Season of Salad

While summer is usually when you’re looking for something cool and refreshing like salad, most greens flourish in the winter months. 

 I’m a huge lover of salad.  All salad. Beet salad, bean salad, potato salad, cease salad, dinner salad, chicken salad…  Come at me bro.  One thing I had never tried before coming to Turkey, however, was boiled celery salad. 

And was I missing out! 

What is actually found in Turkey is celeriac, a type of celery grown for it’s root rather than the stalks (the latter being the one we know and love in the US).  There is a slight taste difference (in that the celeriac has a stronger flavor) and I think I like celeriac better. 

Much more interesting! Because: salad! 


Ingredients

1 celery root/stalks, chopped 

1 carrot, chopped

4 cloves garlic, grated 

Salt to taste

Olive oil to taste

Lemon juice to taste 

Preparation

1. Boil the chopped celery root and stalks (or just the leftover stalks if you need the root for something else) and chopped carrot together.  Boil until soft. 

2. Drain the water (which can be reserved for soup if you like). Let the celery and carrot cool in a bowl/on a plate. 

3. Grate your garlic onto the boiled veggies.  Don’t limit yourself.  The only thing better than 4 cloves of garlic is 5 cloves of garlic. Add olive oil, lemon juice (from a lemon! That preserved stuff is gross), and salt. 

4. Mix well and serve luke warm or cold. 

Afiyet olsun! 

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A Winter in Review (2015)

As those of you who’ve been with me for a while already know, these last few months have constituted my first winter in Turkey!  I was very excited to see what the cold months were like (since my previous Turkey experience had been a summer trip in 2011).  Now that the temperatures are suitably warm (mid 70s/low 80s) I feel that it is an appropriate time to summarize my thoughts on winters in Turkey.

Let me start by saying… Winter isn’t very Turkish in my opinion.

Uh, how can a country be anything other than what it is?

Well,  like I said before… My first (and at the time, only) experience in Turkey before had been during the summer.  For that reason,  Turkey translated to:
The smell of the ocean
Watermelon and white cheese
Late nights spent with family/friends
Picnics and day trips
Midye and mangal
Windows and balcony doors open wide
Snatching figs off trees when no one is looking

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And of course, none of these things happen during the winter.  It’s simply too cold.  I couldn’t even pick up the ocean smell from the window until the weather warmed up recently.  However, there are other winter things that are unique to Turkey. Honestly, it’s kind of a mixed bag.

First off, here in Izmir, we only saw a flurry of snow twice.  Nothing that lasted longer than five minutes though.  Sure,  it snowed in the mountains and stuff, but nothing I was able to enjoy.  It’s kind of ironic, actually.  The thing I love most about Turkish summers (a lack of rain), translates to a lack of something I would have liked to see (snow).

But even without the snow,  it got pretty chilly!  With a lack of central heating,  we were limited to the soba (coal furnace).  I’m pretty sure I shared that with you guys earlier.  While the toasty warm room was a delight, the freeze-your-buns-off temperature in the rest of the house (including our bedroom and the bathroom) made daily life a bit uncomfortable. Hello two layers of long-johns under sweatpants.  We didn’t go anywhere or do much of anything because it was so cold (and my in laws kept getting sick). It’s just not the season for activity.

Eating new things was fun! I enjoyed roasting chestnuts on the top of the soba.  Greens like spinach and roots like celeriac were plentiful and I enjoy them immensely.  But there’s nothing that compares to summer foods like roasted eggplant and fresh green beans…

So… I think it’s fair to say that winter is not my favorite season (but it never was, anyway).  It’s nice to not sweat your brains out, but you miss out on so many fun things when the weather is too cold!

Helloooo spring/summer!! I’m ready for you!

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Ayva: Winter’s Surprise!

 And here I thought the fruit season had finished…

  Have you ever had quince?  If you are from the south eastern US, you probably haven’t.  It’s called ayva in Turkey, and it’s season is the fall/winter.  Four years ago I stared longingly at the ayva tree in our garden, desiring to try its fruits.  However, since we only stayed for the summer, it wasn’t my nasip at the time.

