Back to Ankara

We came back to Ankara the Saturday before school started.   We had been away from the house for so long there was a lot to do, cleaning, food shopping, and getting ready for work the next day.  Since we went vegetarian we pack our lunches, so we also had to do some food preparation.   Due to the time constraints, it took a while to get back into the normal swing of things.  But by last weekend we were back, and by that, I mean I was back at the pazar. 

 

pazar

 

I wanted to make some hot pepper jelly, and found a great hot pepper stand.  I spent quite a while tasting this pepper and that pepper.  I  bought some really spicy green peppers and he gave me quite different kinds to try.  Just as I was leaving I realized there was another type of pepper at the stand.  I hit the  jackpot!  He had a couple of plastic tubs of fresh jalapeños!  Normally you can only get jalapeños pickled, which do not have the full flavor of fresh.  I immediately started picking out the best ones, and chatting with him about the peppers.  The pazarci gave me some more peppers as gifts (probably five different types), and then a mandarin orange as he was concerned about how many hot peppers I had tasted.  I told him about my plans to make hot pepper jelly and he was very interested.   We talked some more and then I headed off to scour the pazar for the best figs for jam. 

 

Peppers

 

Yesterday I got around to making the jalapeño pepper jelly.  I haven’t tasted it yet, but at least it jelled, so that is a step in the right direction.  Yum!  I can’t wait to try it with some labne.  I left some seeds in so it actually should be pretty spicy. 

 

Pepperjam

It only took two weeks for life to get back to “normal” in Ankara.  I am glad we got there because our schedules are pretty packed for the next two weeks.  Bülent’s sister is getting married  this month.  She is doing the nikah (legal marriage contract) with her friends and co-workers in Antalya next weekend, and the weekend after that is having the reception in Ankara.  We are looking forward to celebrating both with her. 

Summer Migration

Since I have moved to Turkey, each year I have returned to the U.S. for the summer.  This year was no different, through it seemed to go by very quickly.  When I go home things are usually really busy.  I try to visit as many friends and family members as possible, as many times as possible.  This summer I was also able to attend two great friends’ wedding receptions.

This year was especially busy as we relocated.  I knew when my father died, it would make sense for my mother to downsize sooner rather than later.  The home I grew up in is amazingly beautiful, built in 1880, set deep in the country, with many acres of lawn and gardens and flower beds.   However, it is a large  property to maintain for a single woman.  

HOUSE

The new house she found is great.  Big enough for our family, but small enough for her needs.  There is space for Elliot  when he visits and  for me to maintain migration pattern from Turkey.  It also is 20 minutes closer to the city, and she is practically neighbors with several of her friends.  And wonders of wonders, she is now a FIVE minute drive to a town where there is a grocery store, liquor store and several small restaurants! 

house 

The new place, dubbed “The River House” , is adorable.  Lest you think we are leaving we are leaving the idyllic country for suburbia…there is enough country there to make the transition easy.  Behind the house there is a field of wildflowers and waterfront on a river.   It does not quite compare to the view off the porch of the big house…but little would.

house2

Considering that we moved from a five bedroom Victorian to a two bedroom house the move went surprisingly well.  Between maintaining the yard at the new house, sprucing up the yard at at the old house, the move, two wedding and many visits with family and friends, the summer went by very quickly! 

Last week I completed my migration cycle and returned to Turkey.  I flew in on a Wednesday and the very next day drove down to Marmaris with my father-in-law.  I have about a week left at the summer house, with very limited internet access.  I am using the time to rest and rejuvenate before the school year starts again.   I plan on resuming regular posting once I no longer need to use my cell phone as a portable hot spot.  

School is starting soon or has start already for many. As a teacher, for me the start of the new year is not January, but rather September.  New year, new students, and life goes on.   Enjoy what is left of summer! 

Birthday Week!

My birthday was in March, but Bülent “gave” me my present a few days ago.  We flew to Antalya for the weekend!  It was a whirlwind trip but we enjoyed ever minute of it.  We flew in Friday night and visited my sister-in-law, who recently got engaged.  It gave us a chance to meet her fiancé before the wedding in September.  Saturday morning we left the city of Antalya for what has to be one of the most scenic drives in Turkey, full of cliffs, rocky beaches and dazzling blue sea. This area is one of the only places in Turkey you can get blue crab, so for lunch we stopped at a seaside restaurant. 

