Thursday, June 27, 2013

This week, temperatures in Warsaw have hovered between 16-20 C (60-68 F), which is not exactly the kind of summer weather I had in mind.

So once again, I find myself dreaming of the summers we spent on our Turkey trips. I long to swim in the warm, turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea or the Mediterranean Sea.

I realize there are so many destinations we never experienced in Turkey, and I’m just torturing myself with my daydreams. We don’t have any beach trips planned this year, but we will be spending four days in Italy next month with my visiting in-laws. I cannot wait!

In the meantime, here are 5 Summer Spots in Turkey I Wish I Were Right Now:

1. Of course, one of our all-time favorite Turkish destinations is the lovely wine island of Bozcaada. I can’t really add much more info than what I already covered in my Top 10 Things to Do in Bozcaada. Just go!
Sunset in Bozcaada at Polente Feneri (Lighthouse) on the western side of the island.
2. One small, Aegean seaside resort town we liked was Foça, located about 1 hour north of Izmir. We stayed here one night during the summer of 2011 as part of our Ramazan road trip. Foça, called Phocaea in ancient times, consists of two parts, Eski Foça (Old Foça) and Yeni Foça (New Foça) and is located along small bays and a fishing harbor.
Nothing but blue when you're at Foça, Turkey.
We liked this area because it was full of locals (not yabancı tourists) and open-air restaurants lining the shore. Considering its history, Foça has few ruins except for the Byzantine-era Beşkapılar Kalesi (Five Door Castle), a bit of aqueduct and a nearby old tomb.  If we ever returned, I’d stay at the charming Bülbül Yuvası Butik Otel, recommended in the Boutique Hotels of Turkey book, which was full when we visited.
Just one of the many Turkish fish restaurants in Foça. 
3. Another atypical beach destination we visited during the summer of 2011 was Phaselis, located an hour south of Antalya. At this ancient Greek and Roman city, you can admire the historical ruins, such as agoras, Roman baths and sarcophagi, and take a dip in the crystalline waters along the nearby beach.
Here you can see the remnants of the Roman baths at Phaselis, Turkey.
4. Another favorite beach destination of ours and of grandpa’s is Ölü Deniz near Fethiye. I’m jealous of my blogger friends at Turkey’s for Life who live nearby because they can visit this amazing beach and watering hole whenever they want!
My favorite photo of Jason with his 90-year-old grandpa at Ölü Deniz last year.
I’m sure we’ll return again to Ölü Deniz someday.

5. Located along the Aegean Sea, the Çeşme Peninsula offers numerous beach destinations near the cities of Çeşme and Alaçatı. I wish I could meet up with a few of our Istanbul friends that have summer homes here.
One of the many popular, beach clubs near Çeşme, Turkey.
Actually, it’s difficult to narrow my list down to five choices because Turkey is spoilt for lovely summer beach destinations.

Where do you wish you could be right now?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Today’s post and recipe is a shout out to our dear Cypriot friends in North Cyprus.

I keep telling Umut I just might head down there in the fall and help out with his family’s olive harvest. By October, we could have snow already here in Warsaw so I think I should have a backup plan that includes sunshine.

This week, I finally harvested my first batch of arugula grown on our spacious 40-meter terrace. I have so much space I don’t know what to do with it all, which is drastically different from my Apartment Gardening in Istanbul. I started the arugula seeds in May shortly after we moved in, and seven weeks later they have been growing like weeds from all the rain.
What goes great with homegrown arugula? Why grilled halloumi cheese from Cyprus, of course! Luckily, we recently discovered the cutest cheese shop near our apartment called La Fromagerie, which specializes in imported cheeses.
Halloumi is a traditional semi-hard cheese in Cyprus that has a high melting point, so it can easily be fried or grilled. It’s a popular cheese in Greece too.

