It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these Turkey lessons posts… So I thought I’d bring yall some tips and tricks that I’ve picked up since I’ve gotten here that you can use in the kitchen. The kitchen is my second home, and often where I feel most comfortable. Making the transition from the US to Turkey was actually really hard for me when it came to cooking, as you probably saw in past posts. The salt wasn’t as salty. Propane heats differently than electric. Spices here taste a bit different.
But with the struggles came little “hacks” that can be used internationally!
I wish I knew these when I was still in the US…
Olive oil as an air-tight lid
Did you know that a thin layer of olive oil can make your pastes and cheeses (like ricotta) stretch for very near eternity? Since oil seals out air, it can keep mold and spoilage bacteria from growing at refrigerator temperatures. However, that doesn’t mean you can leave a layer on and let it sit in your fridge untouched for a millenia. Anaerobic (not needing air) organisms can still grow, meaning it’s important to still use your product and break that seal every now and again.
For example, I buy huge cans of tomato paste (that’s just how they come here… And they also have no salt here either!!) and it’ll grow mold in a few weeks. Yeah, I use it every two or three days, but there’s like 5 cups in that can and I use max 1tbsp at a time. Using oil as a seal is great in this case. Lor is another place I use this trick (check out my Turkish cheese post for details).
Putting spices and garlic last
Whenever I look at recipes I usually see people sautéing onion and garlic together at the beginning of a recipe. But did you know if you throw in that garlic last, you get a much stronger flavor? The punch of garlic can cook out of your food, so what I’ve seen (and do) is to grate your garlic (or mash in a mortar) directly into the pan, turn off the heat, and cover. The residual heat will make the garlic cook to softness without losing the flavor. Also add your spices towards the end so they keep their strength!
Sugar and tomatoes
Where you have tomatoes (particularly konserve or canned tomstoes), you have a bit of sourness. Add a sprinkle of sugar to cut it down. Also, as my mother in law says, wherever you see tomatoes and olive oil cooked together (without meat), and some sugar to bring the dish to the next level.
Dry your lemon rind.
Squeezed the hell out of your lemon? Wait, don’t toss the rind! Leave it in the refrigerator or a cool dry place to let it dry out. The beauty (and medicinal properties ) of a lemon is in the oil trapped in the rind. Dried lemon is great to add to tea. If you don’t want to dry it, you can also use the leftover rind to shine your pots and remove those multi colored water stains.
Olive oil+lemon+garlic= God’s dressing
When you’re staring down the barrel of dinner and you have no idea what to do- you can boil/steam (or sometimes fry) ANY VEGETABLE and dress it with this combo and have a successful dish. Cauliflower? Yes. Broccoli? Yes. Celery? Yes. Whatever börülce is in English? Yes. Squash? Fried, but still yes. Potatoes? Yes. Accommodate your resident vegan/vegetarian when they show up for a visit (yes, you. You know who you are! ). Plus, garlic. Do you even need a reason?!
When in doubt, stew it out.
You saw this on my last recipe post. Before I learned the great secret of sulu (stewed) everything, I would struggle to plan for dinner. What do I need to buy? Oh no I forgot something! I don’t have time for that… Never fear. Stewing suits all veggies and you have only a few ingredients. Onions, peppers, oil, tomato paste, your veg and spices of choice. I like a little tomato and carrot too, but if you’re hurting you don’t even have to do that. Eggplant? Stew it. Potatoes? Stew it. Peas? Stew it. Green beans? Stew it. Okra? Do you even have to ask?… And if you are feeling fancy, add a little meat. Never worry about dinner again.
Don’t dump the water!
Noodle water, dolma water, hell, even whey from making cheese or yogurt can ALL be used to make soup. Never waste cups of water/juice again! You get the benefits from starch, oil, and/or flavorings (depending on what you’re using) to make a soup that recycles every bit of waste from your kitchen. And it tastes even better than using plain water in your soup recipe! While you are at it, recycle that leftover rice that no one is eating in soup as well!
Do you have any kitchen tips/tricks/hacks that you want to share? Leave them in the comments below!