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.
I find that the simplest dishes often take me the longest to nail down. Take fava, a Turkish spread of dry broad beans. You will find it in every decent meze set in the restaurants and delis of Istanbul and along the Aegean coast. Fava is velvety, smooth and satisfying. It is so good that I can eat it every day. I mean it. I will not think twice about ordering fava at a restaurant even though I cooked it at home just the day before.
When we traveled along the Aegean last September I could not get enough of samphire (deniz börülcesi) while my Russian mom insisted on potatoes in every meal we cooked. She parboiled them first and then pan-fried in olive oil to create a cozy crust. A few meze (with the compulsory samphire), grilled wild sea bass and the mom’s potatoes have become the dinner we cooked many times on that trip.
I don’t know why the idea of getting samphire and new potatoes to meet in a single dish did not occur to me back then. Some things take time to distill. And now I think of samphire and new potato salad as the best summer meal ever.
For two breakfasts I have been serving this chickpea bread to my guests. For those interested, it’s grain-free. For everybody else, it is a rather amazing creation. I have not seen anything quite like that around.
Artichokes start flooding Istanbul food markets in March, and the peeled, ready-to-go-in-your-pot artichokes hearts are hard to ignore. However, my first spring in Istanbul I was watching artichokes from a respectful distance.