However one views the policies of the Ottoman Empire (if, indeed, one feels called upon to view at all), there should be no doubt in your mind that the "Sick Man of Europe" knew how to eat very well.

Turkish cooking, its roots in Byzantine opulence, tempered by the hardness of the steppes of Central Asia, is one of the world's great cuisines. It is the basis of most cooking in the Middle East and the Balkans.

One of the staples of Turkish cooking is, of course, yogurt, a cultured milk product which, in fact, traces its origins to that country. unfortunately, yogurt made from sheep's milk, which is sharper in flavor and creamier in texture than that made from cow's milk, is virtually unavailable in the U.S.

For the well -- traveled gastronome, this means that dishes made from yogurt will never tast quite the same as they did in that little eating place by the Bosphorus. On the other hand, our traveler will also miss the whiff of sewage floating down from the Golden Horn.

In any case, a refreshing and simple dish made with yogurt is the Turkish cacik (pronounced jajik). The same dish, an appetizer dip made with cucumbers, is known in Greece as dzadziki and in Bulgaria as tarator . c

Mash, with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 5 or 6 cloves of garlic. This may be done with a garlic press, a mortar and pestleor the back of a spoon in a deep saucer. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil. This ideally should be sesame oil, but any bland vegetable oil such as corn or peanut oil may be used. Olive oil is too strong.

Now take 5 or 6 cucumbers and chop them very finely, If the seeds are hard, discard. Sprinkle the cucumber with salt and after 15 minutes, drain off the excess water.

Mix the cucumber, the salt mixture and about 1 cup of yogurt. You may need more yogurt to get a smooth mixture, but the two should seem to be evenly balanced. Add about 5 or 6 leaves of fresh mint, finely chopped, or, if you have to, about 1/2 teaspon of dried mint.

The dish is traditionally served spread out on a flat plate, to be scoopede up with pieces of pita bread.There would be no harm, however, in serving it in a bowl, to be eaten with crackers. In some areas, it is served in a more diluted form as a cold soup.