Abundance of Figs

Oh, figs!  My favorite summer fruit.  Fresh figs are best enjoyed when they almost look too soft to eat.  Stay away from the firm ones.  Look for the figs that are starting to split at the bottom..just barely.  Sometimes there will be a tiny glistening drop emerging from the star shaped fissure, that means it is perfectly ripe.  The issue with figs is that many ripen at the same time, and if you eat too many you will clean your system right out, whether you want to or not?  So what to do with over-ripe figs?  A little too mushy eating means great for cooking.  Jams, compotes, breads, wherever you can put fruit you can use figs.

This morning I used them in pancakes.  The pancakes themselves had  a mixture of ripe peaches and figs in them.  I roughly chopped the over-ripe figs and threw them in a saucepan with a little water and lemon juice while I was cooking the pancakes.   I used the fig compote as a syrup for the pancakes.  I have to say, for a 20 minute cooking project (only as long as it took to mix and cook the pancakes) the results were delicious.  20120822_130246

In Turkey, fruits and vegetables are rarely available while out of season.  This can be a little disappointing when you are craving a particular dish, but in reality creates a smaller carbon footprint and is better for the environment.  This means that will there is only about a four week window for figs, during that time the figs are fresh and delicious, abundant and cheap.  While I would love figs all year long, they seem just a little bit sweeter since they are so special now.

Back to US Road Trip Adventures!

In the beginning of the summer we did a road trip.  We started off in Texas with a visit with Bülent’s BFF Shawn.  I was able to visit with Shawn again and meet his wife Larinda.  They were great hosts, I had never been to Texas before and they had planned an awesome trip.  We visited in Fort Worth, near their home, then hopped in the truck and started the first leg of the road trip.  We drove to Austin, took a look around and then headed to the Salt Lick BBQ, a little bit out of town.  There was meat, meat and more meat!  It was amazing!

From there we drove to Fredericksburg where we hit up a few wineries and then stayed in an adorable cottage right off the main street.  A former German settlement, the buildings and cuisine have an authentic German flair.  I went running each morning we were there (Not optional: The food was amazing.  Example: Duck Hash with Eggs.  *Duck* Hash!)  It was fun, because running along there was so much to look at and enjoy.  The town had lots of great local wine, since it was close to the wineries.  It also had some really fun kitschy shops where you could buy useless but amusing things.

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For your information the glassware, jam jars with stems, was billed as “Texas Crystal Wine Glasses.”  Clearly all about the class.    There were also quite a few fudge shops.  This is pretty typical in tourist towns, apparently people walking the streets for souvenirs love to court diabetes and heart disease and pack away that delicious mixture of sugar and butter.  There were also some novelty treats.

Chocolate Covered Bacon

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Chocolate Covered Jalapeños

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Chocolate Covered Pickles

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I talked with the teenagers selling the atrocities, and and they insisted people actually bought the “treats” and that they were pretty good.  I pressed them, Really?  They are actually tasty?  The boys said they liked the bacon and jalapeños.  But they remained suspiciously quiet regarding the deliciousness of the chocolate covered pickles.

From there we went to a small winery near Luckenbach, named Sister Creek.

June 2012 116It was a small place and informal.  When we said yes, we would like to see the winery, we we told to just on on through and come back to taste when we were ready.   We had run of the place.  It was like a dream!

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Generally I prefer dry wines, Sister Creek had a lovely Muscat Canneli  that was fairly sweet, almost effervescent and delicious!  We bought a bottle to bring back to NH and another for a hostess gift on the return leg of our road trip.

From there we went down to San Antonio.  We spent a night enjoying the River Walk, and in the morning went to the Alamo.   Then we drove back on up to Fort Worth.   I had never been to Texas before, and Shawn and Larinda went to great lengths to plan a lovely vacation and show us around the state.  From pit BBQ to wineries to Chocolate covered bacon, we had a blast!

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Patlican Salatası

Now that it is summer I have been craving some light salads.  I have also been away from Turkey long enough I have been craving Turkish food.  I was talking about this dish with my friend the other day and started drooling.  I will be making this soon.   It is pretty versatile.  If you want a side salad make it a little chunkier, if you want to use it as a dip blend it a little more, like salsa

Patlican Salatası

1 large eggplant or 3 or 4 smaller ones (I like the small ones myself)
1 or 2 cloves of garlic (mashed or pressed)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup of yogurt
A splash of olive oil*
1 tomato diced
Salt and pepper to taste

*optional

Poke holes in the eggplant(s) before you roast them.  I use the grill but you could roast them on the grill, the stovetop (over the flames) or broil them in the oven.  Whatever the method-roast the eggplant until it is soft about a half hour or so depending on the size.  After they are done, let them cool and then peel off the skin.  Dice the eggplant small ad toss in a bowl.  Dice the tomato and throw that in the bowl too.  Mash one or two cloves of garlic, to taste, remember it will be in the salad raw.  Add that to the mix as well as the juice of the lemon the yogurt and the oil if you want it.  The oil makes it taster but without it the salad is pretty light calorically, cooked eggplant has about 35 calories per cup.  I also use light yogurt.  Add about a 1/2 tsp of salt to start with and a little pepper.  Salt to taste, you may want to add more salt (I do) but I do a little at a time or to my serving on my plate as I am always afraid to over salt the whole batch.

