Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Of course, when one visits Turkey, you can plan to eat well.

I thought I would share some of the special dishes and places I visited during my trip to Bodrum, a beautiful resort area located on the southwest peninsula along the Aegean Sea.

On the first night in Bodrum after the 3rd Annual Karaova Grape Harvest Festival had kicked off with traditional Aegean dances, we ate dinner at a lovely restored, 160-year-old stone house called Avlu Bistro & Bar. The restaurant has two levels inside and plenty of outdoor tables so you can enjoy the pleasant summer weather.

Here, we started off with several mezzes including smoked salmon bruschetta, veal carpaccio, Turkish olives, cheese, etc. Every dish was delicious, but to me, the real highlight was the main course – the çökertme kebabı. This traditional Bodrum dish features tender steak (bonfile) served atop fried shoestring potatoes in a yogurt and tomato sauce. OMG! As a meat lover, I was in heaven!
Somehow during my previous trips to Bodrum, I had missed out on having çökertme kebabı. Never again! If you love steak, then you must try this amazing dish when you visit the Bodrum area.

For dessert, we had a warm chocolate soufflé cake and a panna cotta with berries. After dinner, we walked along Bodrum’s famous Barlar Sokak and headed back to our hotel to relax.
Hotel Marma Beach
In the mornings, I enjoyed a full Turkish breakfast buffet at Hotel Marma Beach, a small, boutique hotel located on Ortakent Beach. I had a second-floor bedroom here with a small terrace where I enjoyed sitting out in the late afternoons with a glass of Turkish wine. A traditional Turkish breakfast often features several kinds of cheeses, breads, olives, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, boiled eggs and teas. Simple and delicious!
Köy Kahvaltısı 
Of course, I can’t forget the amazing köy kahvaltısı (village breakfast) that I enjoyed with my new Turkish friends in the countyside at Etrim Doğa Restaurant & Köy Kahvaltısı. To read more about that experience, please read this post: Enjoying a Turkish Village Breakfast Near Bodrum.
Kavurmacı Celal Usta
For lunch, we ate at a small family restaurant in Mumcular called Kavurmacı Celal Usta. Often, small restaurants in Turkey will specialize in cooking and serving just one or two dishes. In this case, we were interested in eating saç kavurma. Kavurma usually refers to beef or lamb simply seasoned and cooked in its own juices and fat.

Another traditional way to prepare kavurma is to cook it on a metal pan called a saç. The saç is placed over an open fire and the diced lamb or beef is stirred around and cooked with a large metal spatula until the meat releases its juices and fat. Our dish was served with lettuce, freshly diced tomatoes and bread. Of course, the drink of choice here is ayran – a salty, but refreshing Turkish yogurt drink. Ayran also goes well a really spicy meal. Trust me.
Göltürkbükü Mahallesi
Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, I often didn’t know where I was going on this trip since I had very limited wifi and my brain was constantly working away at my lost Turkish language skills. After leaving Mumcular, I know we drove south toward the Göltürkbükü Mahallesi. I have since learned that we stopped for afternoon tea at Hasan Restoran, a family-owned restaurant/motel located on the beach. We dined on chilled, locally-harvested grapes and figs while enjoying the seaviews in the afternoon sunshine. But the highlight here was eating Saraylı Tatlısı – another Bodrum specialty which is thin sheets of yufka (phyllo dough) baked in a sugary syrup and topped with chopped pistachios.

If you like Turkish baklava, then you will love Saraylı Tatlısı as well.
Whenever you travel to Turkey, I promise that you will eat well – be it a large city like Bodrum or Istanbul or the tiniest of Turkish villages.

Again, special thanks to Karaova-Der, Slow Food Bodrum and the Bodrum municipality for making this wonderful Turkish trip happen!

My Traveling Joys

Monday, October 30, 2017

I can’t believe that it’s already been more than a month since I was in Bodrum, Turkey, for the 3rd Annual Karaova Grape Harvest Festival.