  But now, now it’s time!

quince on a white background
stolen from google 🙂

Ayva surprised me with how astringent it is, nearly sucking the moisture right out of my mouth.  I like it…but I love it as a jam!  Another sign of the change in season, ayva reçel is undoubtedly boiling on the stove of many Turks right now.  Spiced with cinnamon and (sometimes) clove, this jam reminds me of the US fall flavors I’ve been looking for.  This jam is particularly easy in that the seeds produce all of the gelatinous qualities you would normally need pectin for!

quincejam

Ingredients

5-6 quince, peeled, cored, and grated

water

approx. 5c of sugar

1 stick cinnamon

1 tsp clove (optional)

quince seeds

Preparation

1. Prepare a small pouch from a cheese cloth, old scarf, or another fine fabric- and place the quince seeds inside.

2. Put the quince in a pot with the seed pouch, covering them with water. Boil until the water is reduced by approx. half and the fruit is soft.

3. Add the sugar to the mix and melt it in.  Add the spices.

4.  Allow the mixture to simmer until it turns pink.  The concoction will still be liquidy.

5. Pour into glass jars hot, allowing them to cool with their tops off.   Once cooled, it will solidify.

AFIYET OLSUN!

From farm to fork

One thing I really love about Turkey, is that the process of obtaining food is rather direct compared to the US food system.  Farmers markets are gaining popularity in America, but they are still not considered the norm.  However, going to the pazar to purchase your veggies and fruits is quite common in Turkey.  For this reason you get fresher, more tasty produce, as I talked about before.  However, the issue of seasonality does come into play.  For that reason, my mother-in-law (whom I shall call anne, the turkish word for mom) has been teaching me methods and techniques in order to conserve the summer’s bounty for winter.

DSCN2788

For example,  I spent one entire afternoon stringing up peppers and eggplants to dry outside in the Mediterranean sun.  While I’m not sure what the peppers will be used for, I am familiar with the hollowed out eggplant shell, which will become dolma (spiced rice stuffed veggie) in the winter.  I also helped with making tomato sauce, and will soon learn the art of making tomato paste and tarhana (a specialty soup, made and dried for the winter).

I hope to have some recipes and instructions for you soon, inshallah!

Happy (maybe?) New Year!

I know I am a little late for the well wishes, but I have been thoroughly enjoying my holiday.  By enjoying, I mean laying in bed, using my new coffee maker to get me out of it, then baking and cooking all the day long.  It is so sad that this wonderful vacation will soon be ending.  I suppose I can relive it by a quick recap.

We drove from sun up till sun down (literally!) two weeks ago to visit my family in the best state there is.  I really did miss it!  What a difference you can see though, when driving north.  From lush green grass that enjoys the belated winter to dead white grass and stark naked trees!  Ironically it was gloomy and gray our first few days there, but that’s ok!  We stayed for Christmas and it was great spending time with my grandparents, mom, and brother.  Incase you were wondering, I got everything I wanted for christmas ;). We left and headed south on Dec 30 and actually got back earlier than I anticipated, despite the heavier traffic (I think it was my strategic speeding). We brought in the New Year by my husband waking me up twice in a ten minute time span to give me my New Years kiss.  I am getting old!!

For christmas I received a baking stone from my mom, and I must suggest everyone invest.  It made a huge difference for the frozen pizza we bought the day we returned (poor broke us).  Also, my husband commented that it made my fresh baked french bread better, but I may have been jadeed on that because the bread went flat when I tried to pick it up and put it on the preheated stone…I bet it will make pita bread delicious!

Also, my brother bought me some fancy-schmancy markers that are supposed to be similar to copic (these are called spectrum noir).  I will post my first attempt at using those bad boys separately.

In other news,  on this gloomy, rainy, horrendous day that should only be spent under a blanket, I must drag myself to the University to sign my letter of assignment.  Basically, it is stating that I understand my scholarship and will stay here and do my TA work fror the semester (or they can make me pay back the money).  I find it very frustrating that my advisor got a hold of these letters the day I left for vacation. Coincidence? Probably.  I need to go to the office and fix an error in my schedule before tomorrow anyway.  The new semester starts on the 6th and I am quite anxious…