Sarma (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

I love sarma, sometimes called dolma. Grape leaves stuffed with rice and beef, served with yogurt on top. Intellectually I knew that it was a time consuming food to make. But, doing it yourself, afterwards, every mouthful tasted like gold. As it damn well should, it took so long.

It was totally worth every minute.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds of ground beef

3 onions diced finely

1 tsp of salt

2 cups of uncooked short grain rice

1/2 cup of water

5 tablespoons of tomato paste

2 1/2 of black pepper

1/4 cup of olive oil

3 teaspoons of mint

75 to 100 medium grape leaves

If you can’t find fresh, brined will do.

Take all of the ingredients above and combine, mixing thoroughly (except the lemon). The seasoning will be most evenly distributed if you knead it with your hands. Forget about not wanting to touch the meat with your hands. If those are your feelings, you are going to have an awfully hard time stuffing the grape leaves.

While the meat is resting from its workout, wash the leaves, then place them in a boiling pot of water for 5 minutes, until tender, but not too soft.

When they go in they will look like this


When they cocme out they will look like this.


After they come out of the pot, drain them well, rinse in cold water, then firmly squeeze out any water, but be careful not to rip the leaves.


To Fill

Gently separate each leaf, (I recommend readying several at once then rolling assembly style) tear off the steam. Holding the leaf vein side up, place a small amount of filling horizontally


1. Looking at your left palm, turn down the right corner of the leaf


2. Now the left corner, also please ignore the rice on my thumb, it looks gross. Your hands will get messy.

3. & 4. Bring first the right then the left sides of the leaf in, in a parallel fold

3. Fold


4. Fold

5. Now the tricky part. Using your thumb to keep the roll tight, start rolling the filling down towards the bottom of the leaf.

Keep it Tight (or it will spill all over the place)

Whew! Finished!

Now, go make a hundred more. When you are finished, take a heavy bottomed pot with a lid, cover the bottom with grape leaves(the ones that ripped or seemed tough), then carefully place your sarmas inside, seam side down, close together but not tightly packed.

Add enough water to cover the sarmas (I used the water I cooked the grape leaves in, because it has all the nutrients from the grape leaves.) Juice the lemon and add it to the water. Cook on the stovetop on a low heat, for about an hour, until the rice is down. At 50 minutes, check on the rice, if it is not done, give it another 10 minutes or so. When serving, it is great with yogurt on top. I love to add mashed garlic to my yogurt, and then spoon it on top. As tasty as this is I would not advise it on a “Date Night,” or everyone will regret it.

In the event you are floundering with your grape leaves, as I was, below is a video of an expert grape leaf stuffer. Behold the mastery.

Mmmm….Convenience Where Did You Go?

I just finished making:
Eggplant Parmesean
Bannana Bread
Salad
Mushroom Soup

Which should be incredibly tasty but is alot more work here. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Turkey. And the food. One of the great things about the food is that everything is fresh and homemade. There is very little pre-prepared or processed food here. However the downside is that everything is homemade. In the US to make eggplant Parmesan I would buy tomato sauce, Italian breadcrumbs and probably shredded cheese (parm and mozzarella). Here to make eggplant Parmesan I had to make tomato sauce, make bread crumbs and then shred the cheese. Which means before I even start making the eggplant parm I have to dice onions and tomatoes, season and stew them. Slice and toast the bread, season and grind it. Whine.

To tell you the truth, for dessert, I probably would have made boxed brownies or spiced up a box cake. However, since those are not available, I baked a homemade banana bread.

Update: Dinner was tasty.

Lamb, Eggplant and Potato Casserole

This dish is super delicious. Not particularly health conscious, but incredibly tasty

You will need:

250 grams of cubed lamb

4 or 5 eggplants (longer skinny type)

fewer if you use the fatter shorter type
6 potatoes

8 or 9 cloves of garlic

6 spicy Turkish peppers

5 tablespoons of tomato paste (preferably Turkish)

3 tablespoons of pepper paste

The amounts are vague, but it is not rocket science, don’t sweat it.

Peel the eggplants, alternating peel and no peel (aesthetics)

Cut the eggplant lengthwise into quarters, then cut it into about 1/2 inch chunks.

Once you have done that, soak the eggplant into a water bath with about two teaspoons of salt in it. Swish it around a few times.

