I was going to my friend Marina living in Büyükada, and because we all know that there is no place serving decent dinner on the biggest of the Prince’s Islands we were going to cook. I paged through Jerusalem, Ottolenghi’s cookbook that I use for inspiration more often then I do for the actual cooking. I scanned through the fish section hoping for a recipe that requires minimal preparation and least ingredients since I have already devastated Marina’s kitchen and transported a good part of her exotic for Istanbul kitchen pantry to my house. We have cooked from the book with Marina before, and I hoped to find a winner this time as well. And the winner presented itself soon – sea bass marinaded in harissa, a Tunisian spicy hot pepper paste, and cooked in a Middle-Easter version of the sweet and sour sauce. Yes, please!
Summer calls for light meals cooked in no time. As the days become hotter my cooking class menus have lighted up and shifted its focus from the hearty mains into the appetizers (meze) showcasing the bounty of the available produce. And when I cook for myself I rarely spend on a meal more than 5 minutes (hands-on) because the summer ingredients are so good and self-sufficient that the only thing they are calling for is chopping them up. So my knife skills are improving day by day.
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Due to the protests in Istanbul and pretty much elsewhere in Turkey it has been hard to write or read anything protest-unrelated. News are mostly crowd-sourced through Twitter and Facebook before they appear on the media, so it has been taking a lot of time to fetch and process the bits and pieces into a story. What a lovely reason to procrastinate! And while the issues that have urged so many people to take a stand remain, the violence settles: after cleaning up a few days ago the peaceful protestors are distributing tea, kandil simit and helva at the Taksim square this very night. So I can’t have any excuse not to get back to the blogging. From our countryside house in Sapanca that is not unlike the Taksim square where unexpected turmoil turns into the utter peace and communal tea drinking.
It is easy not to waste food if you live on the countryside. Take our Sapanca farmhouse. If something is not eaten it will be put on the table next day or re-purposed. If an ingredient has been around for a while my mother-in-law would turn it into a tasty lunch. If a cooked dish has been in the fridge for too long it goes into the dog food and if something has perished – it will be composted.
In a city it is harder to be so thrifty. The households are smaller so less enthusiastic eaters for the food leftovers and who wants to eat the same meal again if you can go out or order in; dogs eat premium packaged food and composting may be a dream. Yesterday after I cleaned the fridge and freezer at my kitchen in Istanbul I felt like a sinner: despite all of my efforts and consciousness I had to throw away a few things. Yet fortunately I managed to re- purpose a few of them too, which made me feel a bit better. We, urban dwellers, have a lot to learn from the people living closer to their land and food. So here are five lessons from our countryside food waste management that can surely be applied at a small urban household.
The first time I was admitted to Marina’s kitchen it became clear I was dealing with a food snob. There are people who love eating and appreciate a broad range of foods; they are called foodies. Yet certain individuals are so meticulous about their food they would be looking down on you indulging your store-bought hummus or – God forbid – hummus made of unpeeled canned chickpeas. The said individuals are food snobs. Like Marina. Or like myself. I often talk about how spending time with my mother-in-law cooking top-notch Turkish food in Sapanca has made me such a demanding eater. But it is hanging out with Marina in Istanbul – over food, food shopping, cooking or eating - that has shaped me as an ultimate food snob.
Being a vegetarian on the road can be challenging especially in certain countries, and thank to its reputation as a kebab motherland Turkey may seem frightening to many vegetarian travelers. However, all those frightened could not be more mistaken. The abundance of fresh produce in any season makes Turkish cuisine one of the richest depositories of the vegetable-based dishes. And here is the guide that can help you discover and enjoy the vegetarian side of Istanbul food. [click to continue…]
Sunday feels like a middle of a working week. The borderline between weekend and week days has been blurred for me. Because I don’t work in the office I can stay back at home and do some work on Sunday to avoid the weekend crowds, however hard it is with the windows open in the middle of Moda. I then can choose a quieter day during the week to rest. This rhythm is in sync with my family, and you understand me if you have ever worked in the hospitality.