Thursday, April 30, 2009

Us 0 - Mercutio 1

There is a plague on this house. While we do not have the swine flu, we are getting the immunological shit kicked out of us. Bülent is still getting fevers every night (as I am but lower grade) and is extremely fatigued. I also had a sore throat. As of last night I would compare it more to shards of glass embedded in my flesh with fresh lemon juice being poured on. So we went to the doctor today, Bülent's uncle. It was so convenient, we had blood tests run, and had the lab results within 15 minutes. It was amazing. He also looked at my throat, and though my Turkish isn't fluent, I am pretty sure I heard him say "My God!" Then he patted my face and gave me a kiss on the cheek for good measure. Apparently my throat was pretty fancy because he call Bülent over to look at it it. And then before was left he looked at it again, and there was more face patting. So we are both on antibiotics and in general kind of a mess.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Souvenir from the Military:The Plague

Seriously. It is day 7 since Bülent came back. And we are le sicko. Getting better but ugh. Coughing, fevers and fatigue abound. On the other hand we are catching up on our reading. And sleeping. Drinking lots of tea and salep.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lamb, Eggplant and Potato Casserole

This dish is super delicious. Not particularly health conscious, but incredibly tasty

You will need:

250 grams of cubed lamb

4 or 5 eggplants (longer skinny type)

fewer if you use the fatter shorter type
6 potatoes

8 or 9 cloves of garlic

6 spicy Turkish peppers

5 tablespoons of tomato paste (preferably Turkish)

3 tablespoons of pepper paste

The amounts are vague, but it is not rocket science, don't sweat it.

Peel the eggplants, alternating peel and no peel (aesthetics)

Cut the eggplant lengthwise into quarters, then cut it into about 1/2 inch chunks.

Once you have done that, soak the eggplant into a water bath with about two teaspoons of salt in it. Swish it around a few times.

I happen to like alot of garlic, so don't feel turned off. You don't need to use as much as I do. Peel the skins off and reserve for later. Cut the peppers into inch long chunks.

Throw the lamb into a pot put the lid on and cook over a low heat. No oil will be needed, there will be enough later. When you add the lamb to the casserole dish later you can deglaze it with a little hot water.

Now cut the potatoes into about the same size as the eggplant pieces. Depending on the size of the potatoes you make want to quarter them. They too go in a water bath with a bit of salt.

Now we fry. You will want to fry the eggplant until soft, and the potatoes until crispy. Use a oil with a higher heating temperature. After you fry, drain the eggplant and the potatoes.

Mix the tomato paste and pepper past with water until it is the thickness of a thin gravy.

After all the eggplant, potato and lamb is cooked throw it into the casserole dish.

Now mix it all up.

Pour the tomato/pepper paste over the mixture.

Put the peppers and the garlic on the top of the casserole.
Put it in the oven at about 350 (F) for about 40 minutes

Super Tasty!

Apologies for Interrupted Transmission

Long time no write! Bülent came back from the military on the 22nd! It has been busy ever since. Especially since apparently he came back with military orders to take out any Ex-Pats who cross his path. He used the weapons of sleep deprivation and germ warfare. He came back sick. Between the chest racking coughs (which kept me up) or the apprently high contagiousness, he pretty much took me out.. It was bad. When his uncle, who is a doctor, looked at him he was not pleased. Bülent had bronchitis edging towards pneumonia. Thankfully some good drugs and some bed rest have turned things around.

Another new development from the military would be HAIR. Specifically Bülent's. Ever since I met him he has shaved his head. I the military the showers were only open twice a day for two hours. All ten stalls, for 2000 men. So apparently keeping up with the head shave was not a priority. Which is fantastic, because he is adorable with hair. I think we will keep it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Water Buffalo aka My new BFF

You KNOW you are jealous. Or if you aren't you will be. Last weekend at the Farmer's Market we picked up some home made cheese which turned out to be from manda (water buffalo) milk. It is amazing. Creamy. Tangy. I know this is because of the high fat content so I am limiting myself to one piece each day. But really I want to rip it out of the fridge and eat it with a spoon.

