Category Archives: Turkish

Caffeine Confessions

My Friday morning was dragging by yesterday. After a week of meetings on various exciting Penn State community initiatives and reading several academic articles about taking online education global, my enthusiasm and passion were all used up, and I just wanted to go home, sit on the couch, and watch Netflix with Dave. We started watching Orange Is the New Black  on Thursday and are totally addicted now. My longing for him, the couch, and Netflix was so great, in fact, that I decided to go home for an extended lunch. Dave was working from home and agreed to make Turkish zucchini fritters, so here is how I found him when I got there:

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Using our favorite cook book, Sultan’s Kitchen. The fritters were delicious and the episode we watched thrilling. An hour and a half later, it was time to drive back to the office, and I was still as burnt out as in the morning, which wasn’t good since I had two more meetings on the calendar, both of which would require some good energy.

So, desperate as I was, I decided to stop at Starbuck’s. Surely a grande vanilla soy latte isn’t going to matter that much against my pursuit to quit caffeine, I told myself. Before I knew it, I arrived at work, half of the glorious beverage already finished, half of it in hand to bring to my meeting. Holy cow. After three weeks of no coffee at all (I am avoiding it due to its bad effects on the liver and caffeine’s effects on hormonal balance), it really hit me. This was great because I was able to lead the meeting, which lasted more than two hours, pitch ideas that excited everyone, and chat happily about Germany and whatever else. I went back to my desk, breezed through some work, and then had an equally great meeting with my boss. 5 p.m. almost came too soon – I had all this motivation to work through my to-do list.

But sure enough, when it was time to go, the good feeling was wearing off, I had a slight headache, my surroundings were spinning a little bit, and I had a sudden starvation feeling like I always do after ODing on caffeine.

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Help?

I drove home to pick up Dave. We had plans to go to dinner and then to a musical my co-worker was in, The Music Man, performed at the Mt. Nittany Middle School.

We went to to Olde New York, which hilariously enough has that name but serves traditional German food.

I got a glass of Pinot Noir, at this point too dizzy to reason with myself about not wanting to throw alcohol on top of my caffeine condition. And we ordered the baked brie plate as an appetizer. I couldn’t imagine that there was enough food to take away the burning feeling of hunger in my stomach.

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For my main meal, I had a black bean burger with fries. Of course the burning hunger feeling was soon replaced by feeling way too stuffed, thirsty from all the salt, and a little dizzy still. Wow, caffeine, you’ve truly outdone yourself. I’d love to say I learned my lesson, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to forget how much better my afternoon at work was thanks to my Starbucks infusion. Not good. Not good at all.

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Dave got their giant German Schnitzel with Spaetzle and red cabbage – his favorite meal there. Even he got out his phone to document the madness. He finished it all, so we could bond over our post-meal discomfort at least.

Hello, America. Thanks for another over-sized Friday night dinner and subsequent nausea.

We drove over to the middle school and walked around a bit. It was absolutely beautiful outside and we had some time to kill.

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I wish this picture could convey the amazing smell of freshly mowed grass, the sunset view on the mountains all around us, and the feeling of perfect, crisp, late-summer air. But it can’t. So here is me in front of Mt. Nittany.

The show was awesome and lasted almost three hours. When we got back, we were still uncomfortably full and still enamored with the night’s beauty, so we took a midnight walk around the neighborhood.

This morning, I’m back to treating my digestive system the way it wants me to – with organic berries in oatmeal and fresh, organic carrot and celery juice.

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Three-Course Turkish Dinner

After running 6 miles on Sunday morning (first time doing a longer run since my Half Marathon on April 13), I spent most of my day in the kitchen preparing an elaborate Turkish dinner.

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Aren’t my head-band and flowery apron something? Dave was handling the food photography because he got excited to use the tripod and a nicer camera than my iPhone (which I usually use). Anyway, I didn’t know he would put me into 80% of the pictures or I would have chosen to look less ridiculous.

