Wednesday, February 29, 2012

This uncommon, knobby vegetable almost looks like a mythical sea creature.

Or as my husband said, some kind of alien creature. He used some other descriptive words too, but I won't repeat them here.
Last week, I spied this vibrant chartreuse veggie sitting among the oranges at my local manav in Beşiktaş. I resisted buying it because I wanted to wait until we went to the Saturday pazar in Beşiktaş like we always do.
Only one stall had this yeşil karnabahar (green cauliflower) as the vendor called it. I happily paid only 5 TL (about $2.80) for this 1.2 kilo monster.

Technically, green (Romanesco) cauliflower is a relative of both broccoli and cauliflower and is referred to as Romanesco broccoli. 

In Italy, where the vegetable is popular and said to have originated in the 16th century, people call it broccolo romanesco. Hence, the more common name of Romanesco broccoli. (Italy, gets all the cool vegetables and a multitude of cured meats!)

Whatever name you call this broccoli-cauliflower cousin, its flavor is mild, creamy and nutty. It steams well and easily could be roasted in the oven or drizzled with a beurre noisette (like I've done before with Brussels sprouts).

I'm sure it will only be around for a limited time here in Istanbul, so grab it while you can!

In my recipe, a head of Romanesco broccoli is trimmed into smaller florets, steamed with Brussels sprouts until tender, and then tossed with a caper-mustard-oregano flavored butter. This makes an amazing and hearty veggie side dish that cooks in just 10 minutes. (I spent much more time cutting and trimming my vegetables!) The capers add a nice tanginess.

This sexy side dish will serve as the star of our dinner tonight with  a simple roasted chicken!

Afiyet olsun!
Toasted pine nuts, tangy capers and garlicky butter = deliciousness!
(Note: I am submitting this recipe for the #323 edition of  Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted this week by Italian blogger Marta of  Viaggiare è un po' come mangiare. This weekly event is coordinated by Australian food blogger Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once and was founded by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen. Thank you for stopping by!)

Green (Romanesco) Cauliflower with Brussels Sprouts/Brüksel Lahanası ile Yeşil Karnabahar
(Inspired by a recipe in Local Flavors cookbook by Deborah Madison)

3          cloves                          garlic
1/2       tsp.                              sea salt
2          tsp.                              Dijon mustard
1          tsp.                              dried oregano
6          T.         (85 g.)              butter, room temperature
1/4       c.         (45 g.)              capers or caper berries, rinsed (Often found here next to the jarred olives and pickled vegetables)
TT                                            freshly ground black pepper

1          lb.        (450-500 g.)    broccoli Romanesco*, trimmed into bite-size pieces
8          oz.       (230 g.)            Brussels sprouts, sliced in half or, if large, into quarters

2          T.                                 lightly toasted pine nuts
Using a mortar, pound together the salt and garlic until you achieve a paste. Alternatively, chop the garlic very finely.
Then, stir this mixture into the butter with the mustard, capers and oregano. Season with pepper. Set aside.

Fill a large pot with about 1/2-inch (1.5 cm.) of water and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil.

Add the Brussels sprouts, cover with a lid, and steam for 2-3 minutes. Then add the broccoli Romanesco and continue to cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Immediately, strain the vegetables and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Add the caper-mustard-oregano flavored butter to the hot pot. Let melt. Drain veggies of excess water, add to the pot along with the pine nuts and then gently stir to coat. Serve immediately.

*          White cauliflower can be substituted for the broccoli Romanesco.

Note: Next time I make this dish, I might use a little less butter in the recipe OR add more vegetables.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Another Istanbul Adventure

Who knew a shopping trip for sewing supplies would lead to such an amazing view?
Foreground: Sebsafa Kadın Mosque along Ataturk Bulvarı. In the background, perched on the city's third hill, is the Süleymaniye Mosque. 
Last week, I went on an Istanbul adventure for fabric and sewing machine parts with my friend Sheryl of The Altered Passport. It took us two different buses to get across the Golden Horn to the Fatih district just north of Sultanahmet.

I brought my camera to take some shots while my friend was shopping, and I provided some Turkish translation along the way. I also learned the word for checkered fabric - kareli.

Unfortunately, the sky was overcast and some fog had rolled in along the Bosphorus. I didn't get the best photos, but I still wanted to share some of the architectural gems we saw in this neighborhood.

