Archive | April 2015

Cheese Pastries and Eggplant – The Wonderful Food of Turkey

I have returned from my adventure in Turkey, and I must say, the food there (and my cooking class) was absolutely one of the best things about that country. Especially if you are a vegetarian, as they have amazing vegetable dishes and, at least in the touristy parts, understand when you say you are vegetarian. People didn’t even ask if that meant I ate fish! I ate so many amazing things while I was over there, but unfortunately there are way too many to stick in one post. So here are some of the dishes I had, loved, and remembered to take pictures of. Also – the Turks love cheese, which made me love the food even more.

Sailor’s Pastry
This comes first because it was so freaking amazing and one of my favorite things there – I had it an an Ottoman restaurant (aka making ottoman-era food, mostly from the palace based on historical records). Apparently, they use seven different kinds of cheese and wrap it in filo to make a spiral, and then fry it til golden. They served it with a couple things, including honey, which was perfect with it. I don’t know if I want to attempt to recreate it or not, I’d hate to try and have it not be as awesome as it was there.
49. sailor's pastry

Borek is a pretty general term for various pastries in Turkey. I had a few different kinds of boreks while I was over there. One, a cheese and parsley borek, was kinda like a sauce-less lasagna. Soft egg-noodle-esque layers, with cheese mixed with herbs, in between and presumably baked. The other kind I need to learn how to make myself – the are cheese cigar boreks, and its basically cheese wrapped up in a little filo cylinder, and I think fried? Maybe baked, but probably fried. When I make them, they will be baked
219. cigar boreks

Stuffed Eggplant
So the picture is of the stuffed eggplant I made in my cooking class, but I had it other places too when I was in Turkey, it was very common on menus in Selcuk. The version I had in Selcuk didn’t have mushrooms, it was just tomatoes, onions and various herbs and spices from what I could tell. It, however, was also served with yogurt and a side of rice, and was insanely good too. I think I might just omit the mushrooms when I make this myself. Also, and I did this with most veggie dishes, you can scoop it onto flatbread maybe add a bit of the yogurt, and eat it that way. Eggplant dishes work particularly well when you do this.
109. stuffed eggplant and pilaf

Pide is basically Turkish pizza. I made a version pide a while back, and I still make it on occasion. This, however, tasted less healthy and flavorful than what I made, and am used to. That said, it would be an amazing drunk food. The one I had there was a good with beer and I’ve had a couple food (which is the stage of the evening I was in), and would be a bad sober food. At least in my opinion.
187. pide;

Song of the week: The Suffering, by Coheed and Cambria. I’ve been listening too this song a lot lately not sure why. It’s hard rock, with an awesome combination of upbeat and darkness. Hell, maybe my emo teenaged self is just coming to the fore for some reason this week. But its awesome, so you should listen to it. One caveat – this is hard rock, you need to listen to it very loudly for the proper effect.

Cooking Turkish Food in Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

As I am writing this, I am sitting in Turkey, in the midst of my current travelling adventure. Woo! As you may know from previous posts, I like to document the foods I eat when I travel around the world. This time, however, I managed to do one better – I found a Turkish cooking class in Istanbul that would accommodate vegetarians – Cooking Alaturka. Now, if you intend to go to Istanbul in the vague or near future and enjoy cooking I highly recommend this class. The instructor is extremely knowledgeable, the chef is incredible and hilarious, and no matter how good a cook you are, you will pick up some new tricks. Now, the class of six of us, plus the experts teaching us, made six recipes: hot yogurt soup, beans cooked in olive oil with tomatoes, zucchini pancakes, stuffed eggplant, bulgar pilaf, and stuffed dried figs.  No, I’m not going to stick all six on this blog, that would be ridiculous. If you want all six, you will have to take the class yourself. However, this is one of the most straight-forward recipes, and Eveline, the instructor, assured us the method could be adapted for other veggies as well.

