Monday, July 11, 2011

I cannot believe we are celebrating our 1-year anniversary living in  Istanbul!

My husband arrived in mid-June last year and I landed on July 22, so I guess technically I haven’t reached my 1-year milestone yet.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed living here, and I’ve been told by our new friends that they are amazed at how well I’ve adapted here. I’ve just sort of thrown myself into my daily life here. I try to keep an open mind and live by the mantra that “Everyday is an adventure here.”

I decided it was high time Jason and I hosted a dinner party, and we invited his staff over to our place. So this weekend, I prepped and cooked for two days for my Latin-inspired meal. I wanted to cook dishes you don’t normally eat here in Turkey, and Mexican food is one of my favorite cuisines (see previous margarita night.)

Here was my menu:
  • My Mexican tomato salsa served with tortilla chips (I had to go to 3 different stores to get the chips and cilantro. I don’t understand why they are so difficult to find here.)
  • Shrimp seviche
  • Chipotle-tomato salsa
  • Shredded chicken in mole sauce for making your own tacos. Served with diced green onions, shredded kasar peyniri, canned jalapeños and steamed tortillas.
  • Pickled red onions
  • Dulce de leche cupcakes with dulce de leche-vanilla cream cheese frosting
  • Black bean and bacon taquitos (made from yufka)
  • Sliced proscuitto and several cheeses with crackers
  • Homemade sangria and margaritas (This was hubby’s area of expertise.)
The table filled with all the delicious food.
For several of the recipes, I relied on my dog-eared copy of Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen. I didn’t have all the chili peppers used in the recipes so I improvised with dry spices and Turkish peppers.
Shredded chicken tacos with pickled red onions and chipotle-tomato salsa.
It was fun to meet and socialize with my husband’s staff. I’ve met a few of the co-workers before, but I was happy to be hosting them in our home and so was Jason. I wanted to do something special for them and the best way for me to do is to cook. I often bake special treats for Jason to share at work. So I was surprised when we received some very nice gifts (housewarming presents) from his staff. The staff really went out of their way with their kindness and gave us gifts that will remind of Istanbul no matter where we live. Çok teşekkür ederim!
One of the gifts - a beautiful vase with the Galata Tower in the middle.
During this past year, I’ve been lucky to experience the generous hospitality and kindness of the Turkish people on many occasions. Whether it’s a Turkish man offering me his seat on the metro or the dolmuş, tossing in a few free lemons into my bag at the pazar, not allowing me to pay for the 2 macaroons I wanted at the pastane, physically walking me to a place because I was lost, helping me carry my groceries up to my apartment to the butcher rounding down the price of my meat purchase. Who does these kinds of things? Only in Turkey, perhaps.

Generally, the people I daily encounter greet me with charm and conversation even when I respond with my broken Turkish and incorrect grammar. People seem to understand me, telling me my Turkish is “çok güzel” while I try hard not to laugh at my own conversational skills. I enjoy these encounters.

Afiyet Olsun!
The cupcakes weren't perfect with their soft frosting,
but they still were yummy.
For the dulce de leche cupcakes, I pretty much followed the recipe found on Joy the Baker’s blog. The recipe yields a large batch and easily could be cut in half.

To make dulce de leche, follow the directions here. Another method is to boil the cans of sweetened condensed milk in boiling water for 3 hours. Just make sure the cans are completely immersed under water the whole time. (I purchased my cans of condensed milk at the REAL store in Fulya in the dairy aisle.)

Dulce de leche-vanilla frosting

400 g. krem peynir (cream cheese), room temperature
3-4 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 each vanilla bean pod, scraped
5 oz. /110 g. dulce de leche
100 g. powdered sugar

1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, blend together the krem peynir (cream cheese) with the vanilla bean until soft and creamy.
2. Add the butter and mix well, being sure to scrap the bottom of the bowl well with a spatula.
3. Add the dulce de leche and powdered sugar; mix well again.
4. Place the frosting in the fridge, allowing it to chill for awhile before using. (For some reason, whenever I use the krem peynir, it never seems to set up as well as American cream cheese, but it’s still tasty.)

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