredients: “For instance, we have this okra dish, vegetarian, also one with lamb and okra sautéed. Places here sell okra, but it’s not the same as in Turkey. The ones I use (to make the okra dishes) are in a jar that comes from Turkey. They have a much better flavor—taste a lot better—so I try to use those. Sometimes they are hard to find, but I can depend on the flavor and the taste being the same. That’s the kind of thing that makes the food here authentic and makes our dishes taste just the same as they would in Turkey if you ordered them there,” he said.
In addition to the veggie casserole, we started our meal with a 4-part sampler of appetizers. If one asks Coskum what his best seller is, he’ll answer without hesitation — hummus, with around four hundred orders a month, in all. We enjoyed his house-made hummus as part of the sampler, and in the end, not a smidge was left — great appetizer with scraps of warm, soft pita bread! So too is baba ghanoush, a smoked eggplant dish ideally eaten with those same scraps of pita bread. Rounding out the sampler were spicy chopped veggies and eggplant stewed in sauce. If you want a fun and tasty appetizer before your meal, I’m betting you cannot go wrong with the sampler we enjoyed.
Another entrée we shared with enthusiasm is the oven-roasted lamb shoulder. This dish is a specialty of the house. If ever you’ve had pulled chicken, you’ll have a sense of the texture of this dish. The strands and chunks of lamb are exceedingly tender and tasty. Eaten together with the rice pilaf, you’ll have a delightful combo to enjoy. Or try the lamb on shreds of pita bread. Either way, my guess is that if you like lamb, you’ll love this dish. We did!
See you at Artemis Mediterranean Bistro!
Artemis Mediterranean Bistro
7791 Cooper Road
Cincinnati, OH 45242