Mix well and chill, serve cold.  It is best served after an hour or two when the flavors have time to meld.

Summer BBQ

I LOVE food.  ALL FOOD.  As my husband will attest while shuddering with repulsion and distaste, I will eat anything.  I will try anything once or twice (sometimes you need more than one tasting.)  I have no prejudice when it comes to food and will eat it mild or spicy, hot or cold, offal or vegetarian.   Seriously.  One of my favorite foods in TR is Kokoreç—lamb intestines…YUM!

But, there are some things that I miss.  Like tender, fresh, native summer corn and  Pork, Pork, Pork, Ham and Bacon…

While my husband was here we had a lovely barbeque, including some of my favorite things that I missed the most.

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Sweet NH Native Corn…

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Salad of Field Greens picked from Mom’s Garden

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Homemade Potato Salad

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Hotdogs, Hot and Sweet Pork Sausages

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YUM!

Fun Times with the FamFam

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Dinner Ala Turk

When I invite guests over, normally I cook a mix of Turkish and American foods.  My repertoire of food is what I learned from my mother and the Joy of Cooking.  When I have dinner parties the main dish is usually something American-ish, because I am more comfortable cooking it, and confident a that it will turn out well.  However, the other day I had some friends over, they were both foreigners and did not have the same ample opportunities to eat Turkish home cooking.  The home style of Turkish cooking is very diverse, and particularly tasty.  It is also not usually served in restaurants, so when both members of a couple are not Turkish, they have fewer opportunities to eat what I consider real Turkish food.  I made three vegetable side dishes and one main dish.  I also made cheese cake which I served topped with sour cherries, which I dropped on the kitchen floor trying to put it away. (3/4s was left.  I was fairly irritated.)

Yoğurtlu Pancer Salatası/Beet and Yogurt Salad

Cooked beets, shredded, minced dill and garlic yogurt.

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Zeytinyağlı Pırasa/Leeks in Olive Oil

Leeks and carrots sautéed with olive oil and tomatoes served room temperature.

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Yoğurtlu Havuç Salatası/Carrot and Yogurt Salad.
Sautéed carrots mixed with garlic yogurt.

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Hünkar Beğendi/Sultan’s Delight

OHHHHHH…One of my favorites.  Slowly stewed lamb or beef chucks with tomatoes and peppers on a bed of roasted eggplant that has been whipped with cheddar cheese.

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Dinner was really fun because my friends had never had any of these dishes and were really surprised.  It was also very tasty if I do say myself.  I am getting more confident with my Turkish cooking.  There are still occasional mishaps and my börek is weak, but in general I am coming along.  My Turkish cooking is definitely more developed than my language fluency.

Birthdays and Beypazarı

In February both my Mother-in-law and aunt-in-law had birthdays.  We weren’t quite sure what to get them.  We decided instead to treat them to a day trip.

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Beypazarı is about an hour from Ankara towards Istanbul.  The city known for several things.  It produces 60 % of Turkey’s carrots, has beautifully restored Ottoman houses, and the renowned 80 layer (it is normally 40) baklava.  The pazar in town was lovely with lots of dried herbs and spices.IMG_1612

There were also beautifully handmade soaps and lots of carrot products.  There was carrot juice, carrot jam, carrot lokum.  The history the city is very rich as it was a stop on the silk road between Istanbul and Baghdad.

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While there we went to Tarihi Taş Mektep, a historical restaurant with traditional Beypazarı foods.  This includes very tasty tarhana soup, a special type of sarma, a very delicious and rich guveç ( a meat and rice stew) and an 80 layer baklava.  I tasted everything but the baklava which contained walnuts, and it was fabulous.

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It was a lovely trip and both Bulent’s mother and aunt really appreciated the trip.   We might be going back in the future just for that rich, lamby, delicious guveç.  I may have been have been tempted to lick the clay pot it came in.

