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Everything posted by sazji

  1. I'll try any tropical fruit, durian rambutan mangosteen, bring it on. I've eaten grasshoppers and fried mealworms. I liked them. I'm curious how fried spiders and scorpions would be but am put off by the "sklork factor" (i.e. the sound effect for the organ-filled body popping like a hot grape in my mouth). The most revolting meal I ever had was lamb head and feet boiled together with instestines and "tripe pockets" stuffed with rice and sewn shut. I know it's a popular dish in the E. Mediterranean but tripe is the one organ meat I just can't stomach. So to speak. The smell infuesed everything else in the pot (which normally wouldn't have bothered me at all) and seemed to come out of me for 3 days afterwards. Eating the septum of the sheep's head was interesting - like crunchy mutton. I enjoyed pig uterus in a Cambodian restaurant. Ate congee with baked pig's blood, didn't do much for me. It tasted like liver with more iron. I was at a Cambodian celebration with friends, one of whom was one of those special vegetarians who feels the need to announce her vegetarianism at every opportunity. "What does this have in it? I'm vegetarian. This looks interesting...but I'm vegetarian, I can't eat that. If I ate that I'd be sick for a day, I'm vegetarian, I haven't eaten meat for 14 years." Etc. So we came to this dish that looked like some sort of noodles. It was delicious. My friend took some too even though it had some bits of pork in it. "I'll pick them out," she said. As we ate, I looked more closely at the dish; the texture on the "noodles" made me suspect that they were a bit more protein-packed than noodles, and I mentioned this. "No, they're just noodles..." she said. I decided to ask the hostess. She was clearly being evasive. "Oh, you like that one...?" "Yes, what's in it?" "You like that one, I didn't think you like that one..." "I love it. What is it?" "Oh, that one...it's made from pig skin!" The look on my friend's face was priceless, then she said "Oh well, I didn't know so it's okay."
  2. I swear on a stack of bibles that I'm not making this up. I will never try and make Thai curry and wash dishes at the same time, and in moment of almost Alzheimeristic autopilot, add a healthy squirt of dishwashing liquid (apple-scented) to the curry. (But I have to admit that as soon as I did it, and managed luckily to grab the piece of chicken that it came down on and wash it off - I hope - the first thing that came to mind was "Oh Lordy, gotta write send this one in to eGullet right now!")
  3. One other approach to mint - if you live in a place where summers are dry, you can contain mint with driness. I have a big wall in the back yard out of which a spring runs. It keeps a particular area constantly moist; even if the surface looks a bit dry it's always moist farther down. It's also shady there, so I can't grow much else in that area. Mint likes it, so I plant it there. It runs to the point where the soil is drier than its liking, and that's where my path is. So it's dry and also gets foot traffic, and the mint behaves. A strong word perhaps A garden report - I didn't plant the okra in the end, because my squash did so well that there was no room! I've got three - the Marina di Chioggia mentioned above, a French heirloom called Rouge Vif d'Etampes (both C. maxima) and a Japanese C. moschata variety called Futsu. The Rouge Vif d'Etampes is also called "Cinderella" in the US. Had one big one coming on but some creature bit through the stem one night. More on the way though, and unripe winter squash are every bit as good as summe squash. I'm especially looking forward to the Futsu - both for the visual quality of the almost black, ribbed fruits, and the flavor which is reported to resemble hazelnut. I got them in quite late and they lagged a bit but are not making up for lost time and growing a foot or so a day...! It's leaves are also especially beautiful with their symmetrical white mottling. I think I'm becoming a squash addict, if you have the space there is nothing more impressive than really robust squash vines bounding through the garden. They satisfy both the vegetable and ornamental gardener sides of me. We collect flowers every morning and either fry them, or save them for a couple days for a batch of dolma. The favas planted in the fall did great and though I cut a lot of them down as green manure, I still got a couple kilos of beans out of what I allowed to mature. The sugarsnaps also did well, or rather two rows did, the other two hardly came up. Very strange. I still had plenty and they mostly served as snacks while I was weeding. The corn is doing well, not blooming yet but chest-high. I won't get a lot because I didn't have enough space to really go all-out with it but will save seed for next year. The orange amaranth is great and I'll devote a bigger well-manured space to it or another giant form next year. The tomatoes were a problem - I gave the seeds to a friend with a greenhouse to start there. He didn't label them. But everyone I gave the Russian tomato seeds to said they developed very very slowly. From the same friend I got seeds of a local pink one, and it's really productive and the fruits are great, intense and tangy. The "grape" cherry tomatoes are growing well too, though they aren't really heavy croppers and they say they're better in a greenhouse.
