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Lamb Pita Pizzas adapted from Semsa Denizsel, the Turkish Alice Waters

Lamb Pita Pizzas adapted from Semsa Denizsel, the Turkish Alice Waters
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Pizza, need I tell you, has taken over the world. And Turkey is no exception

Spicy, crispy Turkish Pizza is called ‘Lahmacun‘. It’s Turkey’s most famous street food. And it’s a snap to make at home.  Picture it as a flavor-packed crispy flatbread topped with seasoned lamb, fresh mint, red onions, crumbled cheese, and lemon juice. Topped with an egg and baked in a hot oven, this take on Pizza elevates a simple weeknight supper into an adventure. And I confess, I made it even easier to make.

Chef Denizsel makes her own crust with simple whole wheat dough. 

The illustration looked awfully familiar. Instead of doing any baking, I took whole wheat pitas halved them and put the Chef’s lamb topping onto them, cracked an egg over each one, and after 7 minutes in the oven, they were done.  I wish I could have stuck completely to the recipe and found the Turkish Red Pepper Paste called Biber Salcasi. However, the recommended stand-in–hot cherry peppers–are a staple in our fridge.  Chopped into tiny dice with the sun-dried tomatoes, their flecks of red greatly enhanced the look of the dish.  The egg is the icing on the cake.  It’s not only pretty but oozing over the lamb mixture, it’s an unctuous pleasure.

Chef Semsa Denizsel is often referred to as Istanbul’s Alice Waters.

As the first advocate of seasonal cooking in Istanbul, for 18 years her Kantin restaurant always topped the list of the city’s best.  Located in Istanbul’s poshest neighborhood, Kantin’s food was simple, honest, and homemade.  A complete locavore, she takes seasonal to mean exactly that. When something like eggplant floods the city’s markets if it isn’t locally grown and in season you wouldn’t find it at Kantin.  What you did find was amazingly inventive cooking.

“I am at the beginning of a new road” Chef Denizsel announced as she shuttered Kantin.

Chef Denizsel relocated to Cunda. Can you blame her?

Kantin started as a place where she “wanted to cook the way I wanted to eat, but it turned out better than expected.” A new path led her to new horizons. Chef Sesma was having dinner on the island of Cunda, the largest of the Ayvalik Islands located between Greece and Turkey. The chef heard that a nearby olive grove was for sale. At once, she knew a new chapter was to begin.  She sought to put Northern Aegean cooking on the culinary map, to create an apprentice program to raise a new generation of food enthusiasts, and to live in an olive grove overlooking the sea.

Cooks Grove’s concept is all-encompassing.

Some weeks, it is an advanced study program with an agenda covering nuances of local food production and gastronomy.  Hands-on cooking workshops feature multiple food samplings. At other times, it offers a customized gastronomic experience tailored to individuals and groups. The teaching kitchen will soon accommodate up to 15 students.  The pandemic has shuttered Cooks Grove for the time being. By all means, bookmark their web address www.cooksgroveturkey.com or email [email protected]

Here is today’s recipe and some other “Pizzas” for you to try:

Lamb Pita Pizzas

June 3, 2021
: 4
: 5 min
: 22 min
: A snap to make and you can make them in no time.

This fantastic take on Pizza uses half a Pita topped with a flavorful lamb mixture and finished off with a glorious sunnyside up Egg!


  • 4 Whole Wheat Pitas
  • For the topping
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Turkish red pepper paste (Biber Salcasi)
  • or 2 jarred hot cherry peppers, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 large eggs (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Step 1 Preheat the oven to 450°.
  • Step 2 In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Step 3 Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until translucent, 4 minutes.
  • Step 4 Add the lamb and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the lamb is no longer pink, 3 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper paste, and cumin and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
  • Step 5 To make it easy to slice the Pitas in half, first microwave them for 30 seconds. They will puff up and be easier to divide into halves. Use the half that has ‘sides’. That will keep the lamb filling in place. Reserve the others – toasted, they make marvelous crisps for hummus or any other cocktail spread.
  • Step 6 Arrange oven racks on the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat a large rimmed baking sheet in the oven for about 5 minutes.
  • Step 7 Spread the lamb topping over the pita halves, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Crack an egg in the center of each pizza (if using) and bake on the top shelf of the oven for about 7 minutes, until the crust is crisp on the bottom, the egg white is firm and the yolk is runny. Scatter the parsley over the pizzas and serve hot.

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