Thursday, August 30, 2012

The foodie in me hunted down this mysterious, bottled purple liquid shortly after we walked through Bademli Köyü.

Village men, set up with rickety tables and shady umbrellas, were selling this drink in several locations. We stumbled upon a tea house that had a large sign advertising "Koruk Şurubu," a producer and seller of this interesting Turkish grape juice.

Our Turkish friend, Murat, asked the guy what the drink was, and I wanted to know how it was made.

Soon, we found ourselves on an impromptu tour of the production facilities for Koruk Şerbeti, a locally produced grape drink.

Our guide told us, translated through Murat, that the villagers harvest the wild grapes called Vitis orientalis, which grows wild in front of nearly every house we saw. The vines produces the highly acidic fruit known as koruk. Inedible raw, the wild grapes are turned into a thirst-quenching summer drink called Koruk Şerbeti, grape sherbet.

The grapes are pressed in these stainless steel vats, similar to wine making, and then cooked with sugar. The liquid is cooled down and then bottled in this small, super-clean facility in the village.
How to make Koruk Şerbeti, grape sherbet, in Turkey.

In Turkey, refreshing sherbets are made from all kinds of fruit such as blackberries, lemons, mandalina and even honey and roses. The drink is usually served at the end of a meal.

I was sold on the drink, but we wanted to taste it too. The guy made us a glass of grape sherbet by mixing about 1/3 grape concentrate with 2/3 very cold water, and then shook the mixture together like you would a cocktail.

Koruk Şerbeti tastes like fresh, cold grape juice. We each bought a bottle.

I'm thinking the Koruk Şerbeti might even make a refreshing summer cocktail!

Bademli Köyü truly is a gem of place to stop at when you are along the Aegean Coast in Turkey.
Wild grapes, called Vitis orientalis, like these grow everywhere in Bademli Köyü, Turkey. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

White-washed houses with blue doors dripped with grape vines and colorful flowers.
 The simple life in Bademli Köyü, Turkey.
Lush mandalina and real lime trees were growing in the small front yards.
Wild chickens and their chicks crossed the road while nearby old farmers sat on buckets selling their fresh, unpasteurized milk.

During the recent Ramazan bayram holiday, we spent the long weekend with friends at their family's summer house near Dikili, a coastal town along the Aegean Sea in Turkey. This is a local vacation spot, with no yabancilar, which I loved!

We actually were able to relax, take walks along the beach, hike through groves of old olive trees, chase the village street cats and play with our friends' 20-month-old daughter.

About a 10-minute walk away from the family's summer house is a Turkish village called Bademli Köyü (about 1,200 population). Our Turkish friend, Murat, told us the village had a Greek population at one point, but I couldn't find out much history. I tried to find the remains of an old church, but did not.
A Greek sign above the door of one of the houses in Bademli Köyü.
Here's what looked like an old Greek building, because of the inscriptions on it, with the village's mosque in the background.

Well, we popped into the village every day to pick up fresh ekmek (bread) from the bakery. Every day, we greeted the people we passed with a smile and a hearty günaydın (good morning). I'm sure they wondered why two blond-haired yabancilar were in their village.

Maybe it's still the Midwest girl in me, but spending time in Bademli Köyü made me want to give up the big city life in Istanbul and move to a Turkish village like this one.

I fantasized about buying fresh milk, eggs and village cheese  every week. I imagined having my own white-washed house dripping with grape vines and a courtyard filled with my own fruit trees.

Then, down the road, I would own a field of olive trees and learn how to make my own Turkish olive oil every year. I would be able to see the Aegean Sea in the distance.
Look at this amazing old olive tree located outside of the village!
Yes, that would be the life, I thought.

However, I did have one stipulation - as long as I would be within an hour's drive from a big city. Lucky me, Izmir, Turkey's third largest city, is just an hour away from here.

I guess maybe you can't take the city girl out of me after all! Could you move to a Turkish village like this one?
Big and cheap the sign says. This 200 sq. meter-building is for sale in  Bademli Köyü , Turkey.
To get here: There is a dolmuş that departs from Dikili city center to Bademli Köyü every 30 minutes.

