Monday, December 21, 2009

Delishy Fishy

Those of you that know me, know me well enough to understand that I'm not a huge fan of anything that comes out of water (other than sea vegetables--seaweed and such). If I eat meat, I should be able to identify where the bones are, and it shouldn't require much effort to get the food from my plate to my belly: i.e. I like a good Nebraska steak. However, over the past year or so, thanks to the hubby figure, I have opened my mind, and literally, my mouth, to sea meats. That's right, I started eating fish! Granted, I stick to the muscley, meaty fish like salmon, swordfish and the likes, but dare I admit, I kinda like it!

This past weekend, we paid a second visit to Laterna on Tunus Caddesi here in Ankara. Of course I had a minor anxiety attack, thinking I'd be obliged to eat those slimy sea creatures like calamari, squid or octopus (IIIICKKK!). After all, Laterna is a Greek taverna serving cuisine primarily from the Aegean region. I was pleasantly surprised to be treated to a bountiful table of meze (this was a "Raki Sofrasi" night...) including liver (my fave), a seaweed assortment (yum-o), hellim salad (what I fondly refer to as my favorite "squeaky cheese"--hey, it squeaks when you chew it!), and much more. As the main course, we were treated to the fresh catch of the day, grilled levrek (sea bass), and my god, if my tastebuds could dance, I know would have been up on the table enjoying the ear candy from our friends Umit, Can and Kuddsi. I consumed far too much raki (anise flavored liquor) for my own well being, topped off by some champagne from a guy celebrating his engagement, and a nightcap of mastika and Turkish coffee. Not to be forgotten is the mysterious eggplant dessert (for which I was handed the recipe straight from the chef) and irmik tatlisi. Needless to say, for a good seven hours, my senses were delighted. I will definitely be visiting Laterna more often...perhaps even for my 30th birthday V1.1 celebration!

Afiyet olsun!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bathing in History...

I'm sure my germophobe friends will really have a heyday with this one...

Seeing as public bathing was thrown out with the baby AND the bathwater (yes, I made a funny) an uber long time ago in the US, I have always appreciated the opportunity while in Turkey to get cleaner than I do in the privacy of my own home. When I lived in Istanbul, it really was a weekly ritual to visit the Cemberlitas Hamami (built in 1584, mind you). I would go in late on Friday nights, when noone else was around and have the entire, steamy, half-lit dome to myself. Yesterday was my first experience with an Ankara hamam, so of course I had no choice but to go to Ankara's oldest and best: the Karacabey Hamami. This hamam was built in 1440, out-aging Cemberlitas by a good 130 years, and in my estimation is just a tad smaller.

We started our bathing experience by changing into suitable bathing attire (swimsuits and such), which is a notable difference from Cemberlitas, where bathers and bathgivers alike freely roam, uninhibited by such cloth and confidently ignorant to cellulite. I presume the blissful ignorance to cellulite is the utter lack thereof--thanks to the long hours in the hamam, I learn. Men and women bathe separately here, but apparently there are still a few hamams that exist where that is not the case.

I take my towel, shampoo, kese (the rough, goathair washcloth thing) and my locker key into the first chamber which is steamy, but not terribly warm. The hamam is packed on a Saturday, so it's strictly one-way traffic through the narrow and low passages from one chamber to the next. My friend seems to know EVERYONE here, which makes me fondly remember all of the ladies from Cemberlitas who without judgement commented every ounce of fat that came or went from my body from week to week, and lovingly named me "Melek" (angel). While she's having her gossip, I begin in one of the small "rooms" off the main section. In these small closets there is running water and marble basins that you dip your little bowl into, in order to saturate yourself completely. This continues casually as we chat with our neighbors about who has had babies, what Behlul will do about Nihal on Ask-i Memnu, and cheery banter about saggy boobs and greying hair. Then, I was called to the gobek tasi, which is the huge, heated stone platform in the center of the room. With the natural light of the small glass openings in the ceiling floating onto my shoulders, I was ordered around to lie down, turn over, on your side, sit up, bend your knees, tilt your neck until I begin to see little rolling pins of dead, dirty skin curl up on my body from the lady who was scrubbing me with my kese. Then for the shocking part--SPLASH--right over my head comes a not-so-warm bucket of water to wash away all that nastiness. I return to my "closet" to continue the "bath" part, which is actually laying around again with my eyes half closed until I feel like sitting up and soaping up. After I wash my hair, we go out to sit in the cool room around the iron furnace, where most people are drinking tea and half watching a rerun of Ask-i Memnu, and I'm thankful for the affirmation that I'm not the only one who is addicted! A few minutes later, I'm called into the massage room (there is an option for oil massage or soap massage--I chose oil), and Fidan Hanim pushes with her elbows, fingers and wrists until the heavy-duty knots in my back start to unfurl. Fifteen minutes later, I retreat to the cooling room again to see if I had missed anything on Ask-i Memnu, only to find it was commercial time (not the 2 minute commercial break like in the US). I had time to run back to my locker, change my clothes, blowdry my hair and hang out a bit before the series came back on. By that time, my friend was ready, too, and we bundled up to brave the Ankara sleet, and she informed me that the hamam is has been rented by the same family for more than 50 years from a government foundation that owns it, and therefore, the renters don't pay for the water. A bathhouse where the owner doesn't pay for the water...sounds like they won't be throwing THAT baby out with the bathwater anytime soon!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Behlul kacar...

