Archives for posts with tag: Turkey

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The last time I blogged was a month ago. It was about tomatoes. As was the blog before that (sort of). Well I’m at it again: tomatoes. This time stuffing them into jars to be eaten once the last leaves have fallen from the trees in Fort Greene Park and my wool coat has reclaimed its place by the front door.

I recently returned from a 15-day trip around Turkey with a few new recipes under my belt, ones that have been passed down through generations in my boyfriend’s family. His sisters do the cooking, and do everything by hand, and do not own a single measuring cup or spoon. One thing they do each year is turn late-summer tomatoes into a sauce to be eaten year round. It’s quite simple: tomatoes, peppers, salt, and a bit of oil. They primarily use the sauce to make Turkish menemen (and egg-and-tomato dish like shakshouka).

When we left for Turkey the weather was hot, sticky, classic late August; when we returned last week early fall had descended on New York, with its warmish days but brisk mornings and chilly nights. Luckily we got back into town just to catch the tail end of tomato season. We bought these organic ones from Hepworth Farms at the Park Slope Food Coop for $1.26 a pound! If you can get bruised ones for cheap at your local farmers market that’s good too.

This recipe is not quite the rustic preserved tomatoes I made last year or the ones written about earlier this week in the New York Times. But it’s not far off either. In addition to menemen I’d love to eat this with pasta or polenta or in a vegetarian lasagna. And honestly, I can’t imagine I’ll wait til winter to try!

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Preserved tomatoes, Turkish style

8 pounds tomatoes, preferably Roma
2 pounds long sweet peppers
1/2 cup oil
1 heaping tbsp salt

1. Quarter the tomatoes lengthwise and puree in batches in a blender until smooth. Transfer the pureed tomatoes to a large stockpot on the stove. Bring the tomatoes to a boil.

2. Halve the peppers lengthwise and chop in a food processor until fine, but not pureed. (A food processor works much better for this than a blender which tends to just pulverize.) Without a food processor you can do this by hand it just takes a while—chop as finely as possible.

3. When the tomatoes are boiling add the peppers, oil, and salt and reduce to a simmer but keep the liquid bubbling. You want to reduce some of the liquid and create a sauce. So simmer for about 45 minutes to one hour until you reach the desired consistency of sauce.

4. Have your Ball jars or recycled glass peanut butter jars (what we used!) clean and sterilized (we boiled the clean jars in water for ten minutes and removed with tongs and air dried). Don’t let the sauce cool too much. Using a funnel, spoon the tomato sauce into the jars, filling almost to the top, leaving just the tiniest bit of room.

5. While still hot, put the lids on and flip the jars upside down. Leave for two days to ensure a proper seal. (This is the method my boyfriend’s family uses; you can also look on the internet for other methods to seal, namely submerging the jars in boiling water.)

Below is a photo of the beautiful village where we stayed for five days in the mountains of eastern Turkey, where my boyfriend grew up and his family still spends the summers. Bottom is me picking apricots in a neighboring village. I also saw pomegranate, lime, and fig trees during those two weeks. I’d definitely never seen a pomegranate tree before!

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Yoğurt Çorbası, or yogurt soup, has become one of my new favorite foods. Eaten hot or cold, the soup combines the creaminess of yogurt with chewy cooked wheat and dried mint. I’m guessing there are numerous variations of this recipe in Turkey–perhaps depending on region, or just a family’s particular preference–but whatever you do, you must constantly stir the yogurt as it comes to a boil (to prevent curdling) and, I’m told emphatically, do so in one direction only! I tried doing this task one-handed, while sipping a cold-brewed decaf coffee with the other and was chided by my Turkish cooking instructor: “focus!”

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Turkish Yogurt Soup with Mint

1 c uncooked hulled wheat
5 c cold water, divided in 3 c + 2 c
1 quart plain yogurt (not Greek-style)
1 egg
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 onion, diced finely
2 tbsp dried mint
salt, to taste

1. Cook the wheat: combine the wheat and 3 cups of cold water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the wheat is cooked. Let sit covered for an additional 10 minutes then transfer to a baking sheet to cool completely.