P.S. Manda yogurt is also spectacular. Thick. Creamy. Tangy. Am I repeating myself? I must be dizzy with desire for the rest of the cheese. Or some more of that yogurt. When you cut it with a knife it holds an edge. Ridiculous.

Tales from Amasra No:3

The Final Installment: Gorgeous!

Amasra was just really amazing. It was this tiny town nestled between the Black Sea ans the hills. Our hotel was on the crest of the closest hill and almost had a panoramic view of the sea. Not only was there natural beauty, but the town itself was adorable and quaint. It is a working fishing village.
Much of it built around and within the remnants of Mehmet the Conqueror's castle.

The view from one side of the hotel.

The view from the other. This is also the view from the dining room of the hotel.

This was taken off the balcony of the hotel room, I was out there to avoid the Turkish bunnies!

Hoşaf aka Delightful and Refreshing

I am tasting so many new things over here (the scale with confirm this) I want to be able to take back my favorites and integrate them into my cooking. So instead of just writing about food I have eaten, occasionally I will be posting recipes as well. This first one is one of my favorite dishes I have had so far. It actually is not too unhealthy either. Hoşaf (horshaf) is actually a compote or stewed fruit dish. It can be made with a variety of fruits such as dried raisins, apricots, plums, pears etc.

Dried Fruit

Two types of apricot, plums, pears.

First get your fruit together, 4 cups or so. Pick through it making sure there are no unwanted elements (stones, sticks etc), then rinse your fruit thoroughly.

I prefer a main component of apricots with some plums thrown in, the apricots release their sugar more than the plums do so you end up with a sweeter juice.

Then (a hard task) get a large pot of water to a roiling boil. When it is boiling dump your dried fruit in the water and shut off the heat.

Let the fruit sit out in the water until the water cools. Once the water has cooled put the pan in the fridge. Wait at least a day before eating the hoşaf, don't worry about using it all up. The longer the hoşaf sits the tastier it becomes. You could ad sugar (this should be done when the water is hot) but I think it is unnecessary. Hoşaf can be served as a side (usually with börek) or as a dessert. It is light and refreshing and is fabulous in hot weather.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tales from Amasra No:2

The Food

Amasra is a small village on the edge of the Black Sea, and to get there you must drive up the mountains, and once you reach the crest you can see the Black Sea below you and the town of Amasra nestled at the base of the mountains. The story is that when Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Mehmet the Conqueror) conquered Amasra, when he arrived on the top of that hill he asked his second in command“Lala, could this be the Çeşm-i Cihan (eye of the world)?”

And that is where the first meal was, a a restaurant called Çeşm-i Cihan. In Amasra it is redundant to call a restaurant a "Fish Restaurant." Because that is what they served. Seafood, and drinks. No menus. You are given a choice between two different fish as a entree. Salad comes with the meal. What I love about Turkish salads is that they often come with herbs in them, which make they a little zingy. This salad was particularly good and included, pickled beets, green onions, green garlic, lettuce, carrots, radishes, onions (soaked to get the bite out) dill, mint, tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage.

An appetizer, shrimp casserole. Super delicious, word to the wise, if you mispronounce shrimp in Turkish it easily sounds like drunk. Just an FYI, not that I did that repeatedly.

This was our fish, very tasty, though I forget the name of it, so I have posted it in its natural state below.

After we went to a Farmers Market (Pazar) where the locals were selling all sorts of great stuff. I carry a small Turkish/English dictionary with me which clears up all sorts of things. Like why the blackberry jam tastes like plums (Mulberries) or Why that cheese is decidedly tangy (water buffalo). And let me tell you, these women work hard.