This fantastic foodie event, held in September in the Mumcular Park, highlighted not only the local crops of the surrounding rich agricultural lands, but also the local Turkish traditions and customs. The three-day festival provided an excellent opportunity to learn more about these traditional ways and for me to spend some time basking in Turkish hospitality and supporting a wonderful cause. The event was organized by Karaova-Der, a local association under the leadership of Ali Öztürk, along with Slow Food Bodrum and the Bodrum municipality.

This week, I learned from fellow blogger Annie of Back to Bodrum that the event was considered a success, with a 30 percent increase in participants and visitors. That’s wonderful news!
Since I come from a farm-based background and professionally work as a pastry chef, I am a firm believer in using local and seasonal products like the ones promoted at the festival. I was honored to be a guest chef at the event, helping judge the food contest and doing a cooking demo of my recipe for a Fig Tart with a Turkish Twist. Let me know if you give my recipe a go!
And now some highlights from the 3rd Annual Karaova Grape Harvest Festival:

The festival kicked off on the first night with announcements by local officials and traditional Turkish dances held in the main Bodrum square or meydan. I loved the local dresses which are typical of the Aegean region in Turkey!
On Saturday, I met up with a friendly group of Turkish bloggers and writers to spend a day at the festival. Although my Turkish has become a bit rusty these last few years, I still am able to communicate in my bir az Türkçe, and my yeni arkadaşlar were quite welcoming. 
At the festival, I met several local farmers and women who make a living by selling their produce and spices or by making dolls, jams, compotes, sauces, scarves, placemats and tablecloths, wooden serving spoons and more. I had a wonderful time wandering around the festival, admiring and sampling various goodies by the numerous stallholders.
I bought this beautiful blue scarf from this local lady who said the scarf matched by blue eyes. What a sweetie!
I couldn’t resist taking a photo with this local farmer!
He was so jovial! I bought some spices and dried herbs from him.
One of the bloggers, Suleyman Dilsiz of Istanbul did a presentation about cooking fish. He has published two cookbooks: “Kılçıksız Balık” (about fish) and “Kahvaltıya Dair Her Şey” (about breakfast). 

In the evening, I helped judge the food contest which included traditional Turkish recipes made by local cooks in three categories: Zeytinyağlılar (olive oil dishes), Tatlılar (desserts) and Börekler (savory pastries made from thin phyllo dough). The idea of the food contest was to help promote traditional recipes and to hopefully publish them all in a small booklet. I had no idea that judging a food contest would be somewhat difficult and filling at the end. Adding up all the proper points for each category took time. But I was very honored to participate along with Asli Mutlu of Cooking Classes Bodrum, Oya Emerk of Oya’s Cuisine in Istanbul, and two local residents.
After we had counted the results, the winners posed for photos with Asli Mutlu, Oya Emerk and myself. What a wonderful event!
You can read more about the food contest and its winners written by Turkish blogger Arzu of

Baking in Bodrum at the Karaova Festival
On Sunday, I returned to festival because it was showtime! Even though I’ve given dozens and dozens of cooking classes over the years, I was still a bit nervous because I was talking in front of a mainly Turkish-speaking crowd. No need to fear! One of the volunteers from Slow Food Bodrum helped translate as I spoke in English. I felt more relaxed as I talked about one of my favorite tart recipes and looked out and saw several familiar and smiling faces in the crowd.
Asli  of Cooking Classes Bodrum introduced me at the event.

I personally met Ali Öztürk of Karaova-Der and humbly received a lovely award from him.
At the end of my presentation, I gave out samples of my delicious fig and grape tart and spoke with some of the audience members. Again, it was an honor to be at the Karaova Festival and talk about baking.

I’m so thankful to have met all these wonderful Turkish bloggers and for providing me with some of these photos.

I’m already hoping that I can make another trip to Turkey in 2018! And don’t miss next year’s Karaova Festival in Bodrum!

This event would not have been possible without the support of these friends and sponsors, so special thanks goes to:
·       *Asli Mutlu of Cooking Classes Bodrum 

·       *Oya Emerk of Oya’s Cuisine 

·       *Slow Food Bodrum 

·      * Akustik Turizm for providing transportation.

·       *Hotel Marma Beach for providing lodging.

