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.

Ingredients:

  • 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"...you 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, www.boden.co.uk). 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.

Ingredients:

  • 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
Directions:
  • 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 chuƄ! (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!

Ingredients:

  • 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.

Ingredients:

  • 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!

Ingredients:
  • 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.

Ingredients:
  • 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.

Oooommmmmm....

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.)

Ingredients:
  • 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

Ingredients:
  • 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!