Tons of different types of preserves from jams to different types of pickles, dried fruit, fruit leather, home made cheese and fresh vegetables. One look at their hands took all the fun out of haggling. They were clearly hard working hands.

The Second Day
Tasty Salad


Red Mullet: Super Delicate. While you are able to eat the WHOLE thing I just could not bring myself to eat the heads(still had eyes) or the tails.

Dessert was particularly tasty. We did not have sesame halva, but yogurt with honey. Specifically water buffalo yogurt, which is so rich and creamy it is cut into squares to be served, and the honey on top was local, with a very pungent flavor. Well suited to the creamy yogurt, normally it has crushed walnuts on top, but due to my allergy we asked them to hold the nuts. Just in case you think I am a complete and total pig, all these meals were served family style, so orders were shared among several people.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tales from Amasra No:1

Turkish Bunnies

Amasra was amazing! Beautiful scenery, wonderful food, great atmosphere. I will blog on the natural beauty and food later. This is the first of three posts, and I spologize for its length. It concerns midnight visitors (not the fun type) and woodland creatures, unfortunately in combination. The trip started out well, the five hour bus ride was scenic. We stopped at a fish restaurant where we drank and ate until the bus rode a little lower.
After lunch there was some left over dessert, sesame halva, super delicious. We had it wrapped to go and took it with us. After we got to our hotel, took in the view, stashed our stuff in the room, halva included, we took a walk. I mean, how could we not?

When we got back ,I noticed the halva, which had been on the dresser seemed as if it had been nibbled on. Like a good country girl I took notice, absently, and put the rest of the halva in the covered trashcan. But by then it was too late.

After dinner and live music we came back to the room at about 12 am. My fiance's mother was staying in my room because they were concerned about security (I've seen bathroom stall doors with better locks). She is a notoriously light sleeper, and also has trouble falling asleep, I gave her the full bed and I was sleeping on the twin. Well, about 4:30 in the morning I wake up because something is scratching my head, groggily I reach up to scratch it, and I realize something is there, I sit straight up and fling whatever it is towards the bathroom.
It was a mouse, I saw the Mofo scamper to a corner. So it is the ass crack of dawn, and I am totally skeeved, and freaked out. IWhen I got up to use the bathroom, I can hear it scuttling around. But I don't want to wake Susan because I know she will never get back to sleep and we had a full day of sightseeing ahead of us. So I get on my bed and my eyes are practically bugging out of my head. Then I hear a sound, I see another mouse climb up the heating pipe from under the floor boards. Shit. Then I see another do the same thing. God Damn, how many can there be?
By this point I am thinking, well, I don't want to wake Susan, how weird would it be to ask my fiance's dad, Ali, if I could sleep on the second bed in his room. Too weird I decided. So there I am, watching these grey blurs steak across the floor of my room, listening to their claws on the floor, and then...a vibration. That fucker was trying to climb my bed again. So I spent a good time of the next hour slapping my shoe on the floor next to my bed. Finally I conked out again, but not without fear, when I awoke the next morning I was stiff from being curled in the fetal position.

The next morning I told Susan, and she was appalled, though at first she thought it was good, until I pantomimed a mouse (I don't know the Turkish word for mouse, and she didn't know the English). They were both infuriated, and complained to the manager, asked me why I didn't wake them up (I didn't think it would have been constructive.) We were traveling with a large group of people, and at breakfast Ali told them about the incident. One woman asked, did you already tell her it was a mouse? He said, "Of course" (as if I didn't know). That is too bad, she says, you could have told her they were Turkish bunnies, different than American bunnies.

So as we were leaving the owners gave me a gift. It is a wooden bowl, hand crafted, the Amasra area is know for this type of decorative item.

