Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Yes, I Can Cook a Turkish Meal!

This past June, my friend Kim and I visited Istanbul.  We were going to England to take a class and we always try to tack an extra week on to that trip and go somewhere we have never been.  While in Istanbul we saw amazing historical sites, got a taste of the interesting culture, and did a LOT of shopping!  One of the most interesting things Kim’s arranged for us to do was to take a cooking class. 
At the class we were going to be taught how to make an authentic Turkish meal.  I am game for pretty much anything Kim suggests and I was really looking forward to this.  Kim has blogged about the actual class and you can read about it and see the pictures on her blog here.

As Paul Harvey used to say; “and now the rest of the story…”

I have been looking forward to share what I learned in this class with my family.  We get together every Sunday night for a family dinner.  I usually plan VERY easy meals because Sunday’s are so busy and there are around 18-20 of us each week for the dinner.  But I really wanted to prepare this Turkish meal for them.  First, to practice what I had learned and second, for them to get a small taste of what we had experienced in Istanbul. 

In preparing for the meal, I learned that it was easier to prepare it when there were 10 of us acting as a prep team compared to just me.  I also learned that ground lamb is VERY expensive! 

Anyway, I did most of the prep work on Saturday as three of the recipes stated that the food tasted better the next day.  So on Saturday I began by making the Imam Bayildi (eggplant braised in olive oil with onion and tomatoes), Sekerpare (semolina sponge cakes with hazelnuts) and the soup, Ezogelin Corbasi which is a red lentil and bulgur soup with dried mint and chili pepper.  I also prepared the Etli yaprak dolmasi, which is a beef and lamb meat mixture with rice and spices rolled up in grape leaves. 
I refrigerated it and waited to cook it on Sunday afternoon.  So the only thing I really prepared on Sunday was the second course which was the kabak mucveri; zucchini patties with herbs and cheese.  This I had to do at the last minute as it was fried and serve hot from the pan.  I did grate up the zucchini early in the day so the mixture took less than 5 minutes to prepare. 
The family came at the usual time of 5:30, I first had all the parents give the younger kids who I knew would not be adventurous, a plate of chicken nuggets and grapes that I had baked for them.

The unadventurous group
Then I had them start with the first course, the Ezogelin Corbasi soup with flat bread.  I should have warned them not to fill up too much on the soup as there would be four more courses but I forgot.  Some liked it so much they went back for a second helping. 
The soup was a hit all around including with some of the older grandkids.  The second course was then served, which was the Kabak mucveri served with garlic yogurt. 
Again, it was a hit with everyone, but I forgot to remind them that there were still three courses left.  Then, I served the Imam Bayildi.  This, they were a bit wary of.  I promised them that I myself had been skeptical. 

I have never liked eggplant and I have tried it several different ways, but this way I had loved it!  The recipe explains that the name literally means “Imam fainted with joy” because that is what happened when he tasted it for the first time.  So they tried it.  Most of them liked it…somewhat, but probably would never want to have it again.  I couldn’t get any of the grandkids to even try this one.  Oh well, you can’t win them all, and this was the one I was expecting them to not to like, but I thought it was good! 
We quickly moved on to the main course and this was where they realized they shouldn’t have filled up on courses one and two.  The Etli yaprak dolmasi (dolma’s for short) were perfect. 
Not the best picture, but I had assigned the potography to someone else, but you get the idea. 
They had been cooking while all the rest was going on.  Some of the adults (ummm…David) didn’t want to eat them in the grape leaves like they were suppose to, but everyone really liked them.  They had them with the tomatoes and with the garlic yogurt left over from the kabak mucveri.  Because they were so full, I really had a lot of dolma’s left over but I felt good that so far they liked 3 of the 4 dishes I had prepared. 

For dessert we had the Sekerpare, which everyone loved, even the grandkids who didn’t try any other Turkish course. I also had purchased some pistachio baklava from the international store in Tempe AZ, called Haji Baba’s.  It was a great store and had many foods and food products from all over the Mediterranean and Middle East.  Baklava was sold everywhere so I felt authentic having it also.  As a bonus, I opened a box of apple tea that I had purchased in Istanbul and brought home and everyone that tried it loved it!

So I completed my task.  I was able to prepare all the dishes we learned to make in the class, and the family liked almost all of it!  I felt it was a success.  I was able to freeze the extra dolma’s for future meals.  If you would like a copy of these great recipes, leave your email and I will send them to you.  AND if you are ever in Istanbul, try taking a class at Cooking Alaturka.  It was a fun experience.  Thank you to the owner, Eveline, and her chef Feyzi.  They were great instructors!  The entire evening brought back happy memories of Istanbul for me. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Words with friends 

OK I have a huge complaint!  I love playing Scrabble.  It is my all time favorite game.  I don’t always win, but I love words!  Hearing words, learning new words and reading words!  As Hamlet said…”words, words, words…” (a2s2).  So when I got a Kindle, I was thrilled to find a Scrabble game on it that I could play with the computer.  I hate to brag but my winning percentage is 90% against the computer.  But what I want to talk about is an app I have on my phone called “words with friends”. 
“Words with Friends” is much like Scrabble.  The board is configured differently, and some of the acceptable words are different from Scrabble but that is about the only 2 differences.  Right now I have 6 games with different friends and family going on.  I love it!!!  However…
I recently found out that a certain person I was playing with was using a dictionary!  How unfair is that????  He…I mean “they” didn’t feel this was cheating!  How I caught h…them was, the words that h…they were playing were words I had never seen or heard of!   Words like:  gooral (can’t even find this one on, but it means the same as goral: which is a type of goat antelope in the Himalayas), and yclept (verb, a past participle of clepe). 

When that second word came up I asked h…them what it meant and he said he didn’t know that he had just found it in the dictionary!  I was shocked!  This is a highly educated person who has played Scrabble with me many times and h…they insisted it wasn’t against the “words with friends” rules.  He even found their rules on line and emailed the link to me to prove it.  Well he was right, it wasn’t in the rules BUT, anyone would know that if you are using a dictionary, it is unfair…right?  I refused to finish the game until they promised to stop.  Otherwise, I would just go back to playing with the computer on my Kindle! 

Now did I overreact?  I don’t think so but they felt I had.  I want to see what you all think.  Even if you haven’t played it before, what do you think? If you say “yes” ,  I will know you are one of those who are cheating and using dictionaries against their opponents!  So either way you lose!