For lunch, we stopped at the restored Zeyrekhane, a restaurant that features an outdoor garden and garden and terrace with magnificent views of the Golden Horn and back to the Süleymaniye Mosque. Sheryl and I agreed we need to return when the weather is warmer so we can sit outside and enjoy the view with a glass of Turkish wine.
The outdoor garden and terrace area at Zeyrekhane.
Zeyrekhane is surrounded by the remains and buildings of a large monastic complex, dating to Byzantine times, called the Monastery of the Pantokrator. (Zeyrek Kilise Mosque). This complex, currently undergoing restorations, once consisted of two churches, a chapel as well as a mental hospital, general hospital and a hospice for elderly men. After the conquest in 1453, the chapel was converted into a mosque named Mollya Zeyrek Mehmed Efendi after its imam.

Because of the overcast skies, we decided not to stay as long as we had planned. That means I must return again to explore this little-visited neighborhood.

Hopefully, I'll get on the right bus next time!

·         To reach this area by bus, look for a bus heading to Aksaray or Unkapanı.

·         Zeyrekhane is located at Ibadethane Arkası Sokak No.10, Zeyrek-Fatih, Istanbul
View of the Golden Horn from the restaurant's terrace.
Another view of the Golden Horn with the Galata Tower, located to the right.
Old hamam shoes noting the women's restroom in the restaurant.
The city's traffic moving along with the impressive Aqueduct of Valens in the background.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

One thing I miss from home is ginger ale.

When my brother and I were kids, my mom would give us the fizzy ginger ale to help settle an upset stomach. Even as I've gotten older, I've relied on this remedy from time to time, especially helpful after a fun night of too many beverages.

Here in Istanbul, it was impossible to find ginger ale until a few months ago. I stumbled across a random promosyon bin filled with bottles of ginger ale at the Macro Center in Akmerkez. Buy 1, get 1 free!

I bought 12 bottles, a few other groceries, and then had to lug them back home on the bus. Whoops!

As soon as I got home, I opened one of the bottles of ginger ale, filled my glass with ice cubes and the bubbly brew, and then took a sip. The familiar taste was there, but the ginger ale was missing the effervescence I wanted. All the bottles later proved to be just as flat.

Lately, I started thinking about how I could make my own ginger ale. I remember a ginger syrup we used to make in some of the restaurants I worked at in the U.S. The recipe was basically a strong simple syrup made with an equal ratio of ingredients.

Fresh ginger + granulated sugar + lemon juice AND topped off with sparkling water or soda water = homemade ginger ale!

My resulting ginger syrup definitely has a ginger kick similar to eating the pickled ginger when you have sushi. It also passes my husband approval test.

Not surprisingly, I'm already thinking of ways we can use this ginger syrup for a cocktail. Ginger mojitos anyone?

Afiyet olsun!
Fizzy homemade ginger ale made at home!
Homemade Ginger Ale

1          c.         (210 g.)            granulated sugar
1          c.         (130 g.)            fresh ginger, chopped small or ground to small chunks in the food processor
1          c.         (240 ml.)          fresh lemon juice

As needed:      sparkling water (I used Uludağ Doğal Zengin Mineralli Su) or soda water

In a medium-sized pot, add the sugar, ginger and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring often. I let my mixture come to a boil and then pulled the pot off the heat.

Let the mixture cool until it is room temperature.

Then, strain the mixture, pressing down on the ginger pieces to extract as much liquid as possible; or strain the mixture through cheesecloth. 
I reserved the cooked ginger and may use it for some other recipes.
The ginger syrup can be used now or stored in a clean container in the refrigerator for later use.

To make a glass of ginger ale:
1/4       c.         (60 ml.)            ginger syrup
3/4       c.         (180 ml.)          sparkling water or soda water
As needed                               ice cubes

You can adjust the amount of sparkling water or soda water to your liking.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This creamy soup is a spin-off the balkabağı çorbası (pumpkin soup) I made recently.

I was surprised my husband liked this slightly spicy soup so much that I made it again last week.

Bunches of cauliflower can be seen right now at every pazar or your local manav. It would be a shame not to make this simple and satisfying soup.

And, since they were so good last time, we made a new batch of fried garlic chips too.

Afiyet olsun!
Curried Cauliflower Soup/ Karnabahar Çorbası Korili

2          T.                                 vegetable or olive oil
1          med.                            onion, diced small
4-6       cloves                          garlic, roughly chopped
1          T.                                 curry powder
1/4       tsp.                              ground turmeric powder
1          kilo      (2.2 lbs.)          cauliflower florets
2          med.                            yellow potatoes, cut into small cubes
1          L.         (33. 8 oz.)        chicken stock or water
To taste                                   pul biber (red chili flakes), salt and freshly ground black pepper
120      ml.       (1/2 c.)             low-fat milk (Substitute whole milk or heavy cream for a richer taste.)

