When buying beets, have you ever though with happens its beautiful lush greens? The ones with the purple stem, purple veins and the leaves green as the forest at a summer dawn. Some of them may be fed to the animals, but a lot of the greens get tossed. A few weeks ago I was walking through the Kadıköy market at an early hour when the vendors are still setting their stalls. I spotted a huge box of assorted stems and leaves, and asked the greengrocer (who was peeling off very edible, but not so good looking layers from the leeks) what was going to happen with them. “We are tossing them”. I recognized beet greens and black radish stems in the box. “Can I take some?” “Go for it. What are you going to do with them?” I did know make my mind, “Soup? Börek?” For me it was ridiculous he even asked: what would you not do with the greens like that? “I took a bunch of mixed greens and headed home.
Living abroad for the past 10 years, I have learned one certain thing: you should never take for granted how people go about routines. Think about street crossing. In Norway any car, however big and cool, will slow down to let you cross the street. In India no car will ever stop to let you cross, but if you find the courage to start crossing and signaling where you are heading, the drivers will take you into account. In Russia a car may run over you crossing the road if the driver is an oligarch. In Turkey you play chicken with an approaching car to see who has more self-confidence – you crossing the road or the car driver running over you. These differences come from the different chips we were born with and the different conditions we grew up in, so don’t assume that you and me bake in the same way.
What did you cook last time you had no time or little energy left to put together a proper meal? Did you dry an egg? Did you inspect the fridge in the hope for the tasty and (and still edible) leftovers? Did you make hot-dogs like my husband? Did you brew some tea and pull out the breakfast set with cheese and olives, like my Turkish family? Did you just order in?
I don’t know how about you, but I end up with piles of green leaf plants, stems and root vegetable tops in my fridge. After a week of cooking and shopping I would have more celery stalks that I can use for my soups or salads. Any celeriac (celery root) here in Istanbul comes with the stalks packed with the vitality that makes them curl: you would not recognize the guys if you just know the thick celery from a supermarket. Then chard: its juicy leaves make a perfect börek filling, but what about the thick stems? When possible, I slice them paper-thin and add to the filling, but what if you don’t want too much crunch? Also leeks. “They are onions in disguise!”, I announced once to my laughing mother-in-law. “How can you make them a star in your dish?” I asked her referring to the only zeytinyağlı I can’t bring myself to eating – leeks braised in olive oil. And yet, every time at the market they deceive me with their looks, and I buy more than I can use.
With so much leftover leaves, stalks and stems in your fridge, you should get decisive! I resort to throwing only when things turn inedible, and I have made enough stock to take all the room in my freezer. So why not a vegetable potage?
Do you keep a cookie jar? I try not to, but in winter it is hard to resist the temptation and to overlook the practical side. On a cold day the need of a comforting snack is more pressing and the cost obtaining one is higher (putting on the coat alone is an undertaking). That’s why I feel right to go back to the long-standing tradition of baking ahead and keeping the bake treats handy in a cookie jar or even a sack if we speak of a large household like the joint family house where my mother-in-law was born.
Salads like this make you forget all the longings for a good tomato and other things the past summer was abundant with. Instead, you will be grateful that the winter is almost here with its cheerful, delicious and super-nutritious produce.
The base of the salad is the sprouted mung beans. I have gotten the idea from Ulli. We met at my breakfast club a month ago, and I wondered why our paths had not crossed before: both of us live in Moda and both are passionate about eating healthy. Ulli is a certified Ayurveda consultant and yoga therapist who teaches her clients to live and eat in sync with their bodies. She is such a fascinating person that I am planning to tell you more about her one day, but for now – to the sprouted mung beans. [click to continue…]
I have been long wondering how other food bloggers get those wonderfully gloomy photographs that add quite a bit of drama to their foods. A dull November Saturday in Istanbul brought the answer: some of my brothers and sisters-in-food-blogging-arms simply don’t have enough sunshine. In Istanbul it is easy to take sun for granted, and that’s why the murky November days arrive as a surprise to any Istanbul dweller. There were times when I did not take sunshine for granted.