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    Istanbul, Turkey

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  1. In Turkey, just as with baklava, these are baked more or less swimming in clarified butter; the excess is poured off after the baking, and then the syrup is added. Just make prior reservations at the cardiac ward when you start. Or make it when you know you'll have lots of people to eat it up so you won't be left with a pile of it calling out to you to take just one more little bite...
  2. Turkish lahmacun and Lahm bi Ajeen, though they may have developed from the same idea, are very different dishes. There are also variations in Turkey; in Urfa they use onions while in Antep they go for garlic and the dough is rolled much thinner. One thing that really is essential for the "right" favor is pepper paste (biber salçası). The best ones are hard to find outside Turkey as they are sold in bulk, bought from villagers who sun-dry them for a much deeper flavor. The Tamek brand sold widely in the States (or sometimes TurTamek, its export incarnation) is useless - watery and flavorless. If you can find TUKAŞ brand, it's quite decent for a canned one. One funny thing about Turkish recipes (the ones printed here) is that they often call for "paste," without specifying whether it is tomato or pepper, leaving it up to the cook whether to use one or the other, or a combination of both. A little tomato paste is good in lahmacun but don't neglect the pepper paste! Many people in Turkey make their own filling and drop it off at the neighborhood bakery, whether they make it into lahmacun, saving the housewife the trouble of preparing her own dough. This is true for other local "filling-on-bread" recipes like pide, etli ekmek, etc.
  3. In Turkish at least, boya is a very general term. You dye cloth with boya. You paint pictures with oil boya. You color foods with food boya. You paint your house with boya. If your hands get stained, they're "boya"ed.
  4. I was in Arkansas in October and saw the advertisements for the Arkansas State Fair. Every year they try to come up with some brand new never-before-deep-fried dish. This year it was deep-fried watermelon. Not sure it's a "great moment" but it's definitely an extreme of some sort....
  5. I made it. Wonderful, even now, when the weather is not exactly hot...
  6. sazji

    Preserved Lemons

    Re the thickening - I think it's actually the result of the pectin in the peel rather than the salt thickening. Salt doesn't thicken like sugar would when its concentrated (think of the Dead Sea or the Great Salt Lake - it's not a lake of viscous goo!) The reason the lemon scent becomes so intense in preserved lemons is that the salt draws the liquids out of the cells. Citrus peel, especially the white part, has lots of pectin in it. So I'd imagine (though I haven't done empirical research) is that if you have a thicker peel with more pith, you might get thicker brine over time. As for using the brine - I'd think it would be wonderful to use in combination with regular salt for brining a chicken or turkey before roasting. Anyone tried it? Thanksgiving is upon us!
  7. Ah, we're talking about the dried limes used so frequently in Iranian cooking? Limoo-ye Omani? I have a giant bag of these things....I had asked a friend going to Iran to bring me some. He brought a kilo. Then my housemate came back from a trip to Iran 2 days later, he brought a kilo too.
  8. My housemate. He loves to cook, and loves to share his cooking, and it seems that he really doesn't have any conception of what spices do, or how much salt is too much (yes it's a matter of taste to a point, but if your mouth gets irritated...). One of his finest creations was his "special" celeriac with olive oil. I'd made a batch of garam masala, and he loved the flavor of it, so why not add a tablespoon or two to the celeriac? I don't know what the best English term would be other than "oblivious to subtleties" in food.
  9. Rhododendron honey, known in Turkish as "crazy honey" (because if you have too much, you can go delerious) is used medicinally here. Note - there are lots of different kinds of rhododendrons, and the one that's the source of "crazy honey" in the Black Sea is R. luteum, the intensely-scented yellow-flowered one that blooms before the leaves. It's usually referred to as an azalea in the US but there's no strict botanical distinction. Evidently some of the Himalayan ones produce a much more dangerous honey. That said, there have been a few deaths in Turkey from eating too much rhododendron honey. So - to the smell. Normally you would have a teaspoonfull of "crazy honey" every morning as a "tonic." I've had up to a tablespoon, and didn't have any ill effects. However, it did make my pee smell like a yellow azalea bush!
  10. sazji