While I do love halloumi cheese, I especially was excited to find a familiar food from our Turkey trips. I’ve been missing our Turkish friends, Turkish food and just about everything (except the traffic) from Istanbul. I laughed when my husband noticed the label said the cheese was from Nicosia, Cyprus.
For dinner, I make a fresh salad nearly every night. I used a generous cutting of arugula, plus sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and the grilled halloumi cheese topped with a garlic-nar-olive oil dressing. We liked this salad so much I made it two nights in a row.

Whether you are in Poland, Turkey or America, I hope you enjoy this summer salad as much as we did!

Smacznego! (Bon appétit in Polish)

Arugula Salad with Grilled Cypriot Halloumi Cheese
Serves 2

A good bunch               fresh arugula
2          medium           tomatoes, diced
1          ea.                    cucumber, sliced
100      g.                     Halloumi cheese
As needed                   olive oil and dried oregano

For the dressing:
1          ea.                    garlic clove, finely minced
1          T.                     Turkish olive oil
1          T.                     nar ekşisi sosu (pomegranate molasses)
To taste                       salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Alternatively, you can emulsify the ingredients better if you pulse in a small food processer for a minute.

2. Then heat a kitchen grill or frying pan over medium-high heat.

3. Slice the halloumi cheese about ¼-inch thick. Set aside on a cutting board. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with dried oregano.

4. Place the halloumi in the hot grill pan, giving the slices a minute or two on each side. The cheese will soften slightly as it cooks and get slightly browned.

5. In a medium-sized salad bowl, toss the arugula, tomatoes and cucumbers with the dressing. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. Serve the pieces of halloumi over the salad and eat immediately.

La Fromagerie
Ul. Burakowska 5/7
01-066 Warsaw
Phone: (22) 465 23 24

Monday, June 24, 2013

I’m an independent woman. Just ask my husband.

In 2010, when we moved to  Istanbul, it was first time in 18 years I didn’t have a job. I have been working at least part-time since I was 15. In college, I juggled three jobs for awhile. From 2005-2010, I worked 60+ hours a week in the restaurant business.

Needless to say when I found myself “unemployed” in my new expat life, I struggled. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I hadn’t had much free time for several years. What does one do, I thought.

Well, I signed up for every expat group and organization possible in Istanbul. I grabbed my camera and wandered around the streets. I started this blog. I started teaching baking classes. Later, I took Turkish lessons. I became the busiest, unemployed woman I knew.

Last year, I was baking every week for a coffee shop in Sultanahmet. I was a co-coordinator of PAWI. I was even more active than before until this spring when my husband dropped a bombshell on me. We would be moving earlier than we had anticipated. I was devastated, but we made the decision TOGETHER that we’d rather stay abroad than move back to the U.S. right now.

For a couple weeks, I was in denial about moving. Then, I realized I better start researching about my new country – Poland.

As I researched other expat blogs and searches regarding moving abroad to another expat posting, I stumbled upon the term “The Trailing Spouse.” There are even Twitter hashtags and workshops geared towards the trailing spouse.

I pictured myself as a lost puppy dog, tugging onto the shirt tails of my husband’s dress shirt in my mouth and lagging behind him. I was not amused. WTH? This is B.S.!
Not exactly the image I had in mind, but close.

I asked my husband if this is what he thought of me as I pantomimed my dog trailing image to him.

He knew the correct answer.

Shortly after we moved to Warsaw, my husband and I met some work acquaintances for a drink. One of these men asked how I liked being the “trailing spouse” so far. I tried my best to smile and said it was great, and that we had just found an apartment. Change of subject.

Inside, I was cringing. I wish I had a punching bag to take out my anger. Actually, I wanted to punch this guy.

My husband could tell that I was putting on a good front, but inside I was furious.

Unfortunately, I’m sure this incident won’t be the last time that I hear this offensive term. Maybe some expat wives are okay with it, but I’m certainly not. (One of the blogs I follow recently wrote about this topic too: I am an Expat by 4 kids, 20 suitcases & a beagle.)

I’m not a trailing spouse.

Yes, I’m a wife, but my identity is as a pastry chef.