Fresh grilled crab!

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We followed the coast to Demre, and then climbed up into the mountains.  Bülent surprised me with a night in a gorgeous B&B.  High up in the mountains, with a view of the sea, it felt like a different world.  The hotel, Hoyran Wedre, is in a remote, small köy.  Its grounds were scented with with rosemary, thyme and sage which were planted all over the place. 

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The hotel is actually located right on the Lycian Way, so we hiked part of it that afternoon, and the next morning.  As if we could resist. 

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It wasn’t hard to navigate, along the trail of the Lycian Way there are red and white tags showing the way. 

image

 

The village of Hoyran is very isolated and remote, with a very long history.  Over time, many tribes and cultures migrated through this area which created an complex linguistic situation.  The villagers have their own dialect, as well as Turkish.  Their language is a mix of an accent and a dialect, and while some things are understandable, and others are not.

The scenery was amazing.  Yes, these goats are actually eating a field of flowers.  We met the shepherd, who told us that some days he walks 30 km herding his sheep.  Though he assured us that the goats didn’t need him to find their way, his job is to keep away the wolves and keep them out of fields.  He told us about Antalya’s flora, boasting that his goats’ milk and meat was especially tasty due to their diet of wild herbs.  He quoted an old saying,“Antalya’nın taşı toprağı altın” (Antalya’s rocks and soil are golden).  We were informed that during his military service he traveled all over Turkey and never saw anywhere that rivaled Antalya’s fertile land or botanic diversity.

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We had a great time talking to the locals and hiking in search of ancient ruins.  We didn’t have to look too hard for this cistern, it is right on the village road. 

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It was an amazing birthday present, and very memorable for my last birthday of my twenties.   The area was so scenic and beautiful I felt rested just being there. 

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Next year…the big 30!

Lost and Found

Several times recently I have gotten lost on my way somewhere.  I got the directions confused and ended up having no idea of where I was.  I had two options, go with it or turn around go back and start stressing.  In years past I would have done the latter, however, one of the things I am better at now is the former. 

In Turkey this is important.  Sometimes when you are doing something, whether it is driving, paperwork, trying to get something done, there are obstacles.  But getting tense about it will not help. TRUST ME!  My husband likes to say the F-Word in Turkey is “Flexibility.”  One has to be flexible to get stuff done. 

So when I was lost, I just kept driving.  One of the great things about driving in Turkey is the road signs.  Not the street signs, you could die of old age looking for a particular street.  But the road signs are great, they are all over the place and direct you to different neighborhoods.  Most people know how to get around then they are in a neighborhood, the hard part is getting there. 

In this sign the white signs are to neighborhoods, the blue to a different city.  The blue sign will take you to a highway.  Another thing about Turkey is there is no East/West North/South Highway nonsense.  The highways are designated by the major city they go to.  For example, for this highway, one direction is called Konya Road, the other Samsun Road.  This is helpful for people (me) who get their directions mixed up. 

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So when I get lost, I just keep driving and look for the road signs.  The other day when I was completely lost, I ended up right where I wanted to be.  Funny how that happens. 

Easter and Daylight Savings

This morning I am sitting on the balcony with a cup of coffee, with only a light sweatshirt on. Spring is definitely here! It was beautiful yesterday too, around 65. So we invited friends to walk with us an Eymir Gölü. We walked around lake, about 10k, and stopped at Bağ Evi to have a bite of lunch. Unfortunately they no longer serve beer (as is becoming more common here) so instead we got a samovar of tea and had fresh gözleme.

Today was Daylight Savings.  I always hate too lose an hour, and it puts us ahead of the U.S. by seven hours again, instead of six.  That one hour really makes a difference. 

Today is also Easter.  Happy Easter!  I know there are people in my building who are celebrating it at their church, but as a non-believer I passed on the invitation.  However, it seems strange not at least to do Easter Brunch.  It is funny to find how culturally ingrained holidays are, even if you aren’t religious.  I made hot cross buns the other day.  It seemed seasonally appropriate.  However, the next time I make them I will forgo the icing on top and rather than making buns, will use the though to make a loaf of bread.  I think it will be very tasty sliced and toasted.  I will be tweaking the recipe and posting it soon. 

