Last week was my birthday. I was very lucky to have many friends who want to celebrate it with me! Bülent took me out for a lovely romantic dinner. His gift to me is a romantic trip to Antalya, planned in April when it will be a bit warmer. Another friend had me over on my actual birthday for a delicious dinner. We also went over to Bülent’s parents and had a family diner with his parents and aunt an uncle. His mom knows I love fish and made a special dinner for me.
The day before my birthday I went out with my friend Terry from Adventures in Ankara, and had an adventure! We went to Cer Modern, a modern art museum, for lunch. Lunch was great, the museum very nice, and time with Terry—always fun! What made our outing an adventure was that we got a traffic ticket! I was driving and she was navigating from the GPS on her phone. It told us to take a right, so we did, but turns out it was an illegal right on Ataturk Bulvari. So we were sitting at the intersection and I was trying to figure out how we were going to make it across the traffic with no light when a police man waved me across. I was very thankful to make it across in one piece, but then he asked for my license and registration. We explained we didn’t know the area and were following the GPS. He nodded knowingly and said, Ah yes, GPS…” and then gave me a ticket. It is kind of a novelty. I don’t know anyone else who has gotten a traffic violation ticket from a real life police man. It just doesn’t happen here. Most people get tickets from cameras, even though I have talked myself out of one of those before too. This office was very polite and apologetic but would not budge. So ticket it was!
For my birthday present to myself I made cupcakes. Two kinds. The first a carrot cake with labne frosting (tips coming soon on how to substitute Labne for cream cheese) and the second, devil’s food cake with peanut butter frosting. I have to say, carrot cake is my favorite, but the peanut butter frosting was decadent on the moist chocolate cupcakes.
It was an amazing week, so filled with friends and family we had to rest all weekend to recover. It made me feel so appreciated that so many people wanted to celebrate my birthday with me, I definitely have a community here. It was fun and uncomplicated, my last birthday before marching into my 30’s, which seems a little bit daunting!
This weekend Bülent and I were craving some naughty food, so I pulled out all the stops! I usually can’t eat chocolate desserts here due to cross contamination with hazelnuts. However, if I make it myself with bitter chocolate, I am safe. So this weekend I made some really rich, decadent, chocolatey brownies.
They were practically black with chocolate.
For fun I threw in some chunks of 70% Cocoa dark chocolate!
Super Chocolate Brownies
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar 3/4 cup baking cocoa 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 eggs 2 tablespoons water 3/4 cup butter 2 teaspoons vanilla
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C. Grease your baking pan. Combine the sugar, cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, water, butter and vanilla and stir well. Optional: Add nuts or chocolate pieces. Spread into pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, until knife or toothpick inserted in center comes out cleanish. Let cool before slicing. DEVOUR!
The other day I spent the afternoon in Kızılay, in downtown Ankara. Kızılay is awesome. It has open air bars and cafes, street vendors, live music, and a general pazar like atmosphere. I was super hungry after walking around and shopping all afternoon so I treated myself to a balik ekmek, or a fish sandwich. I resisted the fried fish and instead got grilled mackerel. It was loaded up with onions, lettuce and parsley, with a lemon squeezed on top. It was super! Sitting on a stool, out in Kızılay, sharing a table with absolute strangers. A great day. Later, Bulent met me in Kızılay and we had some dessert.
I chose a pie, which was filled with chestnuts, grated carrots and raisins. It was not too sweet, and the flavor and texture of the chestnuts were just fabulous. I was careful to make sure the dessert did not contain hazelnuts or walnuts, I made sure the vendor knew I was allergic (so that he would take it seriously.) And he did. Bulent ordered cake which contained walnuts. Before it was delivered to the table the waiter rushed over to our table to make sure Bulent did not let me eat any of his.
Bulent chose a chocolate cake, loaded with walnuts and a little ice cream on top. He said it was very tasty, and I took his word on that.
I promise soon I will post about something other than food. Or food and something else.