  4. All the forms it takes is really interesting. When I lived in Greece in the 1970s, the most common gyros was made from ground meat, with some thin slices between to hold it all together. It was mystery meat but usually good. As far as I know it was usually a mixture of meats but not much lamb. There were also places that did the stacked slices, usually of pork. If Turkey is any model for comparison, the sliced version is older. The ground version was finally banned in Greece because it was such a convenient way to get rid of that bit of questionable meat you couldn't sell otherwise. When I came back to the US, the Gyros thing was just taking off. Some were good, some were awful, what one friend of mine calls "Greek Spam." And it was all ground, so we know which model they took! What really struck me in the US was how they served it. In Greece at the time, if you got gyros (or souvlaki for that matter) you got it wrapped in a pita that was about 4-5 inches wide at the most, with some onions, tomato, a dab of yogurt (not tzatziki), salt and a sprinkling of oregano. Some places added a bit of red pepper, and up north it was more common to add some fried potatoes as it is in Turkey as well. If you were having it for dinner, you'd rarely get just one. Two or even three was the norm. In the US, they basically turned it into a monstrous bread-shelled taco. Full of lettuce (Huh??!), huge amounts of meat, and great globs of this "tadziki" sauce that was made from sour cream, pickles (? I could never quite figure it out) and preservatives. It was huge and came with a fork because there was no way to eat it without one. Also, they seem to be unable to wait for it to cook normally, so many just usually hack it off the roll raw and then fry it on a griddle. On the video included in the article, there is a server doing this. Disgusting! In Greece now, the souvlaki and gyros joints have a big array of gloopy sauces to choose from, and the size has doubled to nearly match the American one. but at least they don't stuff it full of iceberg lettuce.
  5. Since we're all talking about special uses of salt...I had been in Greece for a week and always bring back some Turkish coffee from a really famous old place in Komotini for friends here. I stopped into a restaurant owned by a friend to drop off some, and they were on lunch break and asked if I would make some of the coffee for them. Why not? Plain, medium or sweet? Medium. I set a cup out for one of the cooks, who came and took a sip...then doubled over with his hand over his mouth...I don't have to tell why now do I?
  6. Wow, just when I thought I'd seen all the different ways to approach chelo/pollo and tahdig, along comes Shaya with a new one! I've never heard of leaving it open until the steam starts to come through the rice, but it's so logical! For me, finding that right temperature and cooking time is always a bit variable depending on the pot and the stove. So on my present stove, after a few tries, I've finally found the right settings. I usually err on the side of undercooked tahdig, so each time I up the flame just a bit for the cooking (I aim for around 20-25 minutes total). Generally, for pollo where there is a broth poured over the rice, like in havij pollo, a slightly lower temp is necessary because the sugars from the onions and carrots allow it to burn much more easily. The first time I ever made havij pollo, it came out perfectly for some reason - pure luck. But now I'll definitely try it with the "pot open" technique, and pour the liquid over just before sealing the pan with the towel. Hmm...I think I'll go put that rice on to soak right now!
  7. sazji


    I tasted it at a party given by a Japanese professor; she had it divided neatly into little portions for everyone to taste. I think she was going for the shock factor. I can't say I even noticed the taste much, the smell was not too shocking. But I have to admit the texture did me in; it felt like the slime was growing over the inside of my mouth. They gave it to a poor guy from Pakistan and the look on his face was priceless. What does cooking do to the texture?
  8. Yes, this sounds really good! The only thing I might say is not too heavy on the garlic, and you could also grill a fresh hot pepper or two for it if you like. Pepper paste is really such an essential ingredient for so much Turkish food, but a bit difficult to find in the US - at least the good ones. Here the good pepper paste is sold in bulk, usually bought directly from villagers. Of the canned ones, the only one I've found that is decent is Tukaş brand, which is available online from some places. I used that one in a pinch and was pleasantly surprised.
  9. I haven't made it by myself but have helped. It's not that difficult a dish, but make sure you either grill the eggplants or do them over the gas flame; that smoky flavor is really important. Damla sakız - I've had both sakızlı muhallebi and ice cream. Sometimes they also use it in çörek. I'm not a really good resource on it though cause it's not really my favorite flavor. One thing I will say though is that for the muhallebi, if you use sübye - "rice milk" from rice that has been soaked overnight in water just to the level of the rice, then ground in a blender - the result will be much nicer than if you use rice flour. It's an extra step but well worth it for the texture.