Susan said I could use it for a sugar bowl, but I thought maybe it would fit a Turkish bunny.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

San Diego = Weather Utopia

And I am no longer there. The weather was amazing over the weekend. Drop Dead Amazing. But Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were not. It was raining on and off the whole time. And the clouds were dark, and ominous, so much so that they made the storm that carried Dorothy away look like a sunny day. So when it finally stopped raining, I decided to take my poor, bored, (I.haven'', dog our for a walk. We had been outside for about 2 minutes when we were attacked.

Yeah that's right! Assaulted! Those bad ass black clouds started pelting us. With Hail. My dog is not fond of snow, or rain, and apparently really hates getting hit by hail. It stung.
And we were still bored.

Butterfinger more so because she doesn't read. She finds that it strains her eyes.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Seriously Gorgeous!

The weather is so beautiful that I had to take four walks yesterday. Today I will be walking to the market to buy sunscreen. I look a little bit like Rudolph the Reindeer without the antlers.

There are cherry and apple trees in bloom all over the place. The park is really lovely. There are also these cafes all over the place that overnight have expanded their outdoor seating areas by 10 times.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Road to Burdur

Why were we going to Burdur you may ask? Is it a scenic town? No. Is there a niche market? No. Is it by the sea? No. Then why Burdur? It is the base of the miliatry installation for the Turkish men, who are currently living abroad, to fulfill their military requiremnets.

The road out of Ankara was arid and devoid of much flora.

However, the father we drove out of the interior the more interesting the landscape became.

There were rock formations, deep valleys, snow covered mountains and fields and fields of agriculture.

There were also old school herds of sheep complete with shepards.

Lots of them.
We drove to Burdur, however, by the time we got there and figured everything out it was too late to drive back and every hotel (except the one that rented out rooms on an hourly rate) was full with men awaiting to turn themselves in for military duty. So we drove to the closest town with a hotel, Isparta, 30 km away.

While both towns have similar climates and are not that far from each other, there are signigficant differences. There is no real industry in Burdur, just independent agriculture and the military basically. On the other hand Isparta is known as the "City of Roses." They cultivate and process roses. There is also a histoical tourism trade and a universirty.
Burdur is a small town, more like a village, complete with Ottoman Empire style houses and women. I was very surprised. In Ankara, especially now with the conservative government, it is not unusual to see women wearing headscarves. However, while it conveys modesty, the scarves are usually the only part of women's outfit that set them apart. The rest of their clothes are like any other woman on the street, just as stylish or modern. In Isparta, there were more women wearing headscarves than in Ankara, but in the same style. Just the headscarf, and modern clothes. What I am referring to by modern clothes is that a teenager wearing a headscarf is just as likely as her uncovered friend to be wearing Converse sneakers, etc.
However, in Burdur, which is only a half and hour drive from Isparta, women were dressed very differently. The women who wore headscarves were in two groups. Ones that wore old fashioned pants (Salvar- very baggy, loose pants with a low inseam) and women who wore long coats to the ankle. I even saw women wearing burkas, which is illegal in Turkey. There were very few women not wearing headscarves.
The difference between Burdur and Ankara was stark, but is probably on par in general with the differences between and rural towns and metropolitan cities in any country.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Military Send Off

There was a family dinner party the night before Bulent went off to Burdur to the military. When his family does food, they DO food. As shown below.

Celery Root shredded with garlic and yogurt
Rice (one of two)

Salad, red pepper preserves, baked beans

Kofte: meatballs with garlic and peppers

Friday, April 3, 2009


I have been fairly busy this week. I spent Tuesday driving to Burdur, about 5 hours from Ankara, and Wednesday driving back. By driving, I mean I was in the car. Bulent is now in the military, for three weeks. It is the mandatory Turkish conscription, all men have to serve their military duty before the age of 39. It can be anywhere between 3 weeks and 18 months. The created the three week stint for Turkish men who are living out of the country and have careers so they would not lose their job and could still complete their military duty. I spent the next couple of days with Bulent's parents and am now back at the apartment. I miss my boy. And the dog does too. She won't eat. I on the other hand just enjoyed some lovely leek borek.