Wednesday, December 26, 2012

After four consecutive days of holiday parties with friends in Istanbul, I feel like I’m still recovering.

On Christmas Day morning, we awoke to a disastrous kitchen filled with dirty wine, çay and champagne glasses as well as pots, pans, platters and dessert plates. At least one load of dishes got done during our dinner party.  But the night ended quite late, as all good parties should, so we crashed and forgot about the cleaning up part.

Suffice to say our first Turklish Feast of 7 Fishes and our first Christmas abroad was a success! I feel so blessed to have met a wonderful, warm group of international friends here, and we shared our dinner with them on Christmas Eve night.
Our Christmas Eve dinner table at home in Istanbul.
To make our Feast of 7 Fishes dinner happen, of course, we first had to make a trip to the balık pazarı in Beyoğlu. Our Turkish friend, Kartal, took us to two of his favorite stalls where we purchased 1.5 kilos of shrimp, 800 grams of squid, 3 kilos of clams and  7 whole sarıkanat (a medium-sized bluefish). Later, we wished we had bought fresh hamsi from here too.
You can get some wonderfully fresh fish here in Istanbul.
At the Tunç Balık Market, you can’t miss the long lines of cured fish hanging down from the storefront. Here, we bought two meze-style Turkish fish - lakerda (bonito pre-served in brine) and uskumru (a type of cured mackerel). Both of these are too fishy for me, but everyone else seemed to like them.
Two of our 7 fishes for Christmas Eve - Turkish lakerda and uskumru.
As part of the traditional antipasto platter, we had bought pickled veggies from the Beşiktaş pazar, Italian pork salami and imported cheeses from Şütte in Nişantaşı and assorted mezes from Namlı Gurme at the new Mahalle in Nişantaşı.
So here’s what our final menu for the Feast of 7 Fishes included:

  • Clams with white wine and garlic
  • Shrimp scampi
  • Lakerda
  • Uskumru
  • Soslu hamsi – cured anchovies in olive oil with pasta
  • Calamari Fra Diavolo – rings of calamari served in a spicy homemade marinara sauce
  • Roasted sarıkanat – (also known as medium-sized lüfer) stuffed and served over a bed of sautéd fennel, yellow onions and chard (Adapted from this recipe on Saveur Magazine.)
  • Linguine with garlic, olive oil, parsley and white wine
Kartal reveals the clams and calamari as part of our Feast of 7 Fishes in Istanbul.

Our menu certainly wasn’t traditional, but when you live abroad you learn (quickly) to adapt and be flexible. The meal had some family favorites such as the shrimp scampi and the clams – both are recipes from my mother-in-law, Mary.

Mary’s grandfather emigrated to the U.S. from southern Italy with his parents when he was just a baby in the early 1900s. Mary’s father (of the infamous grandparents who visited us in Istanbul) was raised in a household full of Italian traditions which he passed down to his three children. My husband grew up with some of the same Italian-American traditions, which is why we were celebrating the Feast of 7 Fishes.

Here’s what Mary had to say about the holiday:

“I continue the tradition because it reminds me of all the times spent with loved ones. I hope that my children and grandchildren will have the same memories.

When I set the meal out, I still can hear the laughter of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and brothers gathering around the table together and enjoying the good food and time together.”

While we weren’t with our family this Christmas, we certainly enjoyed sharing our traditions and good food surrounded by good friends. Our table was filled with lots of laughter and overflowing glasses of wine and champagne. I know this is one holiday tradition we will continue as we live abroad.

Happy holidays dear readers and Afiyet olsun!
Here's our casserole dish of shrimp scampi. My husband did all the cooking!
Shrimp Scampi Recipe
By: Mary, my mother-in-law
(We doubled the recipe for our 12 guests this year, and it was by far the favorite dish!)

1          lb.        (500 g.)            large shrimp, cleaned and deveined
4          ea.                                cloves of garlic, chopped
2          oz.        (56 g.)              unsalted butter
¼         c.                                 (Turkish) olive oil
Splash                                      Worcestershire sauce
TT                                            Salt, freshly ground black pepper
TT                                            ground paprika
TT                                            crushed red pepper or pul biber
1-2       Tablespoons                 fresh Italian parsley, minced
Splash                                      dry white wine
Juice from                                 ¼ to ½ a lemon

1. Preheat oven to 400 F/200 C.
2. In a large glass or casserole dish, combine the butter, olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Cook this mixture in the oven until the butter is melted and the garlic truns a light golden color.

3. Remove the dish from the oven and add the shrimp. Season with salt, pepper and paprika. Place dish back in the oven, cooking until the shrimp turns pink.

4. Then, add the parsley and a splash of dry white wine. Cook until the shrimp is done, about 3 minutes. (The shrimp cooks very quickly!)

5. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the shrimp, stir the ingredients together and serve. Do not add too much lemon juice as it will overpower the other flavors of the dish.

Tip:      You can substitute scallops for the shrimp or cook a recipe with half shrimp and half scallops.
The three cooks - Murat, my husband and Kartal - worked together to put finishing touches on our Feast of 7 Fishes. 
Enjoying the night with two of my good expat friends - Anna (Excelleration Coaching) and Nicole (Istanbul Explorations blog)

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jaz@octoberfarm said...

what fun! i think sharing traditions with new friends is wonderful! we have a snow storm on the way!!!!

Sarah Ager said...

That sounds amazing. Looking forward to trying out the recipe too - sounds delicious.

Joy said...

@Joyce, Enjoy the snow! My family in Nebraska had a near blizzard this weekend! Istanbul is around 50F so no snow here. Yay!

@Sarita, hope you enjoy the recipe!

Natalie - TTB said...

I have always wanted to try clams but never thought I could get them in Turkey until I read this. - Just looked up the name and it is deniz tarağı. Will get them on my next shopping trip. Thanks Joy

Alan said...

. . that looks like some feast - no wonder the pots got left!

Erica (Irene) said...

What fun.....looks like an amazing feast. So glad you had such a nice night....and were able to enjoy and share some traditions with friends.
Thank you for sharing your recipe....

Joy said...

@Natalie, I've also seen clams labeled as like "vongole."

@Alan, It was fun...I'd rather save dishes for the next day anyway. :-)

@Erica (Irene), Being with friends for the holidays is the next best thing to being with family - and without the dysfunction. ;-) Enjoy the recipe!

Karen said...

Beautiful blog post, Joy. I loved reading about these family traditions and seeing this fun and different menu. Thanks for sharing!

Joy said...

@Karen, thanks dear! Pulling off a fish-themed menu really isn't hard in Istanbul. But my husband was very insistent that we kept with tradition of 7 fishes - 6 or less wouldn't cut it. :-)