  10. I don't know if it's "authentic" or not but it sounds great I'd sure eat it! Often they will toast the pita a bit before assembling. I've never seen sumak on it since yogurt supplies tartness anyway but why not? To me the biggest thing that makes or breaks an İskender or yoğurtlu kebap is the tomato sauce. Some places - even kind of expensive places - use something that looks and tastes like watered-down tomato paste. The best one I've ever had (God...now I'm going to have to go there again, thanks for reminding me!) is at a place called "Sahre," in Yusufpaşa / Fındıkzade in Istanbul. It had wonderful meat, good yogurt, the most amazing sauce with just the right (for me) balance of flavors and heat. I seem to remember that the sauce had grilled peppers and a bit of a smoky flavor though it might be my food lust bending my recollections...
  11. But not too warm, or you can't grow rhubarb! Of which I am also jealous, because I seem to have lost mine - I moved a year ago and transplanted it. It grew great through last summer but has failed to reappear. Right now my garden has lots of fava beans in bloom, sugar snap peas a few inches high and the rainbow chard from last year is producing like crazy now! Garlic is coming along well too; I use it green. Other than these I tend to try and grow the things I can't normally find in the markets here: Purple potatoes Russian black tomatoes Grape tomatoes (a cherry type) Cilantro (almost completely unknown except in the E. Black Sea region of Turkey) Lime Basil (this is WONDERFUL, you can find seed from several sources) Japanese winter squash - never grown them before but am intrigued by all the descriptions of their "chestnut-like" flavor Trying an Italian winter squash, "Chioggia di Marina" - it's a dark gray warty one. Chinese amaranth - there are wild amaranths here that people do use but the Chinese one with the red blotch on the leaf is really tasty Giant orange amaranth - not sure how the leaves are but the flower heads are said to produce up to a pound of seed each. This is a first-timer too. Some peppers brought from Urumiyeh in N. Iran, said to be the most popular one there, Garlic chives - I'll never be without these again, wonderful! Bitter melon. Ironically they grow them here but as medicine not food. Wide-leaf purslane (available here in every market but it's so nice to have on hand!) Spearmint (ditto) Chocolate mint (a peppermint with chocolaty overtones) Luffa (they say you can eat them when they're young, I never tried but will now!) A white chinese radish said to produce in 28 days. I'm counting! Arugula (the huge Turkish variety) Mizuna Sweet potatoes, if I can get some brought next month! Sweet corn - an old yellow heirloom variety and one called "Inca rainbow" with multicolored kernels. A red popcorn with variegated leaves - almost more of an ornamental than a food plant as the popcorn tends to be a bit tough, but still very flavorful. Okra - because I like to let it get a little bigger and here they pick it when it's an inch long!
  12. Orange-Infused Creme Caramele Serves 6 as Dessert. This is fairly light compared to some versions of creme caremele made with large proportions of cream, but what makes it stand out is the fresh orange flavor. You could do the same on a heaver version of course. When I first tried it, I left the normal vanilla out but later reintroduced it in a reduced amount; it compliments the orange nicely. Ingredients 1/2 c granulated sugar (for the caramel) 3/4 c heavy cream 2-1/2 c Whole Milk 4 eggs, whole 2 egg yolks 1/2 c sugar, to taste 1/2 tsp vanilla extract peel of one orange Preheat oven to 325 F. Place a pan of water into the oven that is 2 inches wider than the baking dish you are using. Avoid using too wide a water pan; it traps heat and the water may start boiling and this will make your creme boil as well, curdling it and ruining the texture. Place a folded tea towel in the water to keep the bottom of the dish from contacting the bottom of the water pan. First, heat the 1/2 c sugar in a heavy pan over medium heat; when it begins to melt reduce heat and keep heating, stirring carefully, until it reaches a medium brown. Some add a bit of water but I find it unnecessary; when it evaporates the sugar hardens up and then has to melt dry anyway. When the sugar reaches the desired darkness, pour into the bottom of a glass baking dish. Mix the cream, milk, eggs, yolks, sugar and vanilla, blend well. The orange can be added in two ways: 1) Easiest: Carefully peel the orange cutting the peel into four sections and remove without bending too much. Then hold the peel over the mixture and squeeze the peel double, squeezing the orange oil directly into the mixture. (Think of the orange-oil-into-the-candle trick...) Work down the peel, bending and squeezing. It's a matter of taste as well as the quality of the orange; if the peel is thick and hard, half the peel might be enough. Later in the season you might have to use the whole thing. 2) Late in the season the oranges are very ripe and the peels are soft, the first method doesn't work. In this case I grate the zest off of one or two pieces of peel, mix it with one cup of the pudding mixture, the strain it back in. Either way, the object is to get the orange flavor without bits of zest that will spoil the smooth texture of the dessert. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and place in the water bath in the oven. Cooking time will vary according to the depth of the pan; remove as soon as set and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before serving. If you have used a shallow dish you can cut around the edge and invert it onto a serving plate. Individual custard cups may be used as well. I like to garnish it with a few curls of orange zest. Keywords: Dessert, Vegetarian, Easy, Pudding ( RG2160 )
  13. Been there many times. So many times in fact that I now refer to that as "my cornbread trick." Lately it has begun to sink in; the mnemonic I use is my mom's trick, leave the potholder on the handle so you are reminded when you turn back to it!