Lately I've been the kid sneaking into the kitchen at midnight to get a cookie from the cookie jar. Minus the fact that I'm not a kid, and my cookies, that forbidden food, is the Turkish "dizi" (TV series) "Ask-i Memnu"...and I'm not sneaking anymore. I'm an outright addict.

Ask-i Memnu (Forbidden Love) is based on a book written in the early 1900s by Halit Ziya Usakligil. The original book uses "old" Turkish, which sadly, few people can understand these days. (I heard there was a newer printing of it with the new Turkish words in parenthesis.) The character names are kept pretty much the same, as far as I understand, and it makes it really cool to hear uncommon names like Behlul, Bihter, Peyker, Besir, etc... The story, being a typical romantic drama, has a tangled plot, so I, not wanting to miss a beat, have been watching the series from Season 1, Episode 1. I'm on Episode 19 now, which is quite an accomplishment--Turkish "dizi" are much longer than American TV shows per episode, hitting the 90 minute spot, without commercials, I might add!

I won't torture the readers of this blog (like I do to my husband, who hasn't been sucked into this TV trap), by giving my personal "ozet" (summary) of the plot. Yet I do feel an inexplicable urge to share a little snippet about the character that everyone loves to hate: Behlul. I liken him to Sawyer on Lost (another TV fetish): handsome, suave and charming womanizer. You want to hate him, but part of you just knows that in spite of his hankering for hanky panky with the ladies, he is really looking for love. Also like Sawyer, he has created his on liturgy of nicknames and catchphrases, particularly for Nihal (his favorite is "suratsiz"which means "crabby"). My favorite is Behlul's trademark expression: "Behlul kacar"...

And for now, so do I. Allison kacar...

Turkish Style Pesto

Of course this recipe for pesto is really no different from other pestos, but I decided to call it "Turkish style" because I use a Turkish cheese instead of parmesan, and it turns out equally (I'd even venture to say MORE) delicious!

Pesto Parts:

  • 2 bunches of fresh basil, washed and stems removed
  • 1/4 c pine nuts
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4-1/3 c grated aged (eski) kasar cheese (if you can't find it, you can substitute parmesan here)
  • 1 1/2 c olive oil
  • Salt
Pesto Preparation:
  • Place the basil, garlic and pine nuts in the food processor and pulse until smooth
  • Pulse in the cheese
  • While blending, add in the olive oil until smooth
  • Add salt to taste 
I luuuhuuhhuuve pesto, and this was a treat to make. My favorite preparation of it is to stir into cooked pasta with chopped grape tomatoes and roasted pine nuts. Deeelish. 

Afiyet olsun!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Very BabaZula Thanksgiving

Since most people eat Turkey on Thanksgiving, and I'm in Turkey (waka waka waka...oldest joke in the book), I did the natural thing and devoured the music of BabaZula at IF Performance Hall. If you don't know much about BabaZula, you should become familiar with their self-defined style of "oriental dub," which is a decently vague description. A beautiful, spellbinding mix of what I'll call "rock 'n Roma," with instruments ranging from the traditional (saz, davul, and wooden spoons) to the modern (drum machines and an electrified saz--natch). From their website:

Baba ZuLa go to great lengths to provide their fans with a unique live show experience. Their ritual like performances are a mixture of disciplines of art, often featuring belly dancers, elaborate costumes, poetry, theatre and live drawing, delivering viewers a tantalizing audio-visual feast.

On Thanksgiving, if you can't gorge yourself on Turkey, be thankful that you can indulge in the audio-visual feast that is BabaZula. It's far more enjoyable to be in a music trance than a food coma.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cake of Mosaics (Mosaik Pasta)

Today the hubby craved two desserts, so I eagerly stepped up to the plate and made both. One was Irmik tatlisi (which wasn't exactly "homemade"), and the other was my supereasydeliciouslyawesome mosaic cake. Apparently it's an Italian thing, but I've had it at numerous Turkish households over the years.

