Nurcan Tosun has lived an international life. After moving from Greece to Turkey with her family when she was young, Tosun continued her journey across the world when she and her husband moved in 2004 to Minneapolis for his job. From there, the pair moved three more times for work, first to Switzerland and then to Singapore before returning to Deephaven in 2017 to raise their family in the Lake Minnetonka area.
Throughout her travels, Tosun found herself missing the taste of home. “I love eating a lot,” she says. “I was raised in a family that my mom was in the kitchen constantly. She’s still in the kitchen.” For Tosun’s family, all gatherings and celebrations were spent around the table and around food.
“I wasn’t a cook or anything of that sort all my life. All I did was just make salad and pasta for myself when I was living alone,” Tosun says. Once far from her family of origin, she found herself constantly calling her mother, asking for cooking instructions. “[It was], ‘Can you teach me this recipe?’ or, ‘It’s nettle time. Can you teach me the nettle soup?’” Tosun says.
But when she wasn’t craving Turkish and Greek cuisine, Tosun was also exploring the culinary stylings of each new country she was living in at the time. “Moving to Switzerland, we knew Switzerland [from] when we were back in Turkey. The cuisine is not so foreign to us, but when we moved to Singapore—even though we love Asian food and everything—it was a totally different life over there,” Tosun says.
In Singapore, Tosun met a collection of international women who were training with her as docents for an art museum. After its weekly training, the group went out to international restaurants to sample new cuisines. “It became kind of a lifestyle; I always want to try new foods and cook them at home,” Tosun says.
Her cooking education not only included lessons learned while dining out at restaurants, but Tosun also gleaned new skills from her friends, who opened the doors to Brazilian dishes and Chinese fare, for example. As she was trying her hand at these international cuisines, a friend suggested she start a blog to catalog her discoveries.
Although Tosun already had an Instagram account related to her pursuit of her master’s degree in art history, she noticed her feed was overrun by images of food. She decided to retool the account as a recipe blog for her children, so when they started missing their own tastes of home, the recipes could be at their fingertips.
“The whole thing came up from there, and I started this No Cheat Kitchen food account, which is basically everything I’ve made from scratch, all the sauces and everything,” Tosun says. From international dishes to a quarantine-fueled preoccupation with baking sourdough bread, Tosun has detailed her food journey for her family and followers to see.
Tosun says she was blessed to have grown up in a kitchen where everything was made from scratch and continues to shun microwave cooking and premade meals. Freshly-made food is just part of her culinary DNA. “Once you get used to it, it’s not that hard,” she says.
Cooking from scratch requires a stocked pantry and fresh produce, and Tosun says she likes to shop at farmers markets during the summer to find her fruits and veggies. “I sometimes go to the Minnetonka one, and sometimes, if I’m not lazy, I go to the [Lyndale Farmers Market] because it’s the biggest,” Tosun says. When she needs more specialized items, Tosun frequents international markets like Bill’s Imported Foods (a Greek market) on Lake Street in Minneapolis and United Noodles (Asian items) on 24th Street in Minneapolis, for example.
Brunch season is beginning to blossom. While we all have our go-to recipes, there’s something to be said for planting the seeds for new favorites.
If you’re interested in adding a dash of international influence to your at-home brunch, incorporate some of Tosun’s well-traveled recipes into your menu. For full recipes, additional instructions or videos, visit Tosun’s Instagram page at @nocheatkitchen.
This recipe was actually created by mistake. My plan was to make spicy tuna tartare with avocados, but … I replaced [the tuna] with sautéed scallops. If you want to wow your guests, make sure to serve the tartare in avocado shells.
I fell in love with this foamy iced coffee when I was visiting my extended family in Greece. The original recipe calls for a granulated instant coffee, but I made this with espresso, and it turned out delicious. Simply mix granulated sugar and a double espresso shot in a shaker, pour in a tall glass, top with ice and milk of your choice and enjoy.
Dutch Pancakes with Bananas
This is such a crowd pleaser. The best part is that you can prepare ahead and impress your guests with its fancy appearance. I also like the fact that you can use a variety of fruits with this. For best results, preheat the oven, and use a cast iron pan.
Frozen Açai Granola Bars
It is a healthy snack alternative and very easy to make. I actually came up with the idea when we had leftover açai mix after breakfast. Instead of throwing it away, I mixed it up with granola and fresh fruits, and froze it in an ice tray. My kids like this frozen version better than the açai smoothie!
Grilled Halloumi Avocado Toast
This is taking the all-time favorite avocado toast one step ahead. For best results, briefly soak the halloumi cheese in water, drain, dry well and grill on a cast iron pan. Preferably, use sourdough bread, and sprinkle nigella seeds and Aleppo pepper on mashed avocados.
(Halloumi cheese comes from the island of Cyprus and can be found locally at specialty food markets.)
Homemade Ricotta Cheese with Fresh Jam Over Toast
Ricotta is said to have the most calcium of all the cheeses. It is fresh and easy to make. My mom used to make it in Turkey when I was growing up … When I was here, I wanted to try to make it because I love the freshness of it.
This is more than a pancake with its delicious filling and the addition of glutinous rice flour. It sure takes a little more time than a regular pancake to make, but the beauty is that you can make them ahead of time and freeze the leftovers.
Molasses and Tahini Dip
This is a Turkish breakfast classic. You basically mix 1/4 cup tahini with a tablespoon of grape molasses, and spread it over a slice of bread. For those looking for a [peanut butter and jelly] alternative, give this a try. Both ingredients can easily be found at ethnic markets or amazon.com.
Olive Oil Cakes Topped with Fresh Peaches
This is our summer afternoon crowd pleaser. I usually bake this cake when we are in Turkey as there are abundance of ripe peaches. The taste of baked peaches in pillowy soft cake is divine.
Turkish Breakfast Bowl with Olives, Feta Cheese and Tomatoes
This recipe is a fusion of laid back Turkish brunch and one bowl American breakfast. It is best enjoyed with ripe, seasonal tomatoes, but any tomatoes on the vine would work. I like to pair it with a slice of sourdough bread.