“What can you expect of a local market at a popular upscale resort town?” I thought to myself heading out to the Saturday market in Alaçatı, a small Aegean town with the ubiquitous charms of wooden houses, cobble stone streets and small cafes with a bohemian flair. In my August newsletter I was ranting about the doleful state of affair in the Alaçatı dining as only a handful of restaurants have serious intentions to serve you good food, but I don’t plan to litter this particular space with drama. I’ll just say that my visit to the local market has convinced me that all the mediocre restaurants of the town must be shameless because they have access to some of the best ingredients in the country.
A brief stay on Bozcaada concluded our Aegean road trip this time. The island has long being luring me with its wines and food, and hence seemed impossible to skip as we were driving from Alaçatı back to Istanbul.
Trips to my hometown in Russia bring me back to my childhood: I am with mom and dad again, feeling loved, knowing I don’t need bold goals and tangible accomplishments to deserve appreciation, going to the places where the family usually gathers and eating the food I grow up with. Every return home makes me revisit the dishes I have nearly forgotten while living abroad for so long. This time it was okroshka, a cold soup no family gathering in summer would be complete without.
It is easy to spend summer worshiping a good tomato and admiring a decent eggplant. But if you ignore the rest of the summer goodness not only you miss out on a lot of deliciousness but also potentially undermine your health as I have recently learned at the cooking class by Ulli of Ulli Ayurveda.
You don’t need Ayurveda to tell you that summer calls for cooling foods, but honestly I have seen few people that go beyond iced beverages and raw salads, two obvious solutions to cool down your body and mind on a hot day. According to Ayurveda, ancient Indian healing system, there is much more to the summer diet that that.
For months I was waiting to cook this dish again. As much as I love my winter roots or spring greens, I am passionate about the nightshades that come out in summer. Firm eggplants with shiny skins and ripe tomatoes bursting with sweetness. After all, the whole imam bayıldı business is about excellent summer produce.
Look at the change: just a month ago my dinner looked like a comforting stew and right now I can’t think of anything but raw. This is how I know the summer has arrived: eating raw would have been a hard sell to the winter me. Ok, the whole meal does not have to be raw, but I want all the crunch, and color, and juice of tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh herbs. Unadulterated. So I have been frequently eating shepherd salad for dinner. Until I recalled a dish my mother-in-law introduced me to a few years ago.
The green of summer is different from the green of spring. In spring the green comes from the young herbs and wild plants, a welcome change from the pale colors of the winter produce. Spring greens bring bold peppery and bitter flavors to your meals refreshing your palate and helping your body cleanse after the heavy winter diet. The green of summer is nothing like that. It comes with subtle tastes and succulent bodies to cool down and hydrate you. Think green beans, or zucchini, or cucumber.