Mosaic Malzemeleri:

  • 1/2 c butter, melted
  • 1/4 c cocoa 
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 3/4 c powdered sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten gently (don't be too rough on it!)
  • 3/4 c milk
  • 250-300 g (you're on your own to figure this measurement out...) of petit beurre biscuits, crushed (I know you can find them in the US...I just forget what they're called)
Mosaic Methodology:
  • Melt the butter on low heat
  • Pour the milk, beaten egg into a bowl and mix in the sugars
  • Add the butter, then the cocoa until you have a creamy chocolatey delight
  • Stir in the crushed petit beurre biscuits
  • Take a sheet of aluminum foil on your counter and scoop the batter onto the foil, making a roll shape (cylinder)--like a thick rolling pin
  • Wrap up the cylinder in the foil and place in the freezer for about 2-3 hours
  • When you are ready to serve, slice into 1/2 inch thick slices and enjoy!
*Some people also enjoy crushed hazelnuts mixed in, too!

Afiyet olsun!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Please take a number...or not

I realized today, that the "take a number" systems at most post offices, banks, etc...are really really (emphasis on REALLY) important in this country. I witnessed firsthand today what happens when there's not.

I was at PTT (the postoffice-ish place, where you can also do a myriad of other things--pay your gas bill, etc...) sending a package. There are five kiosks at my PTT, three for non-postal related issues, and two for sending mail, packages, cargo. For the non-sending people, there is a handy electronic ticket distributor that signals with flashing lights that it's your turn to move to kiosk X. All moves generally smoothly. There is no such machine for postal-related requests--I'm guessing because every time I visit PTT, no one is sending anything. However, today, I was sending a package, and this nice gentleman behind the counter was helping me with the insurance and such. He leans over and asks the guy at the next counter something about my package, and the guy who had just walked up to that kiosk lost it. I mean LOST IT. He thought that they were paying too much attention to my needs as a customer, and he was apparently being ignored. A deadly (well, I was hoping not deadly...) silence fell upon the PTT, as the gentleman helping me and this other rowdy chap got into it at quite a significant decibel level. My nice kind helping guy started with something like, "Please sir, don't you see I was just asking my colleague a question about this nice lady's package, can you hold on for just one minute?" Apparently one minute was just too much for Mr. Rowdy Pants, and he started yelling and getting in the nice PTT guy's face...jumping over my shoulder. He reached into his pocket, and of course I was thinking "uh, am I going to be one of THOSE people who sees this all go down?" Thankfully, I wasn't and the guy was escorted outside by a very calm younger girl and business as normal resumed in the PTT.

This was the first time I'd really seen anything escalate to this level (which wasn't really even a "level", per se), but on numerous occasions, I've been cut off while standing in what I thought was a line. I've learned to be more aggressive, for sure. However, now I don't even see it as being aggressive. There is a certain ebb and flow here (albeit a bit more chaotic than what I'm used to), when it comes to being in a "line" and waiting for a service. There's an unspoken rule about who goes first and who comes next, and a certain confidence that is learned about when it's your turn. I'm feeling more and more sure of myself...especially when I can take a numbered ticket.

Su Boregi (Water Borek)

Though this borek has nothing to do with water, the name is literally translated as such. Maybe 'cause in real kitchens, they actually take the time to boil the dough...I'm here to give you cheaters a way out.


  • One package of phyllo dough (usually in the US you find it in the freezer section)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil (or sunflower oil)
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 c white cheese (feta cheese)
  • 1/4 c yogurt, 1/4 c yogurt (once for the inside mix, and the other for the saucy stuff)
  • 2 T dill (I used dried, fresh is even better)
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh parsley (this pretty much has to be fresh)
  • oil to grease the bottom of a 9x13 glass pan
How to:
  • In one bowl, mix the white cheese, fresh parsley, 1/4 c of yogurt, and dill
  • In a separate bowl, gently whisk the two eggs, and pour in the oil, milk and yogurt
  • Grease the bottom of your 9x13 pan
  • Lay down, one sheet at a time of the phyllo dough (you may need to keep it wrapped up in a moist towel to prevent it from drying out) to make one layer (you can fold them if necessary, but it's best to have just one sheet per layer), and using a pastry brush, spread on about 2 T of the egg mixture. Alternating mixture and phyllo, continue for about 4-5 layers. 
  • Evenly distribute the cheese mixture and then continue alternating phyllo/egg mix until you have a few more layers on top, or run out of mix. Leave enough egg mix for the end to generously pour over the top
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and cook for approximately 25-30 minutes. 
Afiyet olsun!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Hot New Trend in Pizza Fashion

That's right, all you pizza fashion police, I'm on it. The latest trend to emerge in pizza fashion...the "hotdog in the crust" pizza! The most awesome and awkward thing I've seen in a while, I couldn't resist sharing this. (Literally, the words translate to: "the latest trend in pizza" can't make this stuff up).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tailor Town

I just picked up three skirts that I had dropped off at my local tailor (actually I don't even know who to consider my "local" tailor...there are at least 4 within a 5 minute walk of my house). If you didn't already know, Turkey is notorious for cheap and excellent tailoring. I had three skirts that I needed to have taken in (hurray for losing weight), and I dropped them off with a bit of skepticism, as they are VERY cool and unique skirts that can't be replaced (one I got at DC's "Crafty Bastards" art festival, the other two from my favorite online shop, I paid a measly amount of money to have them repaired (at the current conversion rate $30 USD), and they turned out pretty well. I was a little disappointed that even though Mr. Tailor promised that he wouldn't take some of the artistry off the sides of the skirts, he did, but the tailoring was impeccable.