Now to the task at hand: Cook a three-course Turkish dinner for four people in three hours. All three recipes were new to me, but the cookbook Sultan’s Kitchen has been phenomenal so far, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

1. The Appetizer – Grape Leaves Stuffed with Pine Nuts, Currants, and Rice

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Just looking at this has me wanting to make another batch of these beyond-delicious things. It was my first time making vegetarian grape leaves. In the past, I’ve stuffed them with rice and ground beef or lamb. But no longer. The combination of pine nuts and currants with cinnamon, dill, and parsley is out of this world. Sprinkled with lemon-juice, they’re a fresh, tangy summer treat. They could be their own meal and I definitely devoured the left-overs for lunch on Monday. Triple yum!

We served them with some fresh baguette and Raki – an anise flavored liquor that no Turkish meal should be without.

2. The Main Course – Flounder Fillets Stuffed with Pine Nuts, Spinach, and Scallions

Holy moly. Flounder fillets are expensive. The recipe called for 3 lbs., but that would have meant $45, so I decided to get four and divide all the other ingredients in half too. That was a good choice, since we had so much other food, too.

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First, you cook the pine nuts in olive oil until they’re golden brown, then you add garlic, spinach, and scallions and saute the mixture until it has wilted. After letting it cool, you place the desired amount in the center of the fillet and then fold it over, holding it together with a tooth pick.

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Number one and two.

Then, you steam the fillets in a mix of dry white wine, chopped tomato, lemon juice, spices, and dill for eight minutes. When it’s done, you sprinkle it with parsley.

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We served this course with bread and a choice of red and white wine. Don’t you want to take that piece of baguette and make it soak up the delicious sauce? The dish was the perfect mixture of herbs, fish, and a tangy mix of wine, tomato, and a kick of spiciness due to paprika and red cayenne pepper. So good. So so good.

3. The Desert – Rose Water Pudding

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This was a basic pudding made with whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, and cornstarch, but the rose water gave it a very unique flavor. We actually sprinkled these servings with cinnamon before putting them on the table, but were too absorbed into conversation by that time to remember taking pictures.

It was so much fun to try three new recipes and introduce our friends to Turkish cuisine. They seemed to really enjoy everything. Dave and I definitely loved all three dishes, so we’ll definitely make them again. The leftover grape leaves definitely were a special Monday lunch treat.

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Filed under deserts, drinks with dinner, leftovers, recipes, running, seafood, Turkish

Weekend Round-Up

We spent the weekend enjoying the beautiful May weather both in State College and NYC. I don’t have many pictures at all, but will attempt to document the events with words.

Friday night, I worked on expanding my Turkish cooking portfolio. A family friend in Germany has created “Koch Dich Türkisch (cook yourself Turkish),” a website with Turkish recipe videos. He’s been doing this for several years and has built a remarkable following. I finally wanted to cook with one of his videos and chose this one, called “Imam bayildi,” which means “The Imam Fainted.” It’s a traditional eggplant dish. One of the myths about its name is that the Imam’s wife made this for him and he fainted because he learned how much olive oil was in it. Olive oil was very expensive. Another says he fainted simply because it was so tasty.

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Imam Bayildi (serves 2 or 4, depending if you want one or two halves – vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free)

Ingredients:

– 2 large eggplants
– 3 medium onions, diced
– 3 tomatoes (peeled or unpeeled, depending on preference)
– 2 garlic cloves
– 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
– olive oil (amounts can be based on preference)
–  1 tbsp. sugar
– salt and pepper
– a little thyme, finely chopped

Directions:

Halve the eggplant and slice the skin in a zebra pattern. Soak them in saltwater for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the onions and the garlic, as well as the other ingredients. Fry the onions, garlic, and sugar in a large pan. Once they are well-glazed over, add the other ingredients minus the parsley and fry everything for a few more minutes.

When the eggplants have soaked, pat them dry with paper towels. In another frying pan, heat up olive oil. When the oil is ready, place the eggplants face-down into the pan and sear them until the edges are browned. Place the halves into a casserole or baking dish, fill them with the vegetable mix, add parsley on top, and sprinkle them with more olive oil. Then bake them for 35 minutes and enjoy.

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I had to cut the baking time for mine to 20 minutes because I was running late for a girls night with two friends at Gigi’s in State College. We sat on the back patio, drank wine, and enjoyed the view of the mountains until it got dark, we got cold, and we moved to a table inside.