Here are a few blogs I regularly read that feature people whom have given up the city life to live in a village:

Sara in Le Petit Village
Local farmers bring in their veggies via an old horse cart to sell in the village.
Just like the Midwest! Ha! A pomegranate tree growing in the middle of a cornfield.
A man walking his goats on a leash!
This is one of the funniest things I've ever seen in Turkey.
The Ramazan drummer walked through the village, asking for tips.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Craving NY-style cheesecake, but don't think you can make the same thing with Turkish ingredients?

Well, you would be wrong.

It takes a little improvisation, but you can make some of the moistest, creamiest NY-style cheesecake you've ever tasted outside of NYC here!

This coming Tuesday, Aug. 28, I will teach you how to make NY-style cheesecake and three other recipes at the Istanbul Culinary Institute in Beyoğlu.
NY-style Cheesecake topped with a lemon curd glaze. You can learn both of these recipes next week with me at the Istanbul Culinary Institute.
This hands-on class will run 7-10 p.m. I do teach the class in English, but there is a Turkish translator who helps me if you speak Turkish. Please call 0212-251-2215 if you would like to attend; or check the Institute's web site for more information about the classes.

At the end of baking, mixing and stirring, we finally get to sit down with a glass of wine or tea and enjoy our desserts together. Each participant also is able to take some of the desserts home!

Who could resist this sinfully rich American chocolate cake called Devil's Food Cake?
This past Christmas, I made the Devil's Food Cake with chocolate mousse filling with my niece when we visited North Carolina.
To make the cake kid-friendly at Christmas, we decorated it with a creamy frosting and colorful
red and green sugar crystals.
And you'll even learn how to make a dark chocolate mousse that can be used as a filling for the cake, as pictured, or simply served in a parfait glass.

The tangy lemon curd that you will learn in class can be used as a glaze for all kinds of baked desserts as well as a filling for lemon tarts!
You can find my lemon tarts for sale at Denizen Coffee in Sultanahmet in Istanbul.
Earlier this month, I even took a Turkish cooking class at the Institute with Ozlem of Ozlem's Turkish Table. See post and photos at Turkish Cooking with a Chef, Blogger in Istanbul. It was a tasty, fun experience! I highly recommend stopping by someday.

If you can't take this class with me next week, hopefully you can join me another time. Or keep a look out for other cooking classes that might interest you! It's a great activity to do with your girlfriends or with your significant other.

Afiyet olsun!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Usually people go to the cute seaside village of Arnavutköy to eat at one of the many seafood restaurants here.

But not me.

When I'm out and about during the day and happen to by nearby, I pop into a tiny pide and lahmacun shop a few streets back off the main shore road.

Emir Kebap & Pide only has four tables inside and two tables outside. When I stop in for lunch, one of the guys will sometimes move a male customer so I can have a table to myself. It's a nice gesture, but not necessary.

Sometimes I order the lentil soup, only 3 tl, and then I'll order a lahmacun or my favorite - an ispanaklı pide (a spinach open-faced Turkish "pizza"), only 7 tl. So lunch only costs me about 10 tl on average.
I love spinach and cheese together, and this place does the combination quite well! In fact, this is one of the few places where I've actually seen an ispanaklı pide on the menu in Istanbul. Also, I've never even ordered another type of pide here because the spinach one is THAT good!
I always top my pide off with a generous spoonful of Turkish pul biber.
At Emir Kebap & Pide, the pide crust is always crispy and has just the right about of fillings. And it's served popping hot out of the stone oven.
Bonus: you can watch the guys rolling out the pide dough and throwing it on the peel and into the hot oven while you eat. After lunch, take a stroll around Arnavutköy and enjoy the architecture of the old houses here.

Emir Kebap & Pide
Francalacı Cad. No:16
Arnavutköy, Istanbul

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ironically, I just realized today that my maternal grandmother and Julia Child were born in the same year - 1912.

My husband called me from work saying he had noticed it would have been Child's 100th birthday today. She died Aug. 13, 2004, in California. The internet is a flurry today of blog posts, stories and even a Google icon recognizing Child.