2. Place the yogurt in a large bowl; crack the egg into the yogurt and whisk to combine. Add the 2 cups of water and whisk together. Place the cooled wheat in a medium to large saucepan and add the yogurt-egg mixture and 2 c cold water. You’ll be gradually bringing the mixture to a boil and have to stir the mixture continuously in one direction until it boils. It’s very important not to stop stirring and to stir only in one direction so the mixture doesn’t curdle. Ideally you’d bring the mixture to a slow boil and this could take thirty minutes of stirring. Recently I started doing this a little sped up, on slightly higher heat, and it takes about twelve minutes of continuous stirring. Once the mixture is boiled turn the heat to a low simmer and cover.

3. Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a small to medium saute pan on a medium flame. Add the onion and saute until it starts to turn golden, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the mint and cook for one minute then take off the heat. Stir this into the yogurt mixture, take the yogurt off heat. Season with salt to taste and you’re ready to eat. The soup can be served hot or cold.

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As the occasion called for, this Thanksgiving was one indulgence after another. Gumbo, dark chocolate devil’s food cake, pecan tart, cornbread stuffing, Misty Knoll turkey, pear-pistacchio pie, mince pie, curry butternut squash soup. See what I mean?

When we arrived in Vermont on Thursday more than a dusting of snow remained. The photo above is a view from my dad and Bonnie’s back porch out toward the pond.

Each year there is mild debate about which stuffing we will make: my dad’s thymey-sagey breadcrumb with apple and sausage stuffing or my stepmom’s cornbread with cranberry stuffing. I like both but suppose I have a slight preference for the latter since I adore cornbread, and this year that is in fact what we had.

A twenty-one-pound bird from Misty Knoll Farms in Vermont managed to feed the twenty guests we had over for our Thanksgiving dinner, held on Saturday and not Thursday. (Thursday is for traveling and gumbo!)

Bonnie’s sister-in-law is known for her pies and this year she outdid herself by making four: an apple, pumpkin, pear-pistachio, and mince, my grandmother’s favorite.

My sister Hope’s birthday falls on the 28th of November (like John Stewart’s) and so each year we celebrate around Thanksgiving and I usually make a birthday cake. Since chocolate is kind of her thing and dairy is not so much her thing, it usually ends up being some chocolatey dairy-free concoction. This year I was interested in trying David Lebovitz‘s Devil’s Food Cake; while not dairy-free per se, it seemed easy enough to substitute Earth Balance for the butter and soy milk or Lactaid for the milk.

In the end the cake was a hit but I encountered a few stumbling blocks along the way. For instance, the recipe called for lining the bottoms of the cake pans with parchment paper, but I had none. So I greased and floured them well instead. But when it came time to wiggle the baked cakes out of the pans to cool they put up a good fight and the cakes started to come apart. In general I found the cake to be crumbly and wondered if this was just the lack of parchment or the Earth Balance perhaps? And finally, while I love dark chocolate, I found the overall cake and ganache frosting too be a little too dark, a result of using only 70% bittersweet cocoa bars. The cake’s darkness was fine, but next time, I’d mix the bittersweet with some lighter semi-sweet chocolate bars for the ganache frosting. Not that I heard any complaints from the birthday girl.

Devil’s Food Cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz

For the cake:
9 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
1/2 c strong coffee (or water)
1/2 c whole or low-fat milk (soy also works)

For the ganache frosting:
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 c water (or cream)
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

1. Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F.

2. Butter two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

3. Sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl.

4. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and incorporate.

5. Mix together the coffee and milk. Fold half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then add the coffee and milk. Fold in the other half of the dry ingredients to combine, but do not over mix.

6. Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

7. To make the frosting, melt the chopped chocolate with the water (or cream) in a double boiler. Remove the bowl from the pot of water.

8. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk them into the chocolate until completely melted and the ganache is smooth. Cool until spreadable, which may take up to an hour at room temp or a quick cooling (5-10 mins) in the fridge.

Frost the top of one layer of the cake and then place the other cake on top. Frost the tops and sides of the cake and serve the same day.

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