Dinner in Istanbul + Mediterranean Couscous Salad

mediterranean  (1 of 2) On the roof of a 6-story building, the hostess led me to my table. As I sat down, I took in the sights and sounds around me: the other diners, the kitchen, the bar, and beyond
that, the sprawling city of Istanbul. It was dinner time in late May, so the sun was low in the sky, casting an enchanting orange glow on hundreds of minarets as far as I could see. I knew with a setting like this, dinner would be special. Fourteen million inhabitants of this metropolis already knew what I was just discovering–dining in Istanbul is a one of a kind experience.

Eating while on vacation is hit or miss for me. It’s hard to read reviews in a foreign language, the popular places are usually too busy just when I’m having a hunger emergency, or I just feel overwhelmed with too many options. But every so often on a trip, I’ll have a fantastic meal in a fantastic setting and my faith in the magic of travel is restored.

This roof-top dinner in Istanbul was beyond fantastic. In that moment, I felt so incredibly lucky to be there eating a delicious meal with a gorgeous view. It will always hold a special place in my heart. The food in Istanbul is diverse: it focuses heavily on Mediterranean flavors and vegetables, but also includes a lot of fresh seafood, tons of spices, and lots of meat. There is a rich history in the city and each culture there throughout time has contributed to a wide array of food options. For dessert, baklava
is a specialty, and let me tell you, it’s the best baklava I’ve ever tasted. I haven’t found anywhere here in Los Angeles to get Turkish food, but I’m still looking. And I’m dreaming of the day when I will travel back to Istanbul to enjoy the flavors once again!

mediterranean  (2 of 2)
In the meantime, I’m sharing a recipe partially inspired by one of the dishes I ate at that rooftop restaurant. It’s not really Turkish, but it always reminds me of my trip.

Mediterranean Couscous Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: main dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Serves: 4
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • 1 box Israeli couscous or 2 cups quinoa or other grain of your choice
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • ⅓ cup toasted, sliced almonds
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1-2 large handfuls of spinach
  • 1 cup mushrooms, any kind, roughly chopped
  • 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese (optional)
  1. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic oregano, salt, and sugar. Season as needed with salt and pepper.
  2. Cook grains according to package directions. Once cooked, add dressing
  3. mixture to hot grains, stirring to combine. Let cool for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and serve!


About the Author:

Jessica Beth Levhofer blogs at jessicabeth.net about navigating food choices in Southern California with a focus on environmentally friendly, just, and sustainable food. Her website also profiles her aerial silks training and her photography. Jessica can be reached at jessica@jessicabeth.net.

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