My Grandma, Christina, actually did celebrate her 100th birthday on Aug. 3 at home in Nebraska. Friends and family members honored her with a small get-together two weekends ago. She's still hanging in there, but sadly, she seems to slip farther and farther away from us every day.

As much as I've loved reading about Child, watching her on old PBS episodes and cooking through her cookbooks over the years, both my grandmothers had a heavy influence on my professional pastry chef career. Just simple grandmas - not someone famous.

Grandma Christina lived less than a mile from where I grew up in Nebraska, so I often spent time with her. I loved playing in the garden with her, making mud pies and flower soup and wandering around flowers that were bigger than me at the time.
1976 - Grandma Christina and me in Nebraska.

We picked cherries, peaches, red currants, pears and apples together. And I remember several sweltering summers helping out in the kitchen with canning jars and making preserves and canned fruit for the winter.

Grandma Christina used to make these simple sweet biscuits for us from refrigerated biscuit dough. She would dredge the cold biscuits in a cinnamon-sugar mixture, and then I got to help put the maraschino cherry on top. It's really the simple things you remember about a loved one as you get older yourself.

While I can learn French cooking techniques from Child out of a cookbook, nothing beats the simple life experiences with someone special.

So happy birthday Julia! But most importantly, happy birthday to my Grandma!
2008 - Grandma and me while I was home for Christmas in Nebraska.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Have you ever hopped on some kind of public transportation – not knowing where it would go?

During our travels in Turkey, that’s happened to us several times. It’s just inevitable when you are trying to figure out how things work in a foreign place.

Well, while staying in Emirgan lately, we’ve observed these water taxis picking up and dropping off people along the Bosphorus in Istanbul. These small boats seem to run about every 10 to 15 minutes, but we didn’t know where they landed on the Asian side.

The other Sunday, my husband posed the question, “Let’s just hop on one of those boats and see where it goes. Wanna go?”

Of course, we hopped on the boat and ended up visiting the sleepy, waterside village of Kanlıca. We did this the next two weekends in a row via these water taxis. The cost is 5 tl per person, which is a lot more than the regular ferry boats (2 tl). However, the weekend ferry boat schedule to small destinations such as Kanlıca is quite limited.
This past weekend, we took my cousin Greg from Nebraska to visit Kanlıca via the water taxi too. Just sit back and enjoy the short ride across the Bosphorus.
We had no idea what to do in Kanlıca so we walked north along the shoreline where we passed dozens of fishermen and swimmers. Honestly, the walk wasn’t that scenic, but it was relaxing.
Before stopping near the Çubuklu Iskelsi (about 2 km.), I got yelled at by an armed Turkish  jandarma because apparently I had stepped onto a military pier. I never saw the sign indicating no photos and no trespassing. Oops!
Don't step on this pier like I did!
I waved, shouted “pardon” and hoped I would be forgiven for my yabancı moment.

We hopped on a bus back to Kanlıca and decided to walk around the small crafts market. I bought a ladybug nazarlık bracelet and a glass nar paperweight. Two Turkish women also were knitting and selling these adorable baby outfits and socks.
Most of these small gifts cost only 5-15 tl.
I noticed the nearby waterside cafes and suddenly remembered that Kanlıca is known for its creamy and tart yogurt! Visiting Kanlıca is listed in the Top7 Things to Do and Places to Visit on the Asian Side by The Guide Istanbul.

We grabbed an open table at the busy café and ordered 2 yogurts with powdered sugar. You also can order the yogurt with jam or honey.

For some reason, I had expected a more frozen-like or whipped yogurt (don’t ask why!), but nope, it was a traditional thick, creamy Turkish yogurt. Our order came with a large bowl of powdered sugar so you could sprinkle in as much sweetness as you wanted. The vast quantity of powdered sugar here reminded us of eating beignets in New Orleans as we did for our wedding weekend in 2010.
We also bought a large tub of yogurt to take home, which went well with fresh peaches for breakfast.
After our yogurt snack, we played with several street cats and their kittens and briefly walked around Kanlıca.
Just off the main square area, we found an antique store and several old wooden Ottoman houses. Then, it was time to catch the 4:50 p.m. ferry back to Emirgan.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Istanbul for a few hours, head to this charming village. Simply getting to Kanlıca is half the fun!