Green Runner beans cooked in olive oil
1/2 pound runner beans or green beans, trimmed and cut in two if very long
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water or so

Prep all the veggies first. Then assemble them in a saucepan. First, put a layer of the onions-tomatoes-and garlic, then a layer of the beans, then an onion-tomato layer, then more beans, then the last of the onions-tomatoes-garlic. In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, lemon juice, salt. Taste to make sure you like the balance of ingredients. then add the water and whisk it in.
beans mid-assembly
Add the liquid mixture, which should almost, but not quite cover the veggies. Cover and cook on medium-low heat until softened, maybe 20-30 minutes (check as I’m not sure about the timing). Remove from heat and let the mixture cool in the liquid. Fish out the veggies and serve when at room temperature.

Turkish beans

The result – extremely tasty. I’ve always liked Turkish foods, but this trip has made me completely and utterly love them. This veggie recipe is tasty and light, and (if I hadn’t had it as part of a 4-course meal) would make a great meal with some bread and cheese. I had this with a Turkish rose – which was extremely good, albeit less fruity than roses that I’m used to. Song of the Week: Istanbul, Not Constantinople, by They Might Be Giants. Very nearly every time I mentioned going to Istanbul to my parents, they referenced this song. Which is a fun and cute regardless and I was definitely humming it to myself walking around the city so it is nothing if not appropriate for this week.

Sweet Steampunk Fritters

Sometimes, I plan things out a little too well. I’m leaving for Turkey tomorrow (woooo!!!!!) and carefully planned out my meals and grocery shopping so I could maximize my healthy life choices. Then today rolled around, and I realized I didn’t really have anything to experiment this week with. Well, I did have a russet potato, and a couple eggs left, so I thought of the steampunk savory fritters I made a couple weeks ago. However, this time I figured what the hell, lets make the sweet version. I had to adapt a couple things as per usual.

sweet fritters

Sweet Steampunk Fritters
1 large russet potato
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 tablespoon grand marnier
1 egg
Vegetable oil for frying

Bake the large potato (or, if you have limited time, stick it in the microwave for a few minutes). Remove the skin and mash the potato in a large bowl – I find it easiest to just use a fork. Add the all the other ingredients, saving the egg for last. If you are really motivated you can separate the egg, beat the egg white til soft peaks form, and fold it in but I’ve found it largely unnecessary. The batter should be fairly cohesive and not lumpy. Heat some oil in a large frying pan. Once the oil is hot, add plops of the batter and flatten them out a bit. Fry until both sides are golden brown, and remove onto a paper-towel-lined plate. Serve warm.

Ok, so I definitely used too much Grand marnier. Whoops. I used 2 tablespoons, which is why I decreased it to 1 1/2 in the posted recipe. It did not all cook off also – just to warn you. You can eat them by themselves, but I tried a few different toppings – goat cheese, cinnamon sugar, and honey. All were pretty good, but I liked the goat cheese best – I love a savory bite to these sorts of things. I didn’t have these with any alcohol, but if you were going to, I would suggest a reisling, or, if you want to really roll with the Victorian theme, port. I think they’d be good with port. Song of the week: Baba O’Riley, by The Who. I’ve been in something of a Who mood lately, and this song, despite its overplayed-ness, has particularly been speaking to me. Especially the line “I don’t need to fight to prove I’m right; I don’t need to be forgiven.” Love it. Sometimes you just need a song like this in your life.

Si Se Puede! Mexican Tartlets and Labor Rights

So this is yet another slightly delayed holiday recipe posting. March 31 is Cesar Chavez Day in the great state of California – it replaced Columbus day (good riddance) as a state holiday. Cesar Chavez is a Latino labor rights organizer for farm workers who did a lot of good for CA and the Latino communities across the U.S. I want to note (I just learned this) that equal credit should be given to Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers and a badass in her own right. So in honor of Huerta and Chavez and Labor Rights in general, I decided to do another one of my Cali-Mex recipes this week. So this was an odd synthesis of a Zucchini salad from my Mexican vegetarian cooking class and a recipe from Everyday Greens cookbook.