    Lemon Confit

    Several months back I finally got curious as to what all the fuss was about and decided to make preserved lemons. I won't be without them again. Of course there's no real substitute for them in Moroccan dishes, but I've used them in other areas too - a little bit in sauteed winter squash (which I do with onions, olive oil, a little orange juice and orange peel, and sometimes a dash of soy sauce) really wakes up the dish. And I've used extra brine in salad dressings in place of salt. What I've seen is almost every batch comes out a little differently, depending on the kind of lemons and how mature they are. Right now we're getting very young lemons with smooth thin peels. The aroma hasn't quite developed and they aren't as juicy as they'll be down the line. I did make some from them because I was out, but they're not much to write home about them. The best batch for me was from really ripe lemons, but before they had begun to grow too soft. (These "old lemons" are prized here because they give lots of juice, which is fine if you aren't using the peel.) One warning that Paula Wolfert gives is not to touch the brine with your fingers. I had one batch fall on the floor - no lemons dropped out but I lost a lot of the brine. So I added more salt and fresh lemon juice, and evidently got some finger oils or something into my batch - within a day or two it smelled like lemon-scented solvent. The song from the commercial, "We put the lemon in the Tidee-bowl for you" was going through my head! I wonder, has anyone ever tried doing this with limes? I've read of one person doing it and not being that impressed, but as limes are as variable as lemons, it seems like it might be worth a try.
  11. Here in Turkey lots of people do make their own baklava phyllo. But the result is generally known as "home baklava." It's good, sometimes very good, and because it's fresh, it's definitely better than using packaged phyllo and will puff better while cooking. But it won't be like the stuff at Güllüoğlu. (Οr, my personal taste, Köşkeroğlu which ironically is around the back of the same building!) The people who make that train for a long time. The dough is kneaded for a long time, divided into lumps, these are then rolled out to about dinner plate size, dusted with cornstarch and stacked by twos. These are then rolled out again (rolling around the oklava this time), and finally stacked again and rolled a couple more times; switching places between rolls to keep them even. The experts do the final roll with 13 of these (already doubled) sheets. One of the characteristics of expertly rolled baklava dough is that you can easily read a newspaper through it! But learning to make it yourself is still a fun thing, and after a few tries (you'll have your batches that go completely wrong, that split into shreds just as you think you've got it, etc...) you'll have something pretty workable.
  12. Yep, it's used here too, and called "firik," and best known in the Antep and Hatay regions. I'm ashamed to say I've never tried it! Here's a picture of it cooked (similar to Chef Crash's picture) http://www.deryadanlezzetler.com/?p=140
  13. I was just about to make this myself, since I had rather a bumper crop of winter squash this year. Here the one they use is a big gray one with deep ribs and deep orange dense flesh; it's especially popular in Hatay, they sell it in big thin crescents. Crunchy on the outside, almost jellylike on the inside. I wasn't aware you could get a special pickling lime; here they buy quicklime, put it in water and let it "boil" and settle out, then skim off the water to soak whatever is being treated (eggplant, tomatoes, green walnuts, etc.) Yours look really beautiful! Did you buy your pumpkins or grow them? I think the best would be from a really dense-fleshed one, like Kabocha or Hubbard (there's no real difference between a pumpkin and a squash; pumpkins are squash).
  14. It also may be some sort of Sorbus (Mountain Ash) species, some have quite large fruits. Here in Turkey they generally are bletted like medlars - i.e. they are allowed to go overripe and mushy, at which point the astringency disappears.
  15. To me it looks like a "pocket melon." They were once widely grown in Europe for their fragrance and would be carried in pockets of fine ladies who did not bathe very often. It's often grown in SW Turkey and brought into the house to perfume the room. They generally are not very tasty at all.
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