The reason I was disappointed was that the skirt had 99 red balloons, hand stitched on navy wool. Now if you're a child of the 80's, you're familiar with the German (and English version) of the song 99 Red Balloons, a kind of Cold War "protest" song. Most people don't know the lyrics, and fancily dance along to this fun pop song. However, the words are quite true and universal about the ways our countries (not just the US) can instigate fighting on false pretenses. The song (essentially--both German and English) is about kids playing with red balloons that get released into the sky, and the balloons being mistaken for UFOs or missiles, inciting military panic. The "other" fires, only to realize it's merely a toy red balloon.

80's pop music references aside, my skirt now has something like 94 1/2 balloons... with superb tailoring on the inside.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Czech Potato Salad

This isn't exactly a Turkish recipe, but I fondly remember this from my days living in Prague, and saw some celery root in the store today and thought I'd give this a shot. Turned out pretty darn delicious.


  • 2 large potatoes, peeled
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled
  • 2 medium celery roots, peeled
  • 1 medium jar of pickles, saving the juice
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 c mayonnaise
  • fresh dill
  • Take the juice from the pickles and pour it into a large pot. Adding water at necessary, bring to a boil and add the potatoes, carrots, celery root. 
  • Chop the pickles and the egg and place in a large bowl
  • When the vegetables are finished cooking, remove from the water and dice them
  • Add to the pickles and egg, stir, and then mix in the mayonnaise
  • Garnish with fresh chopped dill
Dobrou chuť! (Czech for "afiyet olsun") :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

A cat, a rabbit and a goat walk into a bar...

No, this isn't the start of a bad joke. But I thought for a moment that the Ankara Municipality either had a strange sense of design, or that they were trying to make some weird joke on the overpasses that cross the Eskisehir Yolu in Ankara. We were driving yesterday, and I noticed that the masonry under one of the overpasses had cats. Not live cats, but decorative, stone kitties...supine, frolicking, smiling, pouncing, sunbathing kitties. Now, if you know me, I'm really not a huge fan of cats--I'm more of a dog person. I turned to my hubby and asked if he noticed, he just shrugged his shoulders. As we approach the next overpass, I see more animal shapes--this time: bunnies! I'm more fond of bunnies--especially my pet bunny that I had as a kid, Mercedes, rest her soul. This inspired the same reaction from Ferhat--nothing. I was really starting to get curious. Most municipalities put inanimate objects as decor on landscape structures--flowers, trees, water, the occasional bird. But cats? Rabbits? Another overpass was coming and I really wondered what this one had in store for me? Perhaps dolphins? Squirrels? No. This time we had goats. I also had numerous goats as pets and have very fond memories of snuggling them (yes, I snuggled my goats).

Cats. Rabbits. Goats. Seriously, this was becoming too wacky and I consulted Ferhat again. It took the big brain of my hubby to make this connection: we are in Ankara, aka ANGORA pre-1930. DUH. These are all Angora animals...Angora cat, Angora rabbit, Angora goat...all originating in, you guessed it: Ankara! Even my precious Mercedes was an Angora bunny...just a big ball of fluff.

So, yes, maybe it IS possible that a cat, a rabbit and a goat walked into a bar...right here in Angora.

Easy Spinach and Rice

Hello pregnant ladies, this one's for you! Ok, you don't have to have a bun in the oven to enjoy this dish, but it does provide a good dose (read: insane amount) of Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Manganese, and that necessary pregger vitamin, folate. Boys, don't sweat...this is a delicious treat for the whole family!


  • 1 pound of spinach
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup of medium grain rice
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • A dash of nutmeg
  • A pinch of salt
Simply spinach:
  • Rinse the fresh spinach well under cool water--enough so all the sand has washed off (we all love the beach--just not eating it...)
  • Chop the spinach into relatively small pieces--if you're using baby spinach, a couple runs through with the knife should work well
  • Preheat a deep skillet and then add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan
  • Add the chopped onions and garlic and sautee for a couple of minutes
  • Add the rice and allow the rice to "warm up" a bit in the pan
  • Add one cup of water and allow to cook for about 15 minutes, adding the salt
  • Bring the spinach into the mix and allow to cook down for a bit, adding the nutmeg 
  • Add one and half cups more water and cover and allow to cook until the rice is cooked
Depending on the kind of rice, you may have to add more water as you're cooking--just make sure that you add boiling water, so you don't lower the temperature of the dish while it's cooking.

Afiyet olsun!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cheaters Circassian Chicken (Cerkez Tavugu)

This has to be one of my favorite dishes, but most people only make it for special occasions. I created my own recipe that is easy enough for every day.