I’m still figuring out my new life here in Warsaw. I joined the International Women’s Group of Warsaw and already have been recruited as the newsletter editor. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I start teaching my baking classes, which is something I really enjoy. I love teaching people how to take such simple ingredients and turn them into something delicious.

We’d also like to start a family.

Until then, the only trailing you’ll be seeing is when we go hiking on the trails in the nearby Polish forests.

Friday, June 21, 2013

It’s the middle of June and I’m still enjoying the ruby red rhubarb here in Warsaw.

During the past month, I’ve made rhubarb mini tarts, rhubarb quick bread, rhubarb-strawberry vodka (recipe coming soon) and two batches of rhubarb & strawberry jam. The Poles seem to love rhubarb as much as I do because I’ve seen it all the local markets. (Remember last year when I smuggled rhubarb from Nebraska to Istanbul?)

Plus, rhubarb is ridiculously cheap here! I’ve been buying bunches for about 3 PLN per kilo (about $1 USD). I’ve even stashed away two kilos of diced rhubarb in the freezer so I can extend its season through the summer. Yesterday, I bought another two kilos that I need to freeze.
Fresh produce from the Polish market at Hala Mirowska in Warsaw.
What I’ve learned from all this rhubarb madness is that making homemade jam is a pain in the butt! It’s been nearly three years since I made my last batch of Turkish Grape Jelly. I’d forgotten how many hours it takes to wash, cut and prep the fruit and then process the jam and how much the jam boils up like a cauldron of lava-like liquid and spills all over my countertop.

Because of the fruits of my labor, I now have about two dozen small jars of homemade rhubarb & strawberry jam sitting in my pantry. I decided I would like to have some homemade gifts on hand that I can give to new friends I meet here in Warsaw or for visiting friends.

I tested two batches of the jam and learned not to cook the rhubarb beforehand if you want it to retain any of its stringy texture. My first batch of jam looked a bit more like red fruit jelly versus chunky jam. I like seeing the rustic pieces of fruit in my jam. I also doubled the amount of lemon juice so the resulting jam has a nice, tangy, but sweet flavor.

Who knows I may even brave another round of jam making as a plethora of Polish berries flood the summer markets.

Smacznego! (Bon appétit in Polish)
At the Polish markets, strawberries are sold in these cute wooden baskets!
Polish rhubarb & strawberry jam served on top of my rhubarb quick bread at home.
Rhubarb & Strawberry Jam
Yields: about 12 4-ounce (120 ml) glass jars
2          lb.        (900 g.)            rhubarb, washed and cut into ½-inch pieces
4          c.         (1025 g.)          strawberries, washed and mashed (I recommend placing the amount of strawberries in a large bowl and then mashing with a potato masher. Just mash enough to leave the berries chunky. Also, if going by volume, measure the strawberries after you mash them.)
4          c.         (880 g.)            granulated sugar (If you like really sweet jam, I saw some recipes online that called for as much as 6 c. of sugar.)
½         c.         (118 ml)           fresh lemon juice
¼         c.         (55 g.)              granulated sugar set aside to mix with the pectin
1          package                       Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin (or the amount of pectin needed if you use another brand. For example, the Polish version I recently bought calls for 1 package of pectin per kilo of fruit used.)
1. If you are canning the jars of  jam, you will need hot and sterile jars and lids. I like to run mine through the dishwasher on the hottest cycle and time it just right so they are ready to use once the jam is finished cooking. My machine’s cycle is 60 minutes, and I pulled the jars out around 50 minutes. Alternatively, you can place the jars and lids in a pot of simmering water. (See this excellent article for more canning tips: The Basics of Home Canning. I also re-read my grandmother’s Ball canning cookbook from the 1960s to refresh my memory.)

2. Meanwhile, in a large stainless steel pot (6-8 qt. pot) over medium-high heat, mix the strawberries, rhubarb and 4 cups (880 g.) of sugar. Add the lemon juice. Combine.

