Yumurtalı Ispanak (Spinach with Eggs)

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This is a traditional breakfast, lunch or light dinner meal.  If serving it for lunch or dinner, it is often made with ground beef as well (500 gr.)  If you want extra protein, vegetarian style, you can add cooked red lentils.  My husband likes his eggs scrambled in, in addition to lentils in this dish.  I like my eggs poached with runny yolks.  The beauty of this dish is that I can do both in the same pan.  Add lentils and mixed eggs to one side, and poach my deliciously runny eggs on the other.  I always serve it with bread or biscuits to soak up the yummy juices!!

Ingredients

2 bunches of  spinach (about 1 kilo with stems) cleaned
4 eggs ( you can poach them or scramble them)
1 small onion (finely chopped)
1 small garlic clove (minced)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of tomato paste
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp red pepper flakes

Heat the oil and add the onion, and allow to soften.  Chop the spinach roughly.  When the onion is softened and translucent add the minced garlic, salt, tomato paste, black and red pepper.  Add the spinach to wilt, and cover.  If you prefer your dish saucier, add a half a cup of water.  You may need to add a little more liquid if planning to poach your eggs in the spinach dish.

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. 

Hoşgeldiniz to 2013

Welcome to the New Year!  I hope everyone had safe and happy New Years celebrations.  Bülent and I have been so busy lately that we welcomed the New Year from bed, where we had been snuggling and watching movies.  It worked for me!  Start the New Year as you mean to continue right?  I am sure many people are thinking about New Year Resolutions and how to make changes.  I think I am just going to continue the journey I started several months ago, trying to appreciate the good, and live a more balanced life.

It has been a difficult year.  This day last year I was packing my bags to go back to the U.S.  I  had taken a leave of absence due to my father’s health and was supposed to head back at the end of the semester in late January.  I had spoken to my family a couple of days before and I had decided to change my plane ticket on December 30.  It was expensive to change a ticket two days before the flight, but it was the best decision I ever made.  My father’s funeral was on the original date in January on which I was supposed to arrive. 

I had taken the semester off and my school had hired someone to take my place, so I stayed in N.H., grieving and healing with my family.  It was difficult to be separated from my husband for six months, but has changed our relationship for the better.  We are stronger and more united, we know there is nothing we wouldn’t do to help the other…been there, done that.  We have now had bad and trying times and just love each other more for our individual responses to them. 

My time in the U.S. last year was very precious to me.  It allowed me to spend time with my mother while she needed me, and while I needed her.  I was able to get to know my brother as the man he is now, as opposed to the boy he was when I left.  I was also able to get to know his long time girlfriend, who is as lovely inside as she is out.  I went to my college roommate’s wedding and celebrated her happiness with her, and our college friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in five years.   I drove from Texas to New Hampshire, meeting Bülent’s dearest old friends, and visiting mine along the way.   I also went to BlogHer ‘12!

My oldest and dearest friend made me an Auntie—albeit in a terrifying way.  Due to her daughter’s insistence to make a (extremely early) entrance I was able to meet her in the NICU before I came back to Turkey.  

Health wise: Bülent and I went vegetarian (almost six months now) and I joined a gym a few months ago.  The breast lumps have been vanquished—well not vanquished but at least identified as benign.  To top it all off, our dog, Butterfinger, is not letting cataracts get her down.   

The year has been challenging and rewarding.  I am hoping that this next year will be easier, because we kind of need a break.  But we are starting the year off right.  Last year my dad wanted to take our family on a last vacation, a cruise, due to his limited mobility, but he died before we were able.  

Well, we are taking that fucking cruise.  Come January break, my mom, brother and I are going to go.  We are going to celebrate what was, what is and what is to come, because that is what life is all about.  So 2013—bring it on!

Forks Over Knives

So in June Bülent and I watched the documentary Forks over Knives which promotes unprocessed foods and veganism.   It advocates a plant based diet with no refined oils and lower ingestion of oily foods, such as avocados and nuts.  We were quite struck with the documentary.   While Bülent mostly focused on the health benefits, what struck me was the sustainability.  I was amazed how the amount of livestock we require in developed countries affects global warming (10 % of human based carbon dioxide emissions), deforestation, water pollution and soil erosion.  According to a 2006 University of Chicago study, if an average American meat eater reduced their intake of animal produce to 25% of their total calories it would reduce their carbon footprint by approximately one ton.   However, the largest impact on me was that if that if we ate the produce we grew, rather than using it to feed to farm animals that we will eventually eat, almost every one in abject poverty could be provided with more than they need to survive.  When I worked in San Diego it was the first time I dealt with real hunger.  Children who were so hungry they couldn’t concentrate in class.  I used to carry granola bars in my purse, and had an unlocked file cabinet filled with them.  If there is anything I could do to end hunger, I would work towards it, and so have given up meat for the most part.

While we have not adopted a true “plant based” Forks over Knives lifestyle, we have altered our diet.  I love a good raw steak , and though I haven’t mentioned it previously, we have been living a mostly vegetarian lifestyle since July.  Occasionally we slip (mostly when I am hormonally challenged and crave a steak rather than chocolate) , but for the most part we are vegetarians.  We have also cut back our lactose and egg intake by at least 75 percent.  Usually the milk in my coffee is the only milk product I eat each week.  Occasionally I bust out the non-fat yogurt, especially if I have  a funny tummy, but that is an exception.

I love meat, but really haven’t missed it.  I feel lighter, and healthier.  The grocery bill is also significantly lower.  Now that we are eating only veggies and beans, I spend a little more time and energy finding the best and juiciest of whatever I am looking for.  The most expensive organic beans are still way cheaper than meat.    If I do buy eggs or milk I buy from smaller producers, free-range and organic.  Since we are eating less of it, it hasn’t jacked up the bill either.    It has definitely been interesting adapting our normal recipes to a vegetarian style.  However, it is usually pretty easy and Bülent swears that the vegetarian version of Hünkar Beğendi  I made was better than any other he has EVER had.  (Secret: for a rich taste—instead of lamb: lentils and chipotle)  I will have some vegetarian recipes coming to Close to the Kitchen very soon!