Happy Spring!  Happy Easter!  Happy Nevruz!

Birthday Week

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. 

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!

Balance

This year, I am trying to have a more balanced life.  After the stress of the last couple years, it has been great to just enjoy life.  Things are going well.  I have been going to the gym three or four times a week, and walking on the weekends.  I have been taking time to live.  For example, going to the pazar even when it would be quicker just to go to the grocery store.  The quality of the produce is so much better, and I really enjoy getting out and looking through all the wares.  

Bülent and I are also eating and living cleaner.  We are mostly vegetarian and I have been trying to use natural cleaning products, like this  vinegar orange cleanser.  I have also been preparing food for the work week during the weekend, which makes coming home from work and getting dinner ready less stressful. It also reduces the temptation to order take-out.  I have even been packing my own healthy lunch, rather than eating the free (fairly unhealthy) meals at work.

On the quest to have more balance, I decided to give up drinking for a month. I love wine as much as the next person, and have nothing against it, but I realized that a glass of wine after work was pretty habitual.   I thought that if I abstained for a month, it would make me more mindful of appreciating what I was drinking, and make it a decision rather than a habit.  Today my alcohol-free month is up.  I will be buying myself a lovely bottle of wine for my birthday this week.  Or, the makings for dirty martinis! Either way, I am sure it will be delicious!

martini

Hünkar Beğendi

This is one of my favorite Turkish dishes.  I love making it as much as I love eating it!

The recipe below can be made vegetarian or carnivore friendly.  Below is the lamb version.  However, my husband says he actually prefers the vegetarian version, with the chipotle flavor. 

hunkar

Eggplant Purée

4 pounds of roasted eggplant
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup grated aged cheddar or  parmesan
Salt
Pepper

Roast the eggplant, poke holes in the eggplant and either roast in oven over broiler or on stovetop over open flame-until eggplants are soft.  Peel and mash (or purée)  with lemon juice.  Set aside.

Melt the butter, add flour, stir roux on low heat until combined.  Add min and salt and pepper, simmer for five minutes.  Add eggplant, stir well, then add cheese.  Stir well again.

Stew (Carnivore and Vegetarian)

1 pound of boneless lamb stew chunks (Vegetarian:Instead of lamb use 1 1/2 cups of green lentils)
2 cups water
1 onion, sliced
3 green peppers, chopped
3 tomato, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tbsp tomato paste
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

For vegetarian stew add a little chipotle chili for more body, otherwise the stew can be weak when paired with the eggplant purée. 

Sauté onions in olive oil, then add the meat.  (For Vegetarian: add washed lentils and more water to accommodate lentils.) Cook until browned, add the peppers and sauté for several minutes.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste and hot water.  Let simmer for an hour to and hour and a half, until meat is tender.  You may need to add more water.

To Assemble:

Make a base with the eggplant purée and spoon the stew on top.  It can be served family style in a large dish (my preference) or onto each plate.  This dish is lovely as it can be made ahead of time and heated up and assembled later. 

Spring?

The weather has been strange this winter in Ankara.  It seems to go back and forth between cold and spring-like weather.   Today, the sun is shining bright, the weather is lovely and it looks like the trees are budding. 

Not that I would know.  I have been trapped inside with a nasty cold.  I am planning to be fully recovered by tomorrow.  I have been hacking and sniffling since Wednesday…Enough is enough!

I am really excited for spring.  I can wait to get flowers for the window boxes on the balcony.  This year I also have some nasturtium seeds to plant to climb on the railings  I have already started basil and thyme inside, as well as cilantro and mustard greens. 

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I started some chives I started a few months ago, but  I  have to say, they have been really struggling.  I am sure they will like going out on the balcony again and having some more sunlight.    On the positive side—my tulip bulbs are blooming which makes the apartment seem  nice and cheery! 

I do not have a green thumb, but am trying to practice, so when we have a yard it does not look like a barren wasteland!

3.2.13 Plants1

New Meze Posts

I posted two new salads under Ev Yemeği, Mezeler.  These dishes are both variations of vegetable yogurt salads.  They are striking because of their coloring and depending on their garlic content, sometimes I serve them as a side or a condiment. 

Yoğurtlu Pancar Salatası (Beet and Yogurt Salad)

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Yoğurtlu Havuç Salatası (Carrot and Yogurt Salad)