How to get Kanlıca:
The water taxis depart every 10-15 minutes near the Emirgan Iskelesi on the European side.

Or check the regular ferry boat schedule here by departure location and destination.

A third option is to take bus No. 15 from Üsküdar to Kanlıca; or by a Beykoz-bound dolmuş from Üsküdar.
If you want a simple, but delicious Turkish meal by the seaside, try Yakamoz, pictured in the yellow building, here in Kanlıca.
Boats docked near the Kanlıca Iskelesi. Don't worry, the water taxis are motor boats.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Part of being in a foreign country means embracing new traditions.

Since we’ve been living in Istanbul, I’ve always taken part in an least one iftar meal during Ramazan.

Iftar means “breaking the fast” which occurs each evening during Ramazan, often with a large meal with family and friends. In most Muslim countries, it is quite common to have feasts that last all night and run from iftar to suhur “the morning meal” before dawn.

Restaurants are packed here around 8 p.m. every night as people wait to hear the call to prayer letting them know it’s time to celebrate iftar.

I have a lot of respect for anyone who is fasting during this hot summer. I can’t imagine it’s an easy task to do, especially not being able to drink water either. I’m always buying water bottles from the street vendors while I’m out and about.

Last week, I met 12 friends through the Professional American Women of Istanbul (PAWI) and the American Women of Istanbul at İTÜ Vakıftepe Sosyal Tesisleri in Baltalimanı, a neighborhood near Emirgan. The restaurant was offering a special set menu for Ramazan for 40 TL and featured an amazing view of the Bosphorus and the second bridge.
The fabulous view from Vakıftepe Sosyal Tesisleri in Baltalimanı in Istanbul with a full moon  coming up in the background.
We waited until about 8:30 p.m. to eat with the rest of the Turks. Then, we each started with an individual plate of iftariyelikler, which included zeytin (olives), pastırma, sucuk, domates (tomatoes), salatalık (cucumbers), peynir (cheese) as well as various toppings for the pide.
Next, we had a salad and lentil soup followed by a traditional chicken or beef güveç.
Gotta love Turkish lentil soup no matter what season it is!
For dessert, we had güllaç – a traditional Ramazan dessert of milky layers of yufka sheets, lightly rose scented. By this point, it was too dark to take any decent photos.

Celebrating an iftar meal with my American friends and enjoying the spectacular view was certainly a great way to spend a night.

Ideally, I would have brought my tripod to take better photos of the lit-up bridge in Istanbul.
The Turkish flag at dusk on the restaurant's grounds. Looks like it's a great place for weddings and other special occasions.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Living abroad is all about making connections.

Sometimes you make those connections in person or sometimes online through today’s various social media outlets. And every once in awhile, those two worlds collide.

That’s what recently happened to me.

Last Friday, I met up with Ozlem Warren of London-based Ozlem’s Turkish Table here in Istanbul.

Warren grew up in Antakya, a southeastern city in Turkey near the Syrian border, fell in love with a British man, moved away from Turkey, but took her love of Turkish cuisine with her. Now, she teaches private lessons and at cooking schools in England. She is currently spending a few weeks visiting her relatives and vacationing in Turkey.

But last night, lucky me, I got to take a Turkish cooking class with Warren at the Istanbul Culinary Institute. The same place where I teach here! (My next baking class, Introduction to Pastry, will be Aug. 28. You can sign up here, and you too can learn how to make NY-style cheesecake, a rich Devil’s Food Cake and more.)
Ozlem and me at the end of a hot night of cooking at the Istanbul Culinary Institute.
Warren’s Turkish cuisine class was interesting, filled with good tips and, most importantly, fun! The students were five Turkish women, two Istanbul expats and two tourists from Austria. I even met a Turkish woman who owns a cafe near Emirgan. 