Saturday morning, we tried to sleep in a bit to be well-rested for our trip to NYC. When he wanted to make omelettes for breakfast, Dave realized we only had one egg left, so he came up with this:

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And this:

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Cornbread-stuffed Italian peppers and cornbread muffins. His reasoning was that cornbread was the only thing he could think of that requires only one egg. Pretty brilliant, if you ask me.

We packed up fast for the one-night stay and headed out. Before we left town, we stopped at Wegman’s to get a gift for our hosts and pick up some food for the road.

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I got Kombucha and a salmon roll.

This is where I stopped taking pictures, so forgive me if you are visually inclined.

We visited one of my co-workers who just helped open the Woolrich office in Manhattan a few months ago. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband. We got there around 3:30 p.m., got a tour of their house, and then walked around the neighborhood and the Brooklun Botanical Gardens. The weather was perfect. We also stopped at this amazing juicing bar and I got a kale and pineapple-based creation that can only be described as phenomenal.

We stopped at an authentic Italian pizza place and got takeout pizza and salads. They had three other people over at their house for dinner. We ate, made strawberry-mint ice cream (so good), and played The Settlers of Catan. Have you ever played this game? I just ordered it on Amazon this morning because I liked it so much.

On Sunday morning, Dave and I left their place early and headed to Manhattan on the subway to see the Civil War photography exhibit at the Met. The upper East side was full of runners, bikers, and families on walks. It was nice to be around large amounts of people again. We had some coffee and banana muffins at the cafe and then walked around the exhibit, which was fantastic.

Back in Brooklyn, we had some pizza for lunch and then headed out because we had a Cinco de Mayo party in State College at night. Our route took us across the Manhattan Bridge, through China town, and then put us back into New Jersey via the Holland Tunnel. Driving in China Town was definitely something I do not wish to make a habit. Way too many swarms of tourists not paying attention to traffic lights and too many crazy drivers. But it was worth it because the parking in Brooklyn was free.

We got back to State College shortly before 7 p.m., went to our friends’ house for the barbecue, and then did some grocery shopping to make sure we’re not entirely unprepared for the week. Dave got to sleep in this morning (lucky), but I was back at the office bright and early for the Monday groove. At least I have my second eggplant half saved for lunch today!

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Turkish Zucchini Fritters

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Nothing delights me more than a new Turkish cooking adventure. Okay, maybe not nothing.  But for a Monday evening, this one did pretty well.

This was a real Turkish recipe, so the fact that the fritters tasted like summer and ocean and family didn’t come as a surprise to me. But I’m pretty sure you can just add parsley, paprika, olive oil, and feta to anything and make it taste Turkish. Parsley more than anything, though.

Ingredients:

– 2 zucchinis, grated
– 1 sweet potato (grated) – or use two carrots and achieve the same orange color
– 1 cup whole wheat flour
– 2 eggs
– a bunch of chopped scallions (white parts only)
– a bunch of chopped parley
– a bunch of dill
– 7 oz. crumbled feta cheese
– salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
– Greek yogurt and more chopped scallions for serving
– olive oil for frying

Directions:

After grating the zucchini, put them into a coriander with some salt and squeeze the excess liquid out of them. Switch them over into a big bowl and add all the other ingredients. Mix well.

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As always, I take the most appetizing pictures. Food photography – now there’s a course I should have taken in grad school. But they didn’t offer that. So I blame them.

Next, heat up the oil in the largest frying pan you have. When it’s hot enough, add as many fritters as you can. Just add a loaded tablespoon of “dough” for each one – these should be pretty thin and not too large.

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Fry each side until golden brown. I used two spatulas to flip them just to be safe. Oh, also, I  shook the pan now and then to make sure they were getting enough oil. When you’re done with the first batch, place them on a paper towel and place another one on top to soak up some of the oil. This becomes less necessary as the oil in the pan depletes with every batch.

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These were a big hit. The feta is an amazing addition. I’d say they are a perfect light dinner for a week night, or you could serve them as an appetizer/take them to a potluck. I think they are sure to impress, so what are you waiting for?

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Turkish Poached Sea Bass and Bulgur Pilaf

Oh.My.God. I made the best Turkish meal ever tonight. I found it in my Turkish cook book while browsing for ideas yesterday and it sounded like the right combination of challenging and doable. So I invited two of our friends for Sunday night dinner, shopped for all the ingredients, and started cooking.