  • 1 pound of chicken (breasts are fine, but usually it's better on the bone)
  • 1 cube of chicken stock
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 loaf of day old french bread (leave it out to sit for a day so it gets dry)
  • 2 handfuls of walnuts
  • Walnut oil or olive oil (optional)
  • Sweet pepper powder (optional)
Cheating the Chicken:
  • In a large pot, boil enough water with the cube of chicken stock to fully cook the chicken
  • Remove the chicken from the water and allow to cool
  • Sautee the chopped onion
  • In a food processor, chop the walnuts, onion and garlic
  • Remove some of the broth from the water that was used to cook the chicken and in a separate bowl, pour the milk and enough stock to get the bread soggy
  • Combine the bread into the walnut mixture in the food processor
  • When the chicken has cooled, remove it from the bone and shred into small pieces
  • Throw that all into the food processor (you may need to add a splash more of the broth and milk)
  • Swish it all around
  • Transfer to a serving tray 
  • (Optional) in a small shallow skillet, on low heat take about 1/4 cup of walnut oil and a teaspoon of sweet pepper powder and when the oil starts to turn reddish, drizzle over the cerkez tavugu
Afiyet olsun!

Remembering Ataturk

At this very moment, sirens across the country are sounding. People have stopped walking in the street. Cars have stopped in their tracks. At this moment, 71 years ago, at 9:05 am, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the great founder of the Turkish Republic, passed away.

Ataturk was born in 1881 as Mustafa Kemal, in Thessaloniki (Selanik), a former Ottoman city. He served as a military officer during World War I and was a leader in the Turkish War of Independence. He went on to serve as the first prime minister and first president of Turkey. He used this opportunity to put Turkey on a path of political, economic and cultural reforms to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern, democratic, and secular state.

He was one of the greatest visionaries the world has known. I highly recommend reading more about Ataturk and his life. Though he was a courageous and valiant soldier, I believe too often his human side is overlooked. I see Ataturk as an individual who realized his own charisma, and the opportunities and responsibilities that come with such a personality and circumstance. He sincerely wanted to see not just the establishment of a modern, democratic and secular nation, but he realized that it is the people who are living in that nation make this possible. He placed great emphasis on education reform, which I also believe is the foundation for a strong nation. In honor of Ataturk today, I'm sharing my favorite photo of him--teaching.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I love cake.

Ok, that's not exactly true, and maybe it's because prior to this, I was a complete and utter failure in the dessert department. However, I did it! I made a cake! Even with ingredients that I'm not familiar with...familiar with...? Heck, I've never even tried a persimmon (hurma) in my life!

  • 6 very ripe hurma (persimmon), taken for a dance in the food processor
  • 1 large handful (you know my measurements--a tight grip handful) of mint, finely chopped
  • 3 lemons' worth of juice
  • 1/2 an orange's juice
  • 2 c sugar
  • 3 c flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions to Persimmon Pleasuretown:
  • Mix the persimmon pulp with the lemon juice and orange juice and half the sugar (1 cup) and chopped mint
  • Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, then allow to cool
  • In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, 1 c sugar, baking soda, salt)
  • Lightly beat 3 eggs, and add the oil to it.
  • Combine the dry ingredients with the egg/oil combo, followed by the fruit pulp mixture
  • Spread the batter into a lightly oiled and floured pan (mine was about a 12" round--I think a 9x13 should work)
  • Bake at 325 (165 C) for about 45 minutes or until lightly brown
One variation can be to add crushed walnuts and other dried fruits if you like. I don't like. You may like. You can also make cute little designs with powdered sugar if you have those food stencily things.

Afiyet olsun!

Jack-o-Lantern Food

So what do you do once you have carved out your pumpkin and it looks all pretty, and you aren't in the mood to use it as a jack-o-lantern anymore? Bal kabagi tatlisi! That's Turkish for "delicious pumpkin dessert".

Right now my kitchen smells like a tasty fall potpourri. Honestly, the sweet smell of warm pumpkin...nothing can match it.

  • 2 kilos of pumpkin, seeds removed, peeled and chopped into big chunks (let's say like a deck of cards-ish)
  • 2-3 cups of sugar (depending on your taste

How to create that fall aroma in your kitchen:
  • Let the pumpkin chunks sit overnight in the refrigerator coated with the sugar. The pumpkin will "sweat" and create a syrup.
  • When you are ready to cook (you may need two deep skillets for this amount of pumpkin), place the pumpkin and the syrup in the skillet, add about 1/2-1 more cup of water, and simmer on very low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft. Try not to disturb it while cooking.
  • When the pumpkin is soft, yet still intact, remove from the heat to a serving tray, drizzle with the leftover syrup and sprinkle with crushed walnuts.
Afiyet olsun!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fresh Fruit (Juice) Frenzy!!