To learn more about Turkish food, please visit some of these Turkish bloggers’ websites:
·       * Sibel Yalcin 

·       * Arzu Goncü Hangül of 

·       * Birgül Erdogan 

·       * Hacer Sener 

·       * Leyla Kılıç 

·       * Emel Akan 

·       * Nur Hayat 

·       * Serkan Karagoz 

My Traveling Joys

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Before enjoying my Turkish Köy Kahvaltısı near Bodrum, I was introduced to a Turkish mother who sat on a cushion weaving a large carpet with homespun wool.

Her nimble fingers moved quickly across the old wooden loom. She made double knots using different colored yarn, but she had no pattern. Every design she made was done by memory.
Engin Başol, owner of Etrim Hali Carpets located in the small village of Etrim, about 24km from Bodrum, introduced us to his mother, Ümmüham Başol, who was currently weaving the carpet for us. His family roots in the area date back 500 years.

Engin Başol, along with his father, Mehmet, run the Turkish carpet business which is a cooperative made up several local villages enabling women who can weave to sell their rugs. The younger Başol, who spoke English, explained that they are trying to preserve the local traditions such as carpet weaving.

“I feel like it’s a dying art as the younger women want to move to the city and then they marry Bodrum men. They leave the village life behind them,” Engin Başol said.

As he leads us through the main building, I am amazed by how many Turkish carpets and kilims fill each and every single room. They are stacked on top of each other or rolled up in corners, on the floor or on a bench. The bright colors and different patterns are astounding. Although I already own two Turkish kilims, I wished I had more time to buy another one or maybe even two.
Ümmüham spends two months making a wool double knotted Turkish carpet (the fluffier kind of rugs that can be mistaken for Oriental rugs) that measures approximately 1.5 meters in dimension while a flat-weave kilim takes three weeks. She also hand-dyes the wool yarn using only natural ingredients such as flowers, roots and spices. She shows us the yarns hanging outside on hooks to dry while cows and chickens laze about in the yard nearby.
To me, buying a Turkish carpet or kilim is a personal experience. When we lived in Turkey, I took several friends to buy Turkish carpets from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. When I finally purchased my own, I spent about two hours looking at dozens of different styles. And even though I love my kilims, I don’t know the story behind them.

Getting a Turkish carpet or kilim from Etrim village and the Başol family is a memory that would last forever.

If you’re visiting the Bodrum area, feel free to call Engin Başol so you can enjoy a traditional Turkish breakfast and see the carpets for yourself. It’s also a good opportunity to visit and learn about a Turkish village in person.

Etrim Hali Carpets is located next to Doğa Restaurant & Köy Kahvaltısı
Etrim Mahallesi köyüaz
Pınarlıbelen, Muğla, Turkey 48400

Best to call ahead to make group reservations.  +90 532 602 6769

(I was the guest of Etrim Doğa Restaurant & Köy Kahvaltısı, but all the opinions expressed here are my own.)
My Traveling Joys

Friday, September 29, 2017

On the weekends when we lived in Turkey, I loved going to have a traditional Turkish breakfast – where the meal is like an event.

And if you ever get to experience a Köy Kahvaltısı (village breakfast), especially with a group of friends, the meal can last for hours and feature dozens upon dozens of Turkish specialties. On my recent trip to Bodrum, I experienced exactly that at Etrim Doğa Restaurant & Köy Kahvaltısı, located in a tiny, traditional Turkish village up in the hills about a 40-minute drive from the main city. The meal is cooked by the sister of Engin Başol, who owns the attached Etrim Turkish Carpet cooperative with his father (more about that business in another post).
In Etrim, you are served a fabulous, traditional, Turkish village breakfast with the warm and generous Turkish hospitality that I miss so much. There’s no menu, and the dishes keep coming out of the kitchen. Plus, you are sitting in a tranquil setting with the fresh country air and perhaps a few (really) free-range chickens pecking at your feet.
A Turkish village breakfast is meant for sharing with friends!
Just look at the spread we enjoyed!

Lokma is a Turkish fried sweet dough that is covered in a simple syrup. I guess you could call lokma a kind of doughnut or sweet fritter as we would in the United States. Lokma is often served as a dessert (sometimes garnished with cinnamon, sesame seeds or coconut) or as an accompaniment to coffee.

