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... :)