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Turkish Delights

It's a first for Turkish-born Ozcan Ozan. If it were up to him, this mild-mannered, hard-working man would never have written a cookbook. In his 16 years as chef and owner of Sultan's Kitchen, a downtown Boston restaurant, he has attracted a loyal clientele devoted to his cooking. It took their prodding to persuade him to put a book of his recipes together.

The result is ``The Sultan's Kitchen,'' filled with beautiful photographs of Turkish food and divided into sections for meze (appetizers), bread, soups, meat, seafood, pilafs, salads, and desserts. The introduction provides a bit of a historical and geographic perspective on Turkey, an outline of important ingredients indigenous to the area, and essential sauces and condiments. It's not to be missed.

The recipes, which showcase a no-frills kind of cooking, are moderately easy to follow. One caveat: Recipe titles are printed in large caps in Turkish, while the English equivalent is in small caps and somewhat difficult to decipher. Still, devotees of Mediterranean cuisine would be remiss not to add this book to their collection.

A typical day in Turkey begins with a breakfast of freshly baked bread or boreks (savory pastries), sliced tomatoes, cheese, jam, several types of olives, and Turkish tea. Lunch and dinner often consist of many small dishes, called meze. ``Lunch is usually four or five meze,'' says Ozan. ``At night, we eat seven or eight.'' Both meals usually have a bowl of soup somewhere in the mix. Grilling is an important feature of Turkish cooking, for vegetables as well as for fish or meat.

Turkey's position at the crossroads of many cultures is reflected in its flavorful cuisine. At one time the Ottoman Empire, ruled by sultans, included Greece, Hungary, Egypt, and Persia (now Iran). Seasonings indigenous to these countries are found throughout Turkish cooking. A sampling of typical ingredients includes mint leaves, dried red pepper, rose water, pine nuts, and black caraway seeds (also called black cumin seeds).

As Ozcan (pronounced Urz-jon) Ozan explains, Turks are accustomed to eating well and their standards are high. The cuisine emphasizes fresh ingredients: fruit, vegetables, fish, olives, goat's or sheep's milk cheese, and olive oil. Meat, especially lamb, is used as a condiment rather than a mainstay.

Ozan began his training the way most chefs do, as a young boy at his mother's side. He would accompany her on trips to the market for ingredients. At age 12, he recalls, he became passionate about cooking. His interest has never waned.

Here are some of our favorite dishes from Turkey:

By Julie Riven, Globe Correspondent

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