Zeytinyağlı Taze Fasülye – Mediterranean-style green beans and tomatoes cooked in Turkish olive oil.
çiçek dolması are courgetti/zucchini flowers that are stuffed with aromatic rice with herbs and onions. These stuffed, edible flowers are a specialty in the Aegean region of Turkey. I love them!
One of my favorite Turkish treats are sigara börek – cigar-shaped savory Turkish pastries stuffed with feta cheese and herbs, and cooked until crisp. Delicious!
Otlu börek – a new-to-me Turkish pastry is delicious baked pastry made from thin sheets of  yufka (phyllo dough) and layered parsley, dill, green onions and a mixture of wild greens.
Ezme – a delicious spread of tomatoes, onions, peppers and herbs with a red pepper paste. Spread a generous dab of this on some freshly baked bread.

Fresh tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, black and green olives, spicy green peppers and Turkish cheeses.
Zeytinyagli Sarma – Stuffed grapevine leaves with aromatic rice, although the filling sometimes changes and different herbs are used.

And of course, rounding out all this amazing food is unlimited glasses of hot çay (Turkish tea).

As you can imagine, going out for Köy Kahvaltısı is a leisurely activity and best not to be rushed. You could easily spend a whole afternoon in the village of Etrim when you visit Bodrum!

Etrim Doğa Restaurant & Köy Kahvaltısı
Etrim Mahallesi köyü
Pınarlıbelen, Muğla, Turkey 48400

Best to call ahead to make group reservations.  +90 532 602 6769
Social media: Instagram and Facebook 

(I was the guest of Etrim Doğa Restaurant & Köy Kahvaltısı with a group of Turkish bloggers, but all the opinions expressed here are my own.)

My Traveling Joys

Monday, September 18, 2017


I’ve just returned from a wonderful, but all too short long weekend in Bodrum, Turkey. I can’t believe it’s been more than three years since I’ve visited my favorite “homeland.”

I was a guest of Slow Food Bodrum and participated and taught a baking class as part of the 3rd Annual Karaova Grape Harvest Festival. It was a fantastic foodie event that I’ll have to tell you about in more detail soon.
But first, here’s the recipe I made for the event and I’m sharing with you now. You can use any kind of fruit in the tart – Turkish figs, grapes, pears, berries – you name it. Also, if you live in Turkey or can get your hands on them, feel free to use ground up apricot kernels – which give the tart a yummy almondy flavor!

Afiyet olsun!

Joy’s Basic Sweet Tart Dough 
Yields: approx. 2 tart shells 9-10-inch size

255      g.         butter, soft 
200      g.         granulated sugar 
¼         tsp.      salt 
2          ea.       large eggs 
500      g.         flour, sifted 

Using a stand mixer or hand blender, cream together the butter, sugar and salt with a paddle until smooth.  
Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl until mixture is smooth. Add the flour and mix on low until incorporated.  

Shape dough into two flat disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. 

Using a rolling pin, roll out dough on a floured surface and cut into a circle. Line the selected tart pan with baking paper and lightly spray with a non-stick spray. Press the dough into the selected tart pan. Allow to chill at least 30 minutes before baking. (This step will prevent the tart from shrinking during baking.) 

Dough scraps can be pressed together, refrigerated and reused one more time.

Fragipane Filling
For 1 tart shell

230      g.         butter, soft
230      g.         granulated sugar
230      g.         ground almonds/hazelnuts (mixture is nice) Or you can substitute ground Turkish apricot kernels. In Turkey, these apricot “seeds” are much cheaper than nuts.
3          ea.       large eggs
50        g.         plain flour
Optional:         lemon or orange zest, finely grated
Approx. 1 kilo fresh fruit such as figs or plums

Cream butter, sugar and ground nuts together.
Add eggs and flour and zest, if using. Cream until well blended.
Spread over the bottom of a tart shell. Layer fruit on top.
Bake at 170C for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cover the top of the tart with aluminum foil towards the end of the baking if the top is getting too browned. The tart is done when you insert a skewer or knife tip into the center of the tart and it comes out clean.

Serve tart at room temperature.
This is one of the tarts I made while in Bodrum using the ground up apricot kernels.

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