Dried eggplant dolmas

While I do enjoy a chill in the air, I am not a winter person.  During the dog days of summer I always convince myself that winter is something to look forward to.  The only real benefit to this season is cute sweaters, layered looks, and a few foods like ayva and chestnuts.

Yesterday we had a call back to summer, enjoying the fruits of our favorite season.

Dried eggplant dolma!

My favorite food has got to be fresh pepper dolmas.  Oh yes, delicious goodness.  But that’s not a viable option in the winter when the price of tomatoes, peppers, and other necessities triple in price!

Although it’s still not expensive compared to US food prices

As I talked about before, back in August when we first came back to Turkey, the joys of summer can be preserved in jars or on strings in dried form.  As the winter begins to wane, enjoy this recipe while you await the first signs of spring!

As always, measurements are approximations made by eye.

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Ingredients:

20 dried eggplant halves
5 dried peppers (mild), chopped
Approx 200g ground beef
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp pepper paste
4 tbsp olive oil
2.5c rice, washed
4 green onions, diced
Dill and parsley, diced
2 tbsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp dried mint
Cumin
Black pepper

Preparation
1.  First,  rehydrate the eggplant in slow boiling water until pliable. Remove from water and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process.
2.  Meanwhile, cook dried peppers in olive oil.  Add meat and cook to completion. Add 1 tbsp tomato paste and pepper paste, stirring to incorporate into the oil.  Add rice and simmer in the oil and natural juice for for 10 minutes,  stirring.
3. Cut the heat and add herbs, spices (only 1 tbsp salt.  Adjust salt to your preference!) , and green onion. Using a spoon or your fingers, fill eggplant halves approximately 2/3 full. Squeeze the opening closed with your fingers. If eggplant is torn, patch with other strips of eggplant.
4.  Layer evenly in a pot.  I will typically keep the thicker portions of the eggplant on the bottom of the pot (such as the bottom halves as opposed to the top halves).  Lay the eggplants on their sides and fill in a spiral fashion, keeping the sealed mouths of the eggplant closed with the bottom of the next one. Drizzle the final layer ever so lightly with olive oil.
5.  This step is where I’ve been messing up my whole life.  Put the water you will cook the dolma in into the pan/pot where you prepared the filling.  Further season the water with the remaining tbsp of paste and salt.  Bring water to a brief boil. *if you don’t season the water, a flavor osmosis will occur.  All the goodness of the filling you just prepared will leak into the water… This will ruin your dolma!!!
6.  Fill the dolma pot with water until it covers the dolma with approximately half an inch extra.  If you have it,  cover the dolmas with a cabbage leaf or something, then weigh them down with a terracotta lid with holes (I have no idea what it’s called). Let simmer on low for half an hour to 40 minutes (starting at the time of simmering).

Let sit after removing from water.  Serve with yogurt and lemon.

Afiyet olsun!

*dolma is something unique to each city, so everyone has a different recipe. How do YOU make dolma?

Peanut

If you guys have been following my instagram, you probably have seen a lot of this little guy

peanut
I was going for beachy, since I’ve been missing the warm weather just a bit…but the shades kinda pushed it over to thug.  Well, that’s what hubby says.  I am limited in my marker using abilities, ok!?

His name is peanut (aka p-nizzle), and he’s been with us since we lived in Clemson, SC.  He goes with me everywhere- from SC, to FL, and now here.  When we went to the beach house, he rode with me in my bag.  He’s kind of like our baby.

One day while shopping in Hobby Lobby (a large arts and crafts store, if you don’t know) about 3 or so years ago for…something… There was a display of those (at the time) new “bug eyed” looking beanie babies.  I instantly fell in love with them!  Initially I had been playing with a tiger one (attending Clemson, you know. Go Tigers!), but hubby (at the time fiancee) picked up the elephant.

Do you want one?

I want the tiger!

But the elephant is cute.

Ok ok, if you say so

It took me about 2 seconds of holding the elephant in the check out line to make me fall in love with him.  Later on he adopted a nazar boncuk earring and a bracelet collar.  Now we are inseparable.

So if you were wondering, that’s where peanut came from 🙂

Hillside adventure

Recently we were called by Hala to come out to the koy for a visit with the family.  We were enticed with the promise of sura (a type of food that you will see towards the end of this post), a trip to the family field.  This field is different than the one I told you about before, and it is also a lot more extensive.  Unfortunately, however, it has also been generally abandoned because fewer and fewer members of the family are taking on the challenges of farm life- and are migrating to the city.  Still, the place was beautiful.

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It was raining off and on that day, but that didn’t deter us!  I speak for myself, Anne was pretty put out by the rain and continuously dodged under trees whenever it got heavy.  This resulted in a LOT of mud and slick grass.  However, the nearby brook seemed to appreciate the refreshment.

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While Anne and a cousin hung back and picked fresh rose hip (an ingredient to Anne’s wellness tea), Baba, hubby and I went exploring on the hillside.  Much to our chagrin, there were no fruits left on the trees- a combination of the season coming to an end and also neighbors foraging from our empty fields.  Rude!

Between jumping between cow pies and trying not to fall down a hill, I really had a work out!  those hills that seem so beautiful from far away are really no joke to climb up- especially when the glass is slick!  Fortunately, I made it through our hillside adventure without falling down.

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We came across a well, which had a huge frog floating inside.  I was really intrigued by the depth and width of it, since most wells in the US tend to be much smaller.  I’m still not sure what purpose this well served, since there was a tulumba (water pump) nearby…

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While leaving the well, Baba saw a few ayva (quince) trees, which he went to inspect.  Hubby and I hung back eating kuzu kulagi (lambs ear- a sour tasting leaf that looks kind of like spinach).  I heard a crunch in the woods nearby, and expressed my concern about a fiend being up to no good.

It’s just a bird, don’t worry about it

But it wasn’t a bird. And it was worse than a fiendish neighbor.  It was a wild boar.  And, no joke, it was the size of a donkey.  It crashed through the brush- thankfully in the opposite direction of us.  It looked at first like a dog…but then I though it might have been a bear.  It made it half way up the hill before I was able to shout.

DOMUZ!

I apologize for the lack of picture- I was too busy getting the heck out of there to take one.  Instead, I offer this lovely scene that reminds me of the ending of Gladiator.

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Well, that was enough excitement for me.  On the way out of the field I picked plenty of stray blackberries that didn’t realize summer was over.  We headed back to Hala’s house and waited patiently for our extra special dinner!

Sura is kind of like Thanksgiving turkey…except instead of turkey it is lamb, and instead of stuffing it’s rice.  So I guess it’s nothing like Thanksgiving turkey, except that it is typically served on holidays!  Instead of having this delicacy on bayram we had it now.  Sura is cooked in a large stone oven- which is first heated, the food put inside, then sealed with mud.  Sura usually takes around 10hrs to cook.

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And was it a feast or what?  Our meal started with lentil soup and a side of homemade pickles, which was closely followed by the much anticipated sura!  The meat was so moist and tender I couldn’t believe how much I was enjoying it.  No condiments necessary!  I think it is safe to say I prefer this to turkey any day.

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Even though we were nearly stuffed to bursting, the next course was keskek (a lamb porridge), yogurt noodles, and finally rice pudding for dessert.  You can see what keskek (keshkek) looks like below. It may not be pretty, but it’s good!

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We had a fantastic day and sat with the family until the sun went down, drinking coffee and laughing at jokes that I mostly didn’t understand.  Hey, they fed me though- no complaints here!