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Turkish(ish) dinner party

28 Feb

I had a box of turkish delight and some turkish tea from Istanbul, so that seemed like a good theme for a dinner party… while trying to shoehorn in whatever vegetables I got in the CSA. A range of vegetarian mezzes:

  • Kalamata olives (greek, I know)
  • Watermelon radish pickles (three days in rice vinegar, a little sugar, meyer lemon, and mustard seed — it turned the brine red). This isn’t at all Turkish, I just had so many pounds of radish to deal with… and I’d planned to put some powdered sumac on it to have it fill the raw-onions-with-sumac appetizer role in many turkish meals, but forgot.
  • Turkish black tea (5 minutes in a french press, served in the specific fluted glasses and saucers they use in Turkey, which I’d impulsively picked up in the airport).
  • Anchovies, from a can
  • Homemade whole wheat lavash bread, based on an arbitrarily chosen internet recipe but quite successful (1 packet yeast proofed in 1/2 cup lukewarm water, then 3/4 cup more water added, and this added to 2 cups white-whole-wheat flour w/ 1 tsp salt, mixed into sticky dough, kneaded (more flour needed), coated heavily in olive oil and set to rise in a warm place for an hour, punched down, rolled thin, some sesame seeds sifted on top, then cooked on a medium-heat griddle for a few minutes on each side). There was a surprisingly big difference between the perfect fresh-off-the-stove lavash and even the 30-minutes-off-the-stove texture and taste (it became chewy and tough).
  • Roasted parsnips (30-40 minutes at 425F in olive oil, salt, black pepper, turning once) mixed with lots of fresh mint
  • Cacik (pronounced something like  jay-juhk): Greek yogurt diluted with perhaps 25% water to thin it out, cucumber, fresh mint, coarse salt, olive oil
  • An attempt at Kısır (pronounced kih-sish), a Turkish salad in the same vein as tabouleh: 2 Tbsp tomato paste and a Nora chili mixed into 2 1/2 cups of hot water, poured over 2 cups dry bulgur to soak for 15+ minutes, then olive oil, a Tbsp pomegranate syrup (strong), lime juice, and a whole bunch of minced fresh parsley added, and served over sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Plus lots of black pepper. While some people said this was their favorite, I thought it was missing something, and maybe the bulgur should have been further cooked and chilled? Hmm.
  • “Harem’s Delight” brand Turkish Delight, pomegranate flavored.

And of course, a few fine beers: Upright Flora Rustica (with spring yarrow and calendula — floral, interesting, and pretty good this time, not gone-bad like the last bottle), Allagash Hugh Malone Belgian IPA (slightly fruity, huge head, an interesting hop taste that I couldn’t place, nice [edit: more info from the Allagash web site]), and a saved bottle of Almanac summer blackberry ale from a friend (a bit more acidic and less blackberry-distinctive than it was originally, unfortunately).


(procrastinating cleanup)

Gelik (six courses of meat)

10 Feb

Gelik Atakoy (near the airport, outside the city, though there are two other locations) was another local recommendation in Istanbul, and was probably my favorite meal of the trip (followed by the informal adana kebab in the Grand Bazaar).

To start, a sort of rice pilaf with lots of cracked black pepper (excellent — I don’t know if it was fresher or different black pepper, or if there were other spices as well), a salad, some pulped eggplant (in white), and more adventurously (the brownish-pink lump): çig köfte, a sort of meatball of raw ground beef, bulgur, and red pepper. I liked it quite a bit. [ side note: looking up its name later turned up an NIH paper about the antimicrobial effects of chopped garlic in raw meat ]

Then, many courses of meat, including döner (roasted lamb on a vertical spit), kofte (meatballs), a mouth-watering small lamb chop, lamb cooked in an underground pit until very tender (which Wikipedia’s List of Kebabs suggests was kuyu kebab), and chicken wings. Just a few photos:

For dessert, a pastry with a crunchy, threaded, shredded-wheat-like texture (Kunefe, Kataifi, or one of many other names), pistachios, and a soft cheese. It wasn’t really my thing, though the texture was interesting: [ side note: how it’s made ]

Yüksel Balık (fish restaurant), Istanbul

10 Feb

(wrapping up a few food photos from a recent trip to Turkey):

On the recommendation of a local, we went to Yüksel Balık, a good fish restaurant right by the ocean, a bit outside the city center. They bring you into a side room where recently-caught fish are laid out on a cold marble slab. You pick one or more, tell them how you want it cooked (they typically fry it), and get charged based on the weight.

I chose some hamsi (a type of anchovy) as an appetizer to share, and a spiky, fierce-looking turbot (a sort of flat fish, see below:)

Fried bones-in, the hamsi were very good, and fish-oily:

The spikes on the turbot survived the cooking process… and it was good, though a bit bland:

Overall, a good dinner (and sweet-dessert collection with variants on baklava).

Eating in Istanbul

6 Feb

I suddenly had to go to Istanbul for a few days (long story). So, of course, I have to fit in some eating:

People were drinking Turkish tea in small clear glasses with a lump of sugar everywhere I went. In the Grand Bazaar, I’d see delivery people running around with trays of 5 or 6 glasses of it. I finally happened on a tiny tea stand in the market where the runners were picking it up:

I had a few glasses over the course of the day– it was the default drink to get with any food, and as a slightly bitter and acidic drink was a nice break from all of the intense sweets and fatty meat:

My favorite food so far was at Kara Mehmet, which I’d read about on Chowhound and some random blogs. It’s an informal little cafe in one of the quiet courtyards (Cebeci Han) nestled within the Grand Bazaar. It took some time to find, but I finally noticed a sign with an arrow pointing towards Cebeci Han.

Their Adana Kebab is a mix of minced lamb and some “tail fat”, giving it a rich flavor and cohesive texture (reminding me of  meatballs I’ve had wrapped in caul fat). And the onions covered with slightly-acidic sumac were a great complement, along with a charred pepper. I highly recommend this place. And it was only about $7.


I also had a Turkish Coffee, which came in this presentation:

One piece of Turkish Delight (gel, sugar, mastic, some date puree perhaps?), and the thick, silty, sweet Turkish Coffee, which may have now edged out Vietnamese Coffee as my favorite strong-small-sweet form for coffee.

Lamb shawerma / gyro, cooked on a spit in front of a stack of coals, with a nonchalantly elaborate tile wall, also inside the sprawling Bazaar:

Served with bread, pickled hot peppers, and a shaker full of sumac powder. Tasty, and cheap, but not change-my-life amazing (perhaps slightly better than Truly Med in San Francisco):

Many street stalls selling fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice for $1:

I’m a sucker for roasted chestnuts when it’s cold out. And for old mechanical balances for weighing them out:

Even a normally-boring hotel breakfast isn’t too bad– olives, fish, a sesame sweet similar to halva, dates, and so on (Turks are comfortable eating sweets any time of the day):

And, a street bread vendor in the Book Bazaar:

Off to a good start…

“Lion’s Milk” (Raki)

5 Feb

Once I heard it was anise-based (like Pernod, Pastis, Ouzo, and so on, but unsweetened, unlike Sambuca), I had to try the unofficial national drink of Turkey, Raki.

Not bad, though better with food (cooked meat).