In the summer of 2023 my husband and I were lucky enough to return to Turkey, this time, Istanbul. We were definitely tourists on those days, visiting the Blue Mosque, the Sultan’s Palace, plus more stunning architecture and art from the Ottoman Empire.
Then, of course, there was the food! I was especially excited that our hotel’s breakfast menu offered çilbir, which I’ve made for the blog and dreamt of ever since. (Please make it!) My blog photo is lower left. What I ordered at the hotel is lower right. Same ingredients, different presentation.
The next morning, it was suggested by the waiter that I try another traditional breakfast, called Menemen. Of course I would! And a Turkish coffee afterwards. (Don’t bother trying to order it during breakfast!)
This breakfast is easy and straightforward, and so worth making. One could easily double the recipe for company.
The recipe I used for Menemen is from New York Times Cooking, by Joan Nathan.
She writes, “Although a year-round dish, it is especially pleasing in the summer, with really ripe tomatoes from the garden or farmer’s market. Be creative with this dish: Add shallots, chiles, fresh herbs or Aleppo pepper, or treat it as purists do, with only tomatoes and eggs. Cook slowly, stirring infrequently, until the eggs form billowy puffs. You can serve topped with feta cheese or lamb sausage, with any warm flatbread on the side.”
These eggs are so so good. The recipe is even better than what I had in Istanbul.
An anecdote: This morning I was in an Uber in Dallas, Texas, after visiting a friend. The driver is Turkish, and of course we talked food! He told me that the “real” name for Menemen is “a single man’s best friend!”
5 small tomatoes
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, to taste
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 mild but flavorful long green pepper, stemmed, seeded, diced (I used 1 Anaheim)
4 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Flatbread, toasted or untoasted, for serving
Remove the peels from the tomatoes by boiling them for approximately 30 seconds in water. Remove gently and let cool. When you’re able, remove the skins and chop half of the tomatoes, removing some of the seeds. Place the other half of the tomatoes in a small blender and purée.
Heat the oil in a nonstick medium skillet over medium-high. Add the onion, oregano and Aleppo pepper, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in the green pepper and cook until soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
Once the onions and peppers are soft, add the remaining chopped tomatoes to the onions and peppers. Make sure and let all of the tomato water cook off before continuing with the recipe. Crack the eggs into a medium bowl, add the puréed tomatoes and whisk until foamy.
Once the mixture in the skillet comes to a simmer, stir in the 1/4 cup parsley and the butter.
Reduce heat to low, add the egg mixture on top and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggs are set but still soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste, adding a little more salt, oregano or Aleppo pepper, if needed.
Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve immediately with flatbread alongside.
The eggs are traditionally served in the actual cooking skillet.