Q: My husband’s family is from Madison, Wis., so we are there quite often to visit. We always dine at one particular restaurant, as the food is fantastic, Oliva Italian & Mediterranean Cuisine. There are two dishes there that even surpass the ones I tasted in Turkey. The red lentil soup and their version of The Imam Fainted are beyond compare. Would it be possible to get a recipe?
A: Yucenur Dayi tells us that she and husband Mehmet “are trying to bring a taste of our country to the restaurant,” and have found that two iconic Turkish eggplant dishes have become the most popular with customers: karniyarik, stuffed with ground beef, and imam baylidi, which literally translates to the imam fainted, supposedly after tasting the dish for the first time and finding it so delicious. “I hope your readers like it,” Yucenur said.
The dish uses a lot of oil (you can also use olive oil rather than canola), but if you cut back you are not making an authentic version. Some recipes add cumin and ginger or other spices, and some have a topping of plain yogurt, but this is how they make it at Oliva.
Q: A long time ago I made some kind of spiced chickpeas from a recipe I read in the Miami Herald. I loved it, but I can’t find the recipe now. It included cumin and oven roasting.
A: The recipe is a delicious meat alternative from cookbook author Anne Getty. While great sandwiched on naan, the chickpeas also can be served as a dip for chips or vegetables.
Cinco de Mayo
I’m amused and intrigued by the Lucky Strike bowling chain’s claim to be “innovators of bowling cuisine.”
You can check it out this month by trying the Burger de Mayo, described as “a juicy half-pound, all-beef burger topped with melted American cheese, lettuce, guacamole and pico de gallo, served in a ‘quesadilla bun’ and filled with a blend of white cheddar and Oaxaca cheeses, garnished with grilled jalapeños.”
Created by chef Patty Tafolla of Lucky Strike in Hollywood, Calif., Burger de Mayo will be sold at all of the chain’s locations, including Miami Beach, from May 1-31. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Conquer Cancer Coalition.
Looking for something for your own Cincocelebration? I love the spicy, smoky flavor of pork tinga tacos. The recipe I included here calls for shredded pork and onions simmered in Bohemia beer.
Short Cuts• Readers are weighing in with their favorite recipes from 35 years of Cook’s Corner. If you’ve got one, let me know. We’ll be publishing some of the hits in upcoming columns. A clear contender, from early emails, is The Unicorn’s miso dressing.
• The iconic 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest is looking for home cooks to compete for the $1 million Grand Prize. This year’s contest is a redesigned version that has four recipe categories with two separate entry periods; the one open now through May 8 is for weekend breakfasts and doable dinners. For information, visit BakeOff.com.
• I love these Star Wars R2-D2 measuring cups — they’d make a great gift for your favorite geek grad. The detachable arms turn into nested measuring spoons, while the body is built from four measuring cups and the dome can be used for both half-cup and one-tablespoon measurements. Alas, it is not dishwasher safe, but at least The Force will be with you. $19.99 at thinkgeek.com.
Q: About 30 years ago my mother made a date nut torte with date nut bars and maybe Dream Whip or whipped cream and/or cream cheese layered between the bars. We have misplaced the recipe and family members are requesting it again. The recipe may have been on the box of the mix. Can anyone help?
Kathy, North Carolina
Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172. Replies cannot be guaranteed.