Mediterranean recipes from Ramiz Turkish Grill
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FoodA taste of the Levant

Mediterranean recipes from Ramiz Turkish Grill

Shepherd salad and shish kebab marinade

Shepherd salad (Photo by Elijah Sanchez)
Shepherd salad (Photo by Elijah Sanchez)

I have written before about how connected we are through food — recipes, ingredients and traditions are often shared by different cultures.

Nowhere is this so evident as in the Levant Region, which spans the Eastern Mediterranean into West Asia and encompasses Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and much of Turkey. So-called Levantine or Middle Eastern food reflects the climate, the terroir and what grows naturally in the area.

Ramiz Turkish Grill, a recent arrival to the Philadelphia food scene, showcases the cuisine well.
Selcuk “Sal” Kucuk, owner of Ramiz, came to the U.S. at the age of 7.

“It was a typical immigrant story,” he said. “My parents, seven brothers and a sister-in-law moved from Turkey to Patterson, New Jersey, in 1974.”

Kucuk’s parents opened the Parkway Diner, and he started working there as a dishwasher when he was 9.

“We all became chefs — we grew up in the restaurant business, so it was destiny. It’s a tough, strenuous business; most people get out after 18 years, but I’m 45 years in!”

About 15 years ago, Kucuk was living in Florida when his brother called him for a favor. The brother owned the Ridge Diner in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia and needed a vacation. He asked Kucuk to tend to the diner while he went away.

A good brother, Kucuk agreed, and he ended up staying and becoming a partner. Over the years, Kucuk expanded, opening and closing several other places in the Philadelphia area, and he recently opened Ramiz Turkish Grill, a white tablecloth gem at 218 South St.

The menu is halal and offers many vegetarian and vegan selections. Kucuk shared two of his favorite dishes from the menu — shepherd salad and his marinade for shish kebab, which can be used on any meat.

Shepherd salad | Pareve

Serves 6
This time of year, tomatoes are not at their peak, so choose whatever looks best in the market. I tend to have the best luck with cherry tomatoes in the winter.

The ingredients in shepherd salad are traditionally cut into small pieces — almost like a salsa crudo. This enables all the flavors to blend well and gives the option of using this as a topping for meat or fish.

Kucuk offers this served with crumbled feta to his guests, but he prefers it without: “A salad should be just healthy vegetables!”

1 pound tomatoes, diced
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon oregano
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons juice)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Allow them to sit for 30 minutes for the best flavor. This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Serve it as a salad, spoon it over grilled meats or shovel it into a pita with falafel or your favorite filling.

Shish kebabs with marinade (Photo by Elijah Sanchez)
Shish kebab marinade
The key to this marinade is to give the meat 24 hours to soak. This delivers maximum tenderness and flavor. Kucuk sources all of his spices and oils from Turkey, but good-quality versions from Israel and other Middle Eastern countries are readily available in many markets and grocers.
Use this marinade on cubes of chicken, turkey, lamb or beef.

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon each: sumac; oregano; salt; pepper

Mix all of the ingredients well. Coat the meat thoroughly, marinate it in the refrigerator for 24 hours and cook as desired. PJC

Keri White is a Philadelphia-based freelance food writer. This article first appeared in the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication.

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