Today, the weather is GORGEOUS! For being November 8, wearing just a t-shirt is quite a treat. This morning we had brunch with some of Ferhat's friends at Liva, which is quickly becoming my favorite brunch spot. Afterwards, I came back to the house and worked on painting the kitchen table (new post on that soon), since the weather was SOOO fab. Rearranged the house a little, then went to get groceries...including tons of, you guessed it, FRESH FRUIT. Now if you know me, I'm not so crazy about fruit juice. It has to be pulpy and preferably fresh...which is why fresh fruit (and our radical juicer) is a treat for me. Tonight, I made lemonade, and a delicious combo of pomegranate, grapefruit, mandarin, and orange. I need to find a better way to filter it so that the pulp from the citrus fruits can squeak through, without the pomegranate seeds sneaking in. Ah well.

I should also add that for the third time, I am soaking beans in an attempt to make kuru fasulye...these are new beans, from the kuruyemis stands behind Samanpazari (yes, I went back on Saturday). Hopefully they work!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Antique Shopping

I spent today with my good friend, Aysegul, shopping around Ulus (an area in Ankara) for some cool antique furniture. Saman Pazari, the area we went, was chockablock full of antique stores, and some really good fabric stores. (SIDE NOTE: I'm trying to find some good fabric to cover our dining room chairs. Aysegul, with her good eye for design, chose some fabrics that I was skeptical about, but of course her superior expertise reigned supreme (note the Iron Chef reference). We brought the samples home and of course the fabrics I wanted really looked silly, and hers looked wonderful! I will definitely take the hubby with me next time so we can choose something together and I can get going on this project.)

I think so far that has become my favorite area in Ankara. In addition to some really cool antique shops, the houses are just adorable. It's so quaint that you almost feel as if you have been swept out of Ankara for a moment, and transported to an adorable central Anatolian village. Also just behind the area is a huge castle, and also Ankara's oldest mosque, built in 1290! An amazing, but exhausting day!

My exhaustion was exacerbated by the fact that I taught my first yoga class last night, followed by dinner, drinks and live classical Greek/Turkish music performed by a friend of ours at a local taverna. We we lucky enough to be joined by my good friend Becky's mom from Washington, who happens to be in town at the moment. We came home at an unreasonable hour, naturally, and I woke up just a few hours later to teach a 7:00am yoga class! I think I'll call it an early night tonite.


Namaste! I gave my first official yoga class last night at Yoga Sala. It was a hot yoga class (which I will be teaching 3 times a week, and shamelessly promote attendance), and it felt awesome. I love being able to see people's faces after class, the smiles, the look of relief (relief that it's over, or hopefully relief that yoga has released some unwanted stresses). The class focuses on detoxing the body through sweat, twists, breathing exercises and compression postures, and detoxing the mind through balancing postures and light meditation. I had my second class this morning at 7:00am (YIKES) but it was awesome. The sun was shining, and as class was ending you could hear the rest of the city waking up. So cool. I really love all the people at the studio, too, so that makes going there even better. I'm lucky to be a teacher at Yoga Sala! :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Yogurt and Cucumbers (Cacik)

While we're on the subject of yogurt, I'll add my recipe for cacik (pronounced JAH-juhk). Some people prefer to have it thicker, thinner, less cucumbers, no skins--it's all a matter of how your mom did it. And since my mom is not Turkish, in Frank Sinatra style, I'm doing it my way! (Though I do longingly remember the summers when we would get fresh cucumbers and mix them with onions and some sort of ranch dressing and vinegar. I LOVED that...maybe that's why I like a "chunkier" cacik.)

  • 1 cucumber (remember, the kind from an American grocery store--they are significantly smaller in TR and you can use about 3-4 of them for this recipe), grated--don't drain the juice!
  • 3 c plain yogurt
  • fistful of fresh dill, chopped (or you can use dried--2-3 Tablespoons)
  • little bit less than a fistful of mint, chopped (or you can use dried--2-3 Tablespoons)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • salt to taste
Yogurt Yolu (ok, I'm making a stupid Turkish alliteration here...yogurt road. I could have said "Cacik Caddesi"--Cacik Avenue, but that's not any funnier...ah well):
  • mix everything like a party
  • allow to sit for at least an hour or two before serving to allow the flavors to really meet each other and be friends.
Afiyet olsun!

Red Cabbage Salad

So if you like bad breath and, excuse my language, farting (teehee), this recipe is for you! It is so nutritious and delicious, but unfortunately has the aforementioned side effects. In my opinion, it's worth every bite!