Thanksgiving

THXGIVING TURKEY FRUITS N CHEESE

How to have a successful Thanksgiving…

Friends+ Laughter+ Love+ Food+ Wine= Fantasticness

When I first moved away from home I was far enough away that I was not really able to go home for Thanksgiving. I have to admit to a lower lip tremble over that. I am from a very close family and getting together for the holidays has always been very important to us. But since I was away, I decided to make the best of the holidays and to create my own holiday rituals and customs.

I have been very lucky in my Thanksgivings since I left home. The first year, I lived in San Diego, it was just Bulent and me. After the large chaotic extended family Thanksgivings it was a little hard emotionally. However, the high point of that year was that I successfully learned how to cook the entire meal by myself.

The second year in San Diego my BFF from New Hampshire came out with her husband and we had an amazing time. They had never been to California so it was a beach vacation rolled into the Thanksgiving holiday for them. Together we made the meal and had such a happy holiday. It really soothed my holiday homesickness.

The third year in San Diego my cousin had moved to LA and we had many more close friends. That year we hosted a Bad Ass Thanksgiving, complete with apple cider martinis and after Turkey clubbing downtown.

Last year we didn’t host but this year we really did it in style. This was our first “Married” holiday so it was pretty special that way. We had a fantastic Thanksgiving. We hosted 16 people, there was food, conversation and general merriment. We had an amazing time.

In the short time I have been in Ankara I have been lucky enough to make some truly amazing friends. Now I have my family that I was born to and the family that I have made. Holidays are no longer a time of the lower lip trembling– which is excitement in itself.

While Thanksgiving was a blast there was a lot to the preparation because of the amount of food to be cooked.

TXGIV TURKEY 2010 It included–

2 Turkeys
3 Kilos of green bean casserole
4 Kilos of mashed pumpkin
3 Kilos of cauliflower gratin
2 Kilos mashed potato
1 Salad
1 Pecan pie
1 Pumpkin pie
1 Apple pie
1 Crazy Allergic Reaction*

THXGIVING SPIRIT

While I did cook most of the food myself, two of my amazing friends decided to deal with the kitchen afterwards. They did all of the pots and pans, put away the food and in general took care of 90% of the clean up. It was the best gift EVER!

Next year I will re-introduce the apple cider martinis and the dinner may be potluck. It will still be fantastic though, no matter what! All the trappings and trimmings Thanksgiving just disguise the real point of the holiday. A time for our “Framily” (friends+family) to spend time together.

*One of the reasons this post is so late and also will be the subject of the next post.

Pazar Again

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For 30 liras at the pazar I got…

2 kilos of village spinach
1 kilo of Ankara Pears
1 kilo of Amasya Apples
1 bunch of mint
1 bunch of parsley
Fresh Garlic
Green onions
Bananas from Antalya
Local Eggs
2 kilos of garden Strawberries
Red leaf lettuce
2 bunches of arugula
1 package of balsam bread
half a kilo of manti
1 bunch of tere (greens related to arugula)
1 bunch of (unknown) greens that taste faintly of lemon*

Oh Boy!  So I bought all this stuff at the pazar then lugged it home and had to deal with it.  If I don’t take care of the produce purchases on Sunday, I may not use it, and then have to throw it away, which is wasteful and heartbreaking.

To set myself up for the week I washed all the produce (you have to do this VERY well in TR to avoid Hep A.)  After I washed it and dried it I packed it carefully so it will stay fresh as long as possible.  Now all week we will have salads and veggie dishes that will be super quick to prepare because the produce is clean and ready.  It was a long hour in the kitchen, but when I get home late during the week it will be great to have food ready to go!

*If you have any ideas what these could be please let me know.  Also—What in the hell it yemlik, I CANNOT find an English translation.  It is an herb sold in the pazar which looks a little like grass.

I Love the Pazar!

Pazars are great. They are the open air markets that sell fruits, veggies and household stuff like slippers, pots and pans, etc.  There is a large one I got to on Sundays, however I saw a smaller one today in a different neighborhood.  Pazars are not normally mid-week so I decided to stop by.

This pazar is smaller and has fewer choices, but because there is less traffic since it is on a Wednesday instead of the weekend the prices are a bit lower. pazar

3 loaves (or pieces) of bazlama bread, a huge bunch of mint, a giant head of lettuce, a large head of mesculin, a bunch of parsley and a kilo of Ankara pears.   All of this cost 8  lira, or $5.   A super bargain.  I wall be going back to that market for fresh greens, especially since it is so nice and quiet.

A note: I just discovered fresh bazlama bread at the pazars.  It is now my favorite food.  It is so soft and fresh, kind of like a chewy English muffin.  I will endeavor to start making it myself soon.  Though, for one lira for 3 pieces it may be cheaper just to buy it.