For garnish:                 shredded Kaşar peynir - a Turkish cheddar cheese
                                    Fried garlic chips (Note: mine took less than a minute to fry. Strain immediately and place on paper towel to absorb extra grease. Reserve the garlic oil to use in future recipes.)

1.         In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute about five minutes, until softened.
2.         Add the garlic, curry powder and ground turmeric. Cook for just a few minutes. Then add the cauliflower and potato chunks, stirring with a large spoon and cook for a few more minutes.
Be sure to stir well so the spices cover the cauliflower and potatoes.
3.         Then, add the stock or water. Add a dash of pul biber, salt and black pepper. Cover the pot with a lid and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until the cauliflower has softened.
4.         When finished cooking, add the milk. Using a hand immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
5.         To serve, ladle the hot soup into warmed bowls. Garnish with shredded Kaşar peynir and a sprinkling of the fried garlic chips.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My belly is full of good beer and pork from a fun, frenzied weekend spent in Düsseldorf and Cologne, Germany.

I think we had a bit too much fun. Today, I am feeling quite sluggish despite drinking copious amounts of coffee.

That means, this week, I should detox, eat soup and get back to my hot yoga routine.

Just like last year's "romantic" trip spent in Munich, we celebrated a belated Valentine's Day weekend in Germany with beer and pork. Or maybe it was really just an excuse to get away, meet up with friends and experience Karneval firsthand!

Karneval is a festival that has many names such as Fasching or Fastnacht in Germany. Cologne is well-known for its party scene, and thousands of revelers take to the city streets. Luckily, we met up with two friends who speak German and helped us navigate the scene and city.

Thanks to JT of JT's German Adventure and Meg, we had a blast!

Here are some photos I took while we were out and about celebrating Karneval with the locals. Some of the costumes were really outrageous! But they made for fantastic photos!

Happy Mardi Gras or Karneval wherever you are!

Do you have some favorite people photos from your travels? If so, please share your link when you comment. Thank you! 
Overall, street scene in  Düsseldorf, Germany, on Sunday.
Ships ahoy!
"Red hot smokers"
"Wanted: Blue cowboys"
"Three fish in a small pond"
"Feathers and eyelashes"
Tasty berliner - similar to a jam-filled doughnut.
"What's cooking?"
"I heard you the first time!"
"Sprinkles and Strawberries"
The best for last - This shows my true love for pork!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Earlier this month, I noticed the newly-arrived piles of kanlı portakal (blood orange) at my local pazar.

Of course, I was quite ecstatic to see these blood oranges as I've been impatiently waiting for their arrival here in Istanbul this winter. 

My husband saw me get that hunger-lust look in my eyes and moved out of my way. I was on a mission!

Every time, we visit the pazar, I buy a few kilos of the tasty kanlı portakal (also labeled as kan portakal). Honestly, I haven't had enough time to play around with some blood orange-flavored desserts so we've been juicing them instead and enjoying the fresh juice for breakfast.

But for Valentine's Day this week, I saved a few blood oranges for this special occasion. Normally, I'm a dark chocolate kinda gal for this day, but I decided to make an exception to my kitchen rules.

I can't resist the bright, sunset burst of color once I slice into these kanlı portakal.
Fresh blood oranges in my Istanbul kitchen.
I relied on a standard recipe I used in my restaurant days, which uses sheet gelatin. I have a large stash to use up so I'm not sure how to substitute the powdered Turkish version here. (Any ideas?) In the meantime, please refer to this handy guide about gelatin by one of my favorite food bloggers, David Lebovitz.

Afiyet olsun!
I love using these glass containers from my local Pasabahce store! Only 1 TL each.
Panna Cotta with Kanlı Portakal (Blood Orange)
16        oz.       (473 ml.)          fresh whole milk
1          ea.                                vanilla beans, split, seeds scraped
5          oz.       (142 g.)            granulated sugar
4          ea.                                gelatin sheets, bloomed in cold water

16        oz.       (473 ml.)          fresh whole milk

Garnish:           fresh blood orange segments and juice

In a medium-sized pot, heat the milk, sugar and vanilla bean pod.

Bring to a simmer, whisking often, and making sure the sugar is dissolved. Strain.

Add the bloomed gelatin and whisk to combine.

Add the remaining cold milk, whisk and pour the panna cotta base into individual molds. Let the base set for several hours before eating.