3. Additionally, I filled my 12-qt. pasta pot and strainer with hot water, and set in on a high heat burner so that the water would be boiling by the time my jam was done. This pot perfectly served as my water bath canner.

3. In a small bowl, combine the pectin with the remaining ¼ cup (55 g.) of sugar. Add the pectin mixture, stirring well to combine, to the large pot.

4. As the mixture cooks and fruits start to soften, I like to use my handy potato masher to crush the fruit a bit. This helps release the natural pectin so the jam will thicken.

5. Bring the jam to full boil – the kind of hard boil that cannot be stirred away. This could take up to 15- 20 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir constantly. Watch out for burning fruit on the bottom of your pot. I had to turn down the heat a notch or two because the jam was starting to burn on the bottom in a few places.

6. Once the jam has reached a hard boil, you’ll want to test the jam to see if it’s thickened enough. I like to place a plate into the freezer. Using the cold plate, I place a dollop of jam on the plate and see if it runs or not and whether it’s reached the consistency that I want. Alternatively, some people like to place a metal spoon in a cup of ice water and test the jam on the cold spoon. If your jam is too runny, you may want to add more pectin and bring the jam to a second boil.

7. Remove the pot from the heat. Using a large spoon, skim foam off top of the jam mixture. The foam can cause bacteria to grow on top of the jam once placed in the jars.
8. Remove the jars and lids from the dishwasher. Ladle the jam into the sterilized jars to within a ¼ inch of top of jar.

9. Wipe jar rim off with a clean, damp towel. Then place lids on top and secure tightly. (Be careful as the glass jars will be super hot from the boiling jam. Use a kitchen towel to prevent burning your fingertips.)
10. Next, place the jars in the boiling water bath canner. Be sure to have the jars covered with at least 2 inches of water. Process the jars for 10 minutes, in general, once the water returns to a boil.  

(Note: if you live at a higher altitude, you will need to increase the processing time. This website has a handy altitude processing chart and other tips.)

11. Once the cooking time has been reached, carefully lift the pasta strainer out of the boiling water. Use a towel-covered hand or canning jar tongs to remove the very hot jars from the strainer.

12. Place the jars on a towel-lined countertop and allow to cool for 12-24 hours. Once the jars are cool, you can check they are sealed by pressing down gently in the center of the lid with your finger. If the lid pops up and down and makes a popping sound, the jar is NOT sealed. If you place the jar in the refrigerator right away, the jam still will be safe to eat. (I had two unsealed jars in the first batch and just one in my second batch of jam.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that we like beer.

We’ve drank our fair share of Efes and occasionally Tuborg while living in Istanbul. We were thrilled when proper ales showed up on the scene at Bosphorus Brewing Co. last year.

Now, since we’re living in Eastern Europe, we’re getting to taste all kinds of different beers – lagers, pilsners, ciders, stouts and even fruit-flavored ones (not a fan). Earlier this month, we traveled to cold and rainy Prague to meet our friends from Germany (a few of the same ones from our Zürich wine trip) and attend the 2013 Czech Beer Festival. The rowdy group of eight of us drank more than our fair share, and I detoxed for a week afterwards.
The Americans, Germans and a Swede all at one table at the 2013 Czech Beer Festival.
Since we’ve all toured Prague’s historic tourist sites before, we also took a day trip out to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery in Pilsen (Plzen), about a 90 minute drive away via a hired mini-bus with Bohemian Shuttles. The brewery offers several tours throughout the day in English, Czech and German and gives you a chance to see this popular green-bottled beer up-close at the source.
The Pilsner Urquell Brewery, established in 1842, was built along the Radbuza River and operated by several of Plzen’s independent brewers. The master brewer, Josef Groll of Bavaria, introduced the production of bottom-fermented beer with yeast instead of the traditional top-fermented beer. Before too long, other brewers started copying the new golden-colored pilsner-style beer; and in 1859, the brewery registered the “Pilsner Beer” trademark.
A historical illustration of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery in 1842.
Today, the Pilsner Urquell name is part of the SAB Miller global brand, which also owns Blue Moon, Coors Light, Gambrinus, Miller Lite, Peroni and Tyskie (a Polish beer).