In the class, we learned how to make two Antakya mezes – walnuts, red pepper paste and olive oil dip (cevizli biber) and smoked eggplant salad with garlic yogurt (patlıcanlı yoğurtlama). I’ve eaten cevizli biber meze several times, but this one had just the right level of spice. Not too hot!
Ozlem making the cevizli biber meze at the Istanbul Culinary Institute.
The creamy, garlicky eggplant meze that would be delicious would Ramazan pidesi!
The main course, where we got our hands dirty, was tray kebab with vegetables (tepsi kebabı). The potatoes aren’t traditional, but that’s how Warren’s mother makes it. To me, meat and potatoes always pair well together.

Mixing the ingredients for the kebab reminded me of my mother making Sunday meatloaf in Nebraska. And I mean every Sunday!

Of course, this kebab was much more flavorful than your standard, boring American meatloaf. The kebab was spiced with fresh parsley, cumin, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt and pepper and covered with a tomato-red pepper paste sauce.
Ozlem with the finished version of tray kebab with vegetables (tepsi kebabı).
For dessert, we stuffed dried apricots with walnuts and sugar to make cevizli kayısı tatlısı and served it with Turkish kaymak and ice cream. WOW!
Our stuffed apricots all lined up in rows ready to be baked and caramelize in the oven.
After working together in the kitchen for about 2 and a half hours, we all sat down, toasted glasses of wine and dug into our wonderful meal of Turkish cuisine from Antakya.

Thanks Ozlem! It was a delight and a pleasure to meet you and cook with you!

You can also read about Warren here: UK-based Turkish Chef Returns Home to Teach in Istanbul in the Hurriyet Daily News.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fresh celery and fennel are two vegetables in Turkey that are quite difficult to find.

So imagine my surprise, when I found both these items at a pazar stall two weeks ago! And the sign said bahçede (from the garden).

Since we’re housesitting for a friend near the Emirgan Korusu, we’ve been shopping at a different Saturday pazar located at the Istinye Dereçi bus stop. The pazar is quite large, but quiet as it’s tucked back in a small corner of the Istinye neighborhood in Istanbul.

Well, I had to buy the fresh celery and 1 bulb of fennel just because I could. Although, I wasn’t sure what I’d do with the veggies yet. (Sometimes you can find celery at the larger grocery stores as well as fennel at Macro Center in Istanbul.)

This is what fresh celery (kereviz) looks like in Turkey.
I save the leaves in a plastic bag, freeze them, and use them
 later to make stocks.
Over the weekend, we planned to grill outside with our friends. So I decided to make the chicken with a jerk marinade and use the fresh celery and fennel in a salad.

Once I thinly sliced the celery stalks and fennel bulb, I only had enough for 2 cups. When I rinsed off the celery and fennel together, they smelled like a bowlful of Turkish raki!

Then, I julienned two green apples and chopped up some of the fennel fronds and celery leaves. I made a quick vinaigrette. And voilà you have a sassy summer salad!

The salad perfectly complemented the somewhat spicy chicken breasts. I was content!

Of course, when we back to the pazar this Saturday, the same stall did NOT have any fresh fennel. Maalesef!

Well, if you live some place where you can readily get fresh celery and fennel, I’m sure you will enjoy this salad.

Afiyet olsun!

How to get to the pazar:
Istanbul IETT bus lines numbers 22 and 29S end at the Istinye Dereçi bus stop.
You can see the IETT map here.
Very green and fresh! Taze Kereviz, Rezene Salatası/Fresh Celery, Fennel Salad ready to serve.

Taze Kereviz, Rezene Salatası/Fresh Celery, Fennel Salad

1            small            fennel bulb, sliced thinly
1             head            Turkish celery stalks, sliced thinly at an angle
2            ea.                green apples, julienned into strips
½            c.                 celery leaves, roughly chopped
2            T.                 fennel fronds, finely chopped
3            T.                 olive oil
2            T.                 apple vinegar
¼            tsp.              sugar
To taste                      salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, apple vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.

Add the vegetables and the apple. Toss to coat.

Season to taste again with salt and pepper.

NOTE: only dress the salad right before you are ready to eat or it can get soggy. I prepped my celery and fennel the day before and stored in airtight container in the refrigerator. Then, all I had to do was julienne the apples and toss the vinaigrette together.