When set, garnish the molds with fresh blood orange segments.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Girne (Kyrenia) - No matter where we travel, I don't think I will ever tire of watching the sunset while enjoying a glass of wine or a frosty pint of beer.
After an afternoon of exploring North Cyprus, our friends took us to the old harbor in Girne (Kyrenia) to relax with a beverage or two. We didn't have time to climb the Kyrenia Castle ruins - dating to the early 1500s.
Look at the boat's reflection in the clear water.
Instead, we just sat down at one of their favorite haunts, Cafe 34, and ordered some drinks and snacks. I also enjoy people watching, and many people were milling about soaking up the last of the day's sunshine.

Couples walked their dogs.
Children screamed for cotton candy.
Women in typical-Turkish style walked by wearing their 4-inch heeled boots.

Then, we noticed a group of bikers nearby. According to the black leather jackets, the group was members of the Hells Angels of Turkey. Immediately, I thought photo opportunity, so I started shooting away.
The Hells Angels of Turkey
In the background, you can see a bit of the old castle.
Who knew these guys were in Turkey or even in North Cyprus for that matter? Apparently, there is a car ferry you can take from the mainland of Turkey to North Cyprus.

Just goes to show you - always have your camera ready because you never know when the opportunity will pass you by otherwise.
Güle güle!
Iyi yolculuklar!

Before you walk down to the harbor in Girne, you probably will pass by this church. I don't know its history, but I always find it interesting to see Christian sites like this in a predominantly Muslim world.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nicosia - Start off your sunny morning with a filling pide topped with melted halloumi cheese nestled with bits of egg or beef sausage.
Order a glass of çay (tea), and soon it's delivered by a local man riding a bicycle and balancing the tray of delicate tea glasses at the same time. (I wasn't quick enough to get a photo of this moment.)

That's how we started our weekend with our Turkish and Cypriot friends in North Cyprus (also known in Turkish as Kuzey Kıbrıs Türk Cumhuriyeti) last Saturday.

We have wanted to visit Cyprus for awhile and jumped at the opportunity to travel with our Turkish friends - Ceren and Huseyin. We had a blast exploring this much-bigger-than-envisioned island with our friends - checking out the local haunts and eating until our bellies burst! 

Our Cypriot friend, Umut, first took us to Bereket Asmaaltı – a small bakery located near the Büyük Han (Grand Inn) in Nicosia. He ordered a round of pide for our group; soon we were diving in and soaking up the sun – a much-needed respite from all the snow in Istanbul.
The pide was delicious - a bit of a twist on the traditional Turkish pide, usually smothered in kaşar peynir (Turkish cheddar cheese), we've sampled on our travels. We started chatting with the owner, Ilker Bey, who has been running the business for nearly 50 years. His grandfather started the bakery about 90 years ago, and now Ilker Bey is training his children to take it over someday.
In addition to the pide, you must try the tahini-flavored pastry and the local olive bread.
After our satisfying brunch, we headed over to the nearby Büyük Han, a restored stone structure originally built in 1572 shortly after the Ottomans took over the island. The han once served as a major trading point for merchants from the Orient, Anatolia and Europe and as a place to stay/sleep. It also served as the Lefkosha Central Prison from 1878-1895 during the English rule of the island. 
Today, the han is frequented by locals and tourists alike. There are a few cafes and many shops selling local handicrafts and handmade souvenirs such as shawls, paintings, pottery and jewelry.
Many beautiful handmade scarves and vests like these were available here.
Being a foodie, Umut told me I must try the island's famous candied green walnuts so we stopped at Shiffa Home on the top floor. The shop's owner, Ayperi Gurdur, cans, candies and dries just about anything edible so you will find tons of edible delights like jams, marmalades and dried teas.
I plan to do some baking with the carob syrup and candied walnuts that I bought  in North Cyprus.
I found another interesting shop, Koza, that specializes in creating framed wall decorations, bookmarks, jewelry and hair accessories from silkworm cocoons. I had no clue Cyprus once was well-known for its silkworms and mulberry trees. People all over the island "raised" the silkworms at home to produce silk, and the women used the cocoons to create antique picture frames.
I bought one of these cute headbands decorated with silkworm cocoons to wear this spring and summer.
We enjoyed a splendid afternoon walking around Nicosia thanks to our friends and the sunny weather. Imagine our surprise when our photo ended up on page 4 of the local newspaper the next day.
We kept a copy of the local newspaper. It's not the best photo, but it does show us enjoying the sunshine and the fresh Cypriot pide.
Apparently, we're already "famous" in N. Cyprus. I just hope we don't have to ward off the paparazzi upon our return visit. Ha ha!
On the left, Umut and Jason standing in the center of the Büyük Han.