Since Christmas is not celebrated in Turkey, and it also being my first Christmas away from my family – we created our own, new tradition and invited our closest friends over on Christmas Eve to eat, drink and be merry!

Since I am privileged to live with a chef, and to have chef friends, Umut and Mehmet Ali created dishes at my request. At first, it was hard to decide what to prepare, especially since we don’t have an oven (so the typical turkey or lasagna was not possible). As we threw around ideas and discussed the chef’s specialties and my favorite Turkish dishes – it essentially ended up being similar to a raki menu, literally making it an Istanbul Inspired meal.


christmas meze





  • Steak Tartare
  • Salmon Tartare
  • Ezme
  • Charcoaled Eggplant Salad
  • Eggplant Yogurt
  • Sea Bass Ceviche
  • Spicy Yogurt with Albanian Peppers



Steak Tartare
One of Mehmet Ali’s signature dishes, his secret ingredient: worcestershire sauce and it’s served with scallions.



Salmon Tartare
Another one of Mehmet Ali’s signature dishes, topped with pomegranate seeds.



Usually more of a red pepper paste dip made of peppers, tomatoes, spices and herbs. Umut’s version pictured above was more salsa-esque, to accompany the salmon tartare, sea bass ceviche and Umut’s speciality – Sriracha margaritas!



Charcoaled Eggplant Salad
Charcoaled eggplant mixed with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.



Eggplant Yogurt
The charcoaled eggplant salad described above mixed with garlicky yogurt.



Sea Bass Ceviche
Levrek, sea bass in Turkish, is a popular fish here. This made the menu because Mehmet Ali and I were out one night and he’d declared he could make it better, accepting the challenge…Mehmet Ali’s marinated sea bass was AMAZING! Citrus from lemon, orange and limes mixed with onion were the key to this dish.



Spicy Yogurt with Albanian Peppers
We bought a string of Arnavut biberi – dried spicy peppers from Albania (similar looking to the peppers hanging in Umut’s mother’s kitchen). To make: quickly (really quick) sauté a handful of peppers in oil with paprika and then pour on top of suzme yogurt (strained yogurt) that’s been mixed with lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.