What’s in a Name? Turkey Cevap on a Pita

June 28, 2016

What’s in a Name? Turkey Cevap on a Pita


Turkey Cevap by the Pool
Turkey Cevap is as appealing as it is tasty.

It Started with the Lamb Patties from Epicurious

I found a recipe recently for grilled Middle Eastern lamb patties, which I shared with you here.  They were really good, and I started wondering if the really-goodness was about the ground lamb, or if it was the spices and preparation.  So I started experimenting and concocted a turkey version that we like even better.  More Southwestern than Middle Eastern, these grilled turkey patties pack a wallop of fiery flavors and are nestled in a soft pita with bright, fresh garnishes and a cooling avocado-yogurt sauce.

We loved them so much that I made them three times in two weeks.  They’re that good.

What’s in a Name?

I struggled with what to name this recipe, though.  “Patties” just didn’t sound right to me – that word is synonymous with burgers and their customary round shape.  My ground turkey delights, like the predecessor lamb version, are shaped like a fat cigar, a short sausage or a lumpy hot dog.  What to call them???  Kebabs?  No, because kebab signifies a skewer.  Sausages? Dogs?  Not quite right.

Cafe Pita Introduced Us to Cevap

The Grill-Meister rose to the naming challenge and came up with the winner, Turkey Cevap.  Brilliant!  We first learned of cevap when we found a marvelous Bosnian restaurant in Houston a few years ago.  It had been featured on the TV Food Network’s show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and the host Guy Fieri was a big fan.

Cevap at Cafe Pita
Beef cevap sandwich on lepinja bread at Cafe Pita; photo from their web site.

The dish that wowed Guy, the Grill-Meister and I was the beef cevap on lepinja bread. The Cafe Pita segment is worth watching. Cafe Pita is worth a visit, too, if you are in Houston.  Yum!

The Grill-Meister was right.  Cevap is the right name for our little turkey pieces, although the traditional minced or ground meats are beef, lamb or pork.  Click here to read about the history of cevap, or cevapi, which has its roots in the Ottoman Empire (1300s) and is considered the national dish of Bosnia.  I like to think that our turkey version honors those roots, with a Glover Gardens twist.

Ingredients (Serves 6)


  • 3 lbs ground turkey (relatively lean is best)
  • 5 large garlic cloves, pressed (use more if you are mincing; the garlic is important)
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground dried chili pepper or cayenne (if you like it spicy like we do; if not use 1 teaspoon the first time you make it, then ratchet it up)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped, about 1/2 cup

Avocado-Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 large, ripe avocado
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 5 large mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 cup lowfat plain greek yogurt
  • salt to taste

12 whole wheat or white pita breads

Garnishes: chopped or torn mint, cilantro, sliced fresh jalapeño, red onion, halved grape tomatoes

Cooking Instructions

Turkey Cevap Before Grilling
Shape the cevap into 4-5 inch long fat cigars

Mix together the salt and spices for the cevap in a small bowl, then add to the ground turkey in a large bowl along with the garlic and cilantro, and mix with your hands.  Shape into 12 sausage-shaped patties, about 4-5 inches long.

Refrigerate the sausages for 30 minutes while the grill is heating up.

To make the avocado sauce, blend all ingredients except the salt in a mini-processor or blender briefly, then add salt to taste.  You can also just mash the avocado and combine with the other ingredients in a bowl if you a prefer a sauce that is chunky rather than smooth.

Grill the cevap sausages until they are done, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove and cover with foil.  Briefly grill the pita to warm it, then serve the cevap on the pita with the garnishes and sauce.


Turkey Cevap Plated
With its bright and flavorful garnishes of mint, cilantro, jalapeño, onion, tomato and creamy avocado yogurt sauce, the cevap is almost one-dish meal – all four major food groups are represented.

I can’t emphasize enough how quick, easy and absolutely stellar this dish is – absolutely perfect for summer outdoor entertaining when you want to spend more time chatting with your guests than preparing and serving the meal.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook

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