We learned much about the brewery’s history during our 2-hour tour that took us from the bottling and production facilities through the old and the modern brewhouse and to the historic underground brewery cellars where we tasted unfiltered and unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell on tap straight from an oak lager barrel. It doesn’t get any better than this malty, champagne-colored beer!
Good thing we were wearing coats because during the cellar tour, we saw ice crystals on the ceiling overhead, and I was still cold! For more than 100 years, the beer was even stored in the cellars with ice blocks cut out from the nearby river to maintain a proper temperature.
The brewery had up to six-miles worth of underground tunnels at one point for beer storage.
After the tour, we were starving and stopped for a hearty Czech lunch and more beer at the brewery’s restaurant/pub, Na Spilce, which now occupies a portion of the traditional sandstone cellars under the brewery.
If you like beer like we do, be sure to check out the Pilsner Urquell Brewery tour while you are visiting the Czech Republic.

English tours are at 12:45, 14:15 and 16:15. Please check the brewery’s site for specific times and changes here.

Cost: 140 CZK (about $7.27 USD)
The brewery's production line processes 120,000 bottles per hour!
The historic copper holding tanks in the old brewhouse.
The fermenting stage in old oak barrels.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Yesterday, I took two buses and waited in line under the blazing sun for more than 75 minutes to get a bacon double cheeseburger at the Warsaw Street Food Festival.

The burger was good, but I was slightly disappointed in the city’s first street food festival hosted by local Polish chef Tomasz Jakubiak in the upscale neighborhood of Wilanów. Last week, I heard about the event via Warsaw Foodie, a fabulous foodie blog that sends out daily emails to subscribers about restaurants opening or closing and local foodie events. This event sounded perfect for me!
I’ll give credit to Jakubiak for trying to promote Polish food and local vendors. Apparently, he hosts a popular cooking show on the local cooking channel kuchina+ called “Jakubiak Lokalnie (Jakubiak Locally).” Jakubiak travels around Poland in search of the best and sometimes forgotten seasonal ingredients from Polish farmers and demonstrates recipes inspired from said ingredients.

It seems like street food trucks and burgers are the latest craze here in Warsaw. This American trend is quickly catching on as every other week I hear about new food trucks and burger restaurants around the city. The latest burger place, Yellow Taxi, just opened last week near our neighborhood in central Warsaw.
The two busy cooks at Bobby Burger's truck stand at the Warsaw Street Food Festival.
My delicious bacon double cheeseburger that I wolfed down in like five minutes after standing in line forever. 
The foodie festival would have been more fun with friends, but hubby is out of town for work and I don’t know many people yet so I went solo. I also wish there was a beer tent. Apparently, I missed the memo about BYOB as many youngsters were bringing beer with them, perhaps from a nearby convenience store. Sigh! At least, I got myself out there.

I did enjoy walking around the tent-speckled park checking out the different food vendors and people watching in my new city. The vendors included Bobby Burger, Town Burger, Cheeseburger Slowfood, Zapiekanka Snack Bus, baked potatoes from Groole and sausages from Wurst Kiosk. There was Mexican-looking street food such as tacos and burritos from Spoco Loco and Dos Tacos. Local DJs played upbeat music to the hundreds of festival participants.

Funny enough, the loaded baked potatoes reminded me an awfully lot like Turkish kumpir, but the grilled kielbasa and zapiekanki, a toasted baguette with cheese and toppings, were all Polish.

Hope you enjoy these photos from Warsaw! Smacznego!
I bought a round of local herbed goat cheese from this food vendor.
Polish open-faced sandwiches.
Polish pate on homemade bread.
Fried Polish pancakes served with sour cream and dill.
Lots and lots of Polish sausages and cured meats.