I happen to like alot of garlic, so don’t feel turned off. You don’t need to use as much as I do. Peel the skins off and reserve for later. Cut the peppers into inch long chunks.

Throw the lamb into a pot put the lid on and cook over a low heat. No oil will be needed, there will be enough later. When you add the lamb to the casserole dish later you can deglaze it with a little hot water.

Now cut the potatoes into about the same size as the eggplant pieces. Depending on the size of the potatoes you make want to quarter them. They too go in a water bath with a bit of salt.

Now we fry. You will want to fry the eggplant until soft, and the potatoes until crispy. Use a oil with a higher heating temperature. After you fry, drain the eggplant and the potatoes.

Mix the tomato paste and pepper past with water until it is the thickness of a thin gravy.

After all the eggplant, potato and lamb is cooked throw it into the casserole dish.

Now mix it all up.
Yummy!

Pour the tomato/pepper paste over the mixture.

Put the peppers and the garlic on the top of the casserole.
Put it in the oven at about 350 (F) for about 40 minutes

Super Tasty!

Hoşaf aka Delightful and Refreshing

I am tasting so many new things over here (the scale with confirm this) I want to be able to take back my favorites and integrate them into my cooking. So instead of just writing about food I have eaten, occasionally I will be posting recipes as well. This first one is one of my favorite dishes I have had so far. It actually pretty healthy too. Hoşaf (horshaf) is actually a compote or stewed fruit dish. It can be made with a variety of fruits such as dried raisins, apricots, plums, pears etc.
Dried Fruit

Two types of apricot, plums, pears.

First get your fruit together, 4 cups or so. Pick through it making sure there are no unwanted elements (stones, sticks etc), then rinse your fruit thoroughly.

I prefer a main component of apricots with some plums thrown in, the apricots release their sugar more than the plums do so you end up with a sweeter juice.
Then (a hard task) get a large pot of water to a roiling boil. When it is boiling dump your dried fruit in the water and shut off the heat.

Let the fruit sit out in the water until the water cools. Once the water has cooled put the pan in the fridge. Wait at least a day before eating the hoşaf, don’t worry about using it all up. The longer the hoşaf sits the tastier it becomes. You could ad sugar (this should be done when the water is hot) but I think it is unnecessary. Hoşaf can be served as a side (usually with börek) or as a dessert. It is light and refreshing and is fabulous in hot weather.

Military Send Off

There was a family dinner party the night before Bulent went off to Burdur to the military. When his family does food, they DO food. As shown below.

Celery Root shredded with garlic and yogurt
Rice (one of two)

Salad, red pepper preserves, baked beans

Kofte: meatballs with garlic and peppers

Catch Up–Life

Food Updates

Two types of börek:

Sigara börek: translated as cigarette pastry, it is white cheese (fetaish) and parsley wrapped in a phyllo dough and fried until the outside is crispy and the cheese is melty.

Lentil börek: Baked instead of fried stuffed with a spiced lentil mix.

More Food.

I have been inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, TFP aka The Food Pornographer, to post more of the foods I eat.

Reason one, they are incredibly delicious! Reason two, the food here is different from the food back home and it might be nice for people to see how it varies. Reason three, the aesthetics. I believe I am a fairly good cook, and even a good hostess. I set the table nicely, and arrange the food semi artistically, well, the food is presented in some way, not just slapped onto a plate like prison sludge. However, my food and presentation has Nothing, Nothing on the aesthetics slammed out on a regular basis by the hostesses here.

Example A:

His mother’s table. This is not a special occasion setting. This is how it looks anytime we eat over. The color scheme changes depending on the dining mat colors, which match the napkins. I had to go out and buy a table cloth for Thanksgiving.

Example B:

Salad. In my house salad usually accompanied by dressing, some tomatoes or apples on top, certainly attractive. Nothing like this salad, which kicks my salad’s ass. Once again, not a special occasion, just aesthetically pleasing.


Example C:

When serving a pasta dish of some sort I would make sure it looks nice, then serve it family style. Looks good at first and then by the time it is on the plate the visual is gone. Here each plate is dressed accordingly, and looks as good as the first. Below is Manti, a delicate meat ravioli, covered in a garlic yogurt sauce onto which a red pepper sauce is drizzled. mmmmmm

PS. I am going to the gym on a regular basis. I really am.