Tartlet dough
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup masa harina
dash of salt
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
Cold water

Measure flour, masa harina, and salt into a bowl and mix them all thoroughly. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the butter until there are no significant sized lumps. Mix the vinegar with 3 tablespoons of water and add the mixture, a little at a time, until the dough comes together. If you need more water, add it in small amounts. The dough should be soft and pliable, but cohesive and not sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside while you make the filling.

1 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 ear of corn, kernels cut off
1/3 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium poblano pepper, chopped
1 tsp cumin (or in reality to taste)
salt and pepper
olive oil
2-3 ounces queso fresca, crumbled

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Add the garlic, and after a couple minutes, add the onions and poblano peppers. Once they start to soften, add the corn, zucchini, cumin, salt and pepper. Saute until everything is softened, but not so long that it turns squogy. Toss with the queso and set aside. Roll out the tartlet dough and cut out little circles from it (once again my glass ice cream bowls are used to fulfill the task of a biscuit cutter). Take each circle and stick it into a spot in a cupcake tin. No worries if its a little large and needs to squish a little, that’s totally fine. Fill each one completely with the fill. Bake at 375 for like 20 minutes or so.

mexican tartlets

Damn these were tasty. I had to exercise a great deal of discipline to save some of them for meals at work instead of gobbling them all as a meal and then snacks. I had these with Oberon Summer Ale (it’s back! and my all-time fav beer to pair with Mexican food) as a meal, but I think they would make an amazing appetizer at a party or something. The tartlet dough is awesome – I’m loving the flour-masa harina combo, and have been using it when making tostadas for a while. Song of the Week: Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter by Herman’s Hermits. I love this song for so so many reasons, but the main two are the guitar rift in the beginning (and really the guitar throughout) and the theme of being heartbroken without bitterness or recrimination. It’s an uplifting song about lost love – which is amazing. We should all strive to be that decent regarding our former lovers. Also Herman’s Hermits are incredible and tragically underrated.

From Steampunk to Kitchen: Savory Potato Fritters

As you might have guessed from the name of this post, I’m a bit of a steampunk fan. Not a huge fan, but one of my all-time favorite books series is a urban fantasy/steampunk mishmosh of awesome. So when I was trying to come up with something for this week, I remembered that there is this food blog – Tentacle and Treacle – inspired by the series. Sadly Victorian food is not the most inspired cuisine, particularly for a vegetarian, but I saw the potato fritters post and it so naturally I had to try and make a version. I decided on attempting a savory version, rather than staying true to the recipe, as I wanted something more dinner-ish.

Savory Potato Fritters
1 large russet potato
1 medium spring onion (or a bunch of green onions)
1-2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 egg
salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

Bake the large potato (or, if you have limited time, stick it in the microwave for a few minutes). Remove the skin and mash the potato in a large bowl – I find it easiest to just use a fork. Chop the onion (a spring onion is basically a massively oversized green onion), and add it to the potatoes. Add the all the other ingredients, saving the egg for last. If you are really motivated you can separate the egg, beat the egg white til soft peaks form, and fold it in but I’ve found it largely unnecessary. The batter should be fairly cohesive and not lumpy. Heat some oil in a large frying pan. Once the oil is hot, add plops of the batter and flatten them out a bit. Fry until both sides are golden brown, and remove onto a paper-towel-lined plate. Serve warm.

potato fritters

Tasty! A little on the bland side, as they can be slightly improved by adding cheese or ketchup on top. I am kicking myself a little because I was going to stick cheese in them and then I changed my mind – proof that initial impulses can in fact be good life decisions. But these are still extremely good, and weirdly tasted even better the next day. Not sure how that works. Song of the week: Highway to Hell, by AC/DC. I was listening this on my way to work the other day and it seemed eerily appropriate, like a musical Freudian slip… Also, it’s an awesome song and you should rock out to it regardless.