Red Cabbage Salad

  • 1/2 head of red cabbage, thinly chopped
  • 2 c (or more) of plain yogurt (not vanilla--YUCK!)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • salt to taste
  • parsley to garnish
The Road to Red Cabbage Heaven:
  • Soak the chopped cabbage in boiling water and add salt for 45 minutes
  • After it has cooled enough to place your hands in the water, "massage" the cabbage--squeeze it with your hands to try to soften it.
  • Rinse and repeat with new boiling salt water, this time allowing 15 mins or until still crunchy, but soft. For some cabbage, you may not need to soak again.
  • Add garlic and yogurt to the rinsed cabbage and stir. Add salt to taste.
  • Serve at room temp, and garnish with chopped parsley.
Afiyet olsun!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Invention of the Year

While shopping tonite at ViaLife Mall (I told you--5000 malls in Ankara), we came across the coolest thing I've seen in shopping mall parking garage history! There are these little lights with sensors hanging above each parking spot, when the spot is taken, the light turns red, so as you're driving around, you just look for green lights on the ceiling. Also as you enter, you can see how many spaces are available on each floor. BRILLIANT, I say!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Sometimes you wanna go, where everybody knows your name..."

I went on a walk this morning making a good 3.5 mile loop around our 'hood. By the end, I found myself humming the tune from "Cheers", thanks to my encounter with two sets of friends on my loop! It IS a small world after all...or maybe it's just a small Ankara after all...

When Life Hands You Lemons...

Yes, as the saying goes: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade (or the alternate version, make a margarita--your choice).

So when life handed me the worst batch of kuru fasulye (white beans) the other day, I made two delicious alternate appetizers. Since the beans royally sucked (they fell apart as I cooked them), I reserved half of them and added the others to the "fake" kuru fasulye (which I made more like a pilaki, actually, with carrots and potatoes). Since the consistency was very non-kuru fasulye-ish or pilaki-ish, I used my handy hand mixer and made something of a spread for toast. I must admit, it is quite delish. With the other half of the mashy beans, I made a tasty white bean puree, adding garlic, olive oil, chicken stock and lemon juice.

So when life hands you crappy kuru fasulye, puree it! :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On the Eve of Cumhuriyet Bayrami (Republic Day)

Today I officially became a resident of Turkey! Huzzah! Thought it was appropriate on the day before Turkey's Republic Day. Surprisingly faced with very little bureaucracy, I took a trip to Ankara Emniyet Mudurlugu and picked up my new residency permit (it's my old one with an incredibly icky photo from 2003 and both my parents' names mispelled...ah well). I can now officially come and go as I please from Turkey without a visa. YIPPEE!

Right next to the Emniyet is AnkaMall, which is one of the largest malls in Ankara. It's super modern, super clean and like I said, super huge. If I ever miss Steve Madden shoes, I can get my fix there (for nearly the same price as the Steve Madden store in Georgetown!); if I ever need to fix my Swatches (yes, I asked Ferhat if there were Swatch stores in Ankara--there are 11); and if I ever need a general shopping fix, AnkaMall is my place (more commentary on the food court to come when I am able to go there with my camera).

So I was denied entrance to the mall itself until promptly 10:00 am and waited outside playing Sudoku on my phone. Another shopper approached me to ask what time the mall opened and I told her. She said, "Well at least we can chat a bit until the doors open, right?" Sure. So her first question was obviously, "You're not a Turk, are you?" Gee, was it my awesome accent or my obviously non-Turkish appearance, lady? We continued to chat and our dialogue went like this:

Nice Mall Lady: So how do you find Turkish people?
Me: So kind, so helpful. In grocery stores, on the street, everyone is really nice.
NML: Sure, but don't trust anyone. Keep this message in your mind. Most people are nice, but you never know.
Me: Ok, that's pretty universal.
NML: What do you think of Ataturk (founder of modern Turkey)?
Me: ...erm...he's...
NML: What a soldier! What a visionary! What a man! You MUST go visit Anitkabir (Ataturk's Masoleum)
Me: Oh yes, I've been there.
NML: Aren't you going tomorrow? You should have your husband take you. It's Republic Day, you know!
Me: Yeah, Ataturk was quite a visionary, but I don't think of him as a soldier, actually. I think of him more as a human being--he had such a big heart, and such great plans for Turkey.
NML: Wow, you know a lot about him. Where do you learn it?
Me: I've just generally read a lot from different sources, and my friends.
NML: Good. You need to tell your American friends about him, too. What do you think of Obama? Were you happy about the election?
Me: Oh definitely. We really have hope now.
NML: He's like Ataturk--young, handsome, bold, intelligent...yes, Huseyin Obama, we love him here.

And then the mall opened. This was just a summary of our 20 minute conversation, but you get the gist. I heart the Turks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ah Ankara Weather

Don't assume that just because I've resorted to talking about weather means that I've run out of things to talk about. I have to say that the weather here has been absolutely spectacular for the last month! The sun shines EVERY day, and it has only started to cool down today--as in, the temperature actually dropped below 70! I think fall will finally "fall" this weekend--it's supposed to be in the 50s--GASP! I can bust out all those cute fall/winter clothes now! I'm most excited to wear the new tights I got before I left--the bright blue ones and the red ones in particular! Fashion aside, the weather is dry here, too. I absolutely can't leave the house without my lipbalm, hand cream, and Burt's Bees cuticle wax (yes, it's THAT dry!). I'm looking forward to seeing some snow, to be honest. Not looking forward to walking in it (I have enough trouble walking on the awesomely constructed sidewalks here the way it is...).