My dad is Turkish and I have had many Turkish meals in my life, both on our summer vacations to the Turkish coast and at home in Germany. As a kid, I never appreciated the rich flavors of Turkish foods and hated how many vegetables those meals contained. But, in more recent years, especially since I moved to the U.S. in 2006, I have craved Turkish food pretty much all the time. We always want what we can’t have, I guess.

But, now I can have it! My cookbook, Sultan’s Kitchen, is full of delicious recipes. One time, Dave and I made a three course meal with it for his family in Portland, OR, and it was a great success. And I’ve made stuffed grape leaves several times since. But the sea bass recipe was a new one.

So, without further ado, here is the recipe:

Sea Bass Poached with Herbs and Raki in Parchment 

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches scallions, finely chopped, white parts only (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill (I used jared dill)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 teaspoons paprika (I didn’t have any, so I left it out)
  • 1 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 sea bass filets (total weight about 2 pounds)
  • 4 fresh or dried bay leaves (I used dried)
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced (3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, plus 4 thin lemon slices
  • 1/4 cup virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup raki (anise flavored liqueur) or ouzo (I used Yeni Raki we brought from Germany last summer)

Directions: (copied from Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan, 1998)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper into rectangles large enough to enclose a fillet of fish.

In a bowl, mix the scallions, parsley, dill, mint, paprika, and red pepper. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter. Brush each piece of parchment with the butter and place a fillet in the center of each sheet lengthwise. Place a bay leaf on top of each fillet. Evenly distribute the scallion-and-herb mixture among the parcels. Place the tomatoes, green peppers, and sliced lemon on top. Sprinkle each parcel with 1 tablespoon each of the lemon juice, olive oil, raki, and water. Season with salt and pepper.

Make an envelope out of the parchment by bringing the top and bottom edges of the parchment together in the center over the fillet, and folding them down together (as if you were folding down the top of a lunch bag) to enclose the fish tightly. Twist both ends like a candy wrapper and fold them under the fillet. Moisten the tops of the packages with a little water to help make a tight seal. Place the packages on a baking tray and bake them for about 25 minutes.

To serve, open the packages halfway (be careful of the steam) and place on package on each plate.

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Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are some fun pictures from the cooking process.

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Chopping scallions and parsley to get the show on the road. Turkish cooking always seems to start with chopping – lots of chopping. Parsley, mint, dill, coriander, you name it.

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Chopping Italian peppers while the tomatoes were soaking in hot water to make them easier to peel.

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Peeling tomatoes is another thing most Turkish recipes call for. It’s really easy after soaking them though – the skin comes off by just pulling at it.

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Then I seeded them by scooping out the insides with a small spoon.

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Here are all the chopped up goodies mixed together in a bowl.

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Next, I cut up the parchment paper in rectangles and spread hot butter on each piece.

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Here are the sea bass fillets loaded in all their glory. My mouth started watering at this point. The herbs all smelled heavenly.

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One fillet after I sprinkled it with lemon juice, olive oil, raki, and water – all ready to be wrapped up in parchment paper.

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The four fillets, ready for the oven.

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Aaaaand finally, the opened sea bass package and the bulgur pilaf (we made the pilaf with tomatoes, onions, and Italian sweet peppers, plus some parsley).

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We all decided to take the fish out of the packages, which allowed the liquids to spread on the plate. We used some bread to soak it up, and it added some great flavor to the already delicious, nutty bulgur. Naturally, we had Raki with our meal (a third of a glass of Raki and two thirds of a glass of water for the milky complexion and some good anise flavor).

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Desert was red wine cream (a German desert from the box – red wine, whipping cream, and a powder mix – which my mom tends to make on holidays) and some actual red wine. I had this sitting in my cabinet since we saw my parents in Oregon for the holidays, and today seemed as good a time as any to make it. Plus, this made our dinner half Turkish, half German – much like me.

We ended the evening watching our travel video from our trip to Turkey last summer – a nice way to demonstrate to our friends that life giveth and life taketh away, although they were good sports and said it was very interesting. Ah, we’re turning into old people that want to show their photo albums to whoever is lured into their home by the promise of a good dinner. Sigh.

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