Found Replacement for Whole Foods' Brownie Bites

I didn't think it was possible, but there they were, looking longingly at me from the Halciler supermarket aisle: Eti mini Browni Gold, Kakao Soslu Cikolatli Kek. DEEEELISH! Maybe not as "natural" as Whole Foods, but Eti is giving them a run for their money!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mucver (Zucchini Treats)

Score two for me! Ferhat loved the eggplant dish, but ate the mucver (pronounced mooj-VAIR) so fast from the moment he walked in the door, I couldn't even take a picture of it!!

  • 3 "American size" zucchinis, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 onion, grated (white, preferably)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 c white cheese (aka Feta)
  • 1 tight handful of fresh dill (ok, so how does one actually measure dill...just squeeze it in your fist and that should be about right), chopped
  • Sunflower oil (or another vegetable oil that handles high temperatures well)
  • salt to taste
Magical Transformation Instructions:
  • Wash your hands (I enjoy stating the obvious)--but this is kinda important 'cause you get to smoosh everything together with your hands!
  • Take the grated zucchini and smoosh it between paper towels several times to absorb a lot of the moisture
  • Mix that together then with the onion, eggs, flour, cheese and dill (and salt to taste)--WITH YOUR HANDS--fun times!
  • Wash off those pretty little hands
  • Preheat a deep skillet then add enough sunflower oil to generously cover the bottom.
  • Once the oil has heated, take a heaping spoonful of the batter and add it to the oil. DO NOT turn the pancake until it is nice and brown on one side.
  • When both sides are golden brown, remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil
  • Serve immediately and watch your guests *smile*

Eggplant Deliciousness

I've included "food" in the title of this blog because I adore cooking and eating--more than your average Joe...or Mehmet. I particularly love trying out new Turkish dishes (and the eating part afterwards...natch). I want to share my attempts with you, in a way that hopefully you can try them at home (ok, I confess that I hope maybe most of my Turkish friends and family will be able to add more tips, tricks and variations to my recipes--most of you will have already made these things).

Today, I decided to cook up some eggplant. Here's how (in my best attempt at converting these into American measurements/weights/shapes):

  • 6 Italian Eggplants (the long skinny kind)
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped (or you can even grate it if you prefer)
  • 3 cloves of "American size" garlic (if you're in the US, just don't use elephant garlic)
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 3 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 spoonful of tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • parsley
Cooking Fun Times:

  • Wash the eggplant (duh)
  • Peel the eggplant lengthwise in stripes, leaving some of the skin on
  • Cut off the stem and slice the eggplant into 1cm (finger width) slices, and then cut those slices into halves...or however you want to cube it
  • Generously salt the eggplant and let it sit for at least 15 minutes (this removes the bitterness)
  • Place the eggplant in a colander and rinse off the extra salt
  • Preheat a large skillet and then add a generous portion of quality olive oil (preferably the Turkish kind, but I suppose if you have Italian or any other kind, it will do...check your labels!)--enough to sufficiently cover the bottom of the skillet
  • On medium heat, add the garlic and onions and sauté until soft
  • Add the diced green pepper and cook until soft
  • Add the tomato paste, and let simmer for a minute
  • Add the diced tomatoes (try to add as much juice from them as possible)
  • Add the rinsed eggplant and a few cups of water
  • Let simmer until eggplant has softened (you may have to add more water as the cooking goes along)
  • Add salt to taste
  • Allow to cool, serve at room temperature with freshly chopped parsley and another drizzle of olive oil on top.
Deeeeelish! I'm enjoying mine right now! I'm pretty satisfied, though my fiercest (and best) critic is the hubby--we'll see what he says tonight!

Afiyet olsun! (Bon Apetit, sadly with no English equivalent)

I surrender! Let the blogging begin...

I know, I know...Blogging is SO 2000. But in spite of the snickers I'll receive from my techno-savvy friends, I'm starting a blog.

As my close friends and family know, I was married in July 2009 and moved to Ankara, Turkey in October. Already having lived in Istanbul a few years ago, I'm pretty familiar with Turkish culture, cuisine and whatnot. However, this place will never cease to amaze me, and I hope to use this blog as a tool to encourage people to get to know Turkey, become friends with it, and maybe even stop by and say "merhaba" one day.

In the short time that I've been here already (and yes, gasp, it's almost been a month), my jaw has admittedly dropped more than a few times, my mouth has curled up in a smile, my eyes have popped open and cried tears of joy, and my tummy has been the most consistendly delighted it's been in, well, a very long time (don't be offended, mom--your cooking is still #1).

I have a list of things and photos of these various things all ready to go. Yavas yavas (i.e. when I am in the mood), I will get around to posting them in a reasonably fashionable fashion.

Hold on tight...this is gonna be a wild ride... :)