  14. Here's a picture of my friend's mother making saj bread in Silopi, Turkey (about 10 km from the Iraqi border town of Zaho).
  15. Yes, they are for sale by street vendors who like to set up especially around the Galata bridge. They sell a lot of them, and not only to tourists! They seem to do it pretty quickly...I imagine that is quite attractive to Turkish housewives who have spent a couple of hours rolling grape leaves for her family only to watch them get "inhaled" over the course of about five minutes!
  16. I made "Blondies" from Laura Brody's "Basic Baking." I had thought it was a rich chewy butterscotch brownie like my mom used to make...it was sort of dense spongy cakey rubbery. Hmm. I wish I had made any of the amazing things pictured a couple posts back...they all look amazing!
  17. This may be unethical since I've been asked to edit this website...but it's an interesting read, I'm almost sad to change it! http://www.faytonrestaurant.com/en/index.html
  18. For ingredients, most things are not all that exotic, but there are a few really important things; if you can't find them locally, you can order from http://www.bestturkishfood.com/. Some of the things you really should go authentic on are: Pepper and pepper paste. Maraş pepper and isot have really unique flavors that are very different from the flake peppers typically found in the US. And pepper paste is one of those things that are indispensible, without it, it just doesn't taste Turkish. Most of the commercial ones are unfortunately tasteless, but Tukaş brand is quite decent (they carry it). Yufka for böreks. Many cookbooks talk about "phyllo" but Turkish prepared yufka is a very different product from the Greek stuff. It's thicker and softer, almost like a very very thin bread that is undercooked. (Of course the best is to roll your own and it's not as difficult as people think but it does take some time and practice.) Fine bulgur . If you can't find it locally, coarse is not a good substitute. It's used especially in kısır, Turkey's answer to tabbouleh (but really a very different flavor). If I can help with any specific recipes, feel free to drop a line. Have fun! Edited to add: Tripe is no problem as long as it doesn't come from a pig! Here tripe soup is generally made from lamb/sheep tripe. I can't get near it. Lots of Turkish people can't either so ask before you go to the trouble!
  19. Ha, I bet you don't even get past "go" with one like that now!
  20. I'm not sure which thread I love more, this or the "Worst Meal at Someone's Home" thread... In September, I went to Greece for a few weeks to translate for the owner of a musical instrument company who was displaying in the Salonica Trade Fair. Meals were...interesting. They were sweet, lovely people, but coming from a village in east-central Turkey, were very pedantic in their eating habits. And pretty much assumed that the way things were done back home was "the way," period. So we're out at a restaurant, and of course, the first thing that comes up is the "pork spectre." Religious food restrictions are not something to play with of course, they need to be respected. But there are some Turks who seem to think that once you cross over a western border, there will be nothing to eat but vast, endless vats of pork. Even among the non-religious, it's taboo; maybe a bit like Americans and horsemeat. No actual restriction, it's just "not food." I assured them that I wouldn't order any pork dishes. No matter, everything that came to the table - the cheese croquettes, the moussaka, the friggin' tzatziki for chrissake, was met with suspicious pokes, and the question, "there's no pork in this, is there?" By the end of the 2nd day it had become sort of a joke, so when ice cream came after a meal, I said jokingly, "oh, be careful, that's got pork in it" ...and one woman - who isn't even observant - actually spit it out in horror. My bad... (However it seems that the scent of grilling souvlaki all over the place did not go unnoticed...and with the exception of one person, everyone was now not only not avoiding pork but now wanting every dish that had it...) One night we were eating in a place where there were lots of restaurants all together. I'd been translating all day, it was now 11 p.m. and I had a migraine. The boss decided the (bottled) water bottles were too small. "Yaaa, you only get a few glasses out of these, tell the waiter to bring larger ones!" he says. Knowing that there won't be any, I ask the waiter anyway, and he tells me that there is only the one size. When I tell the boss, he says "Allah Allah, but look right over there, the other table has big bottles!" "Yes" I say, "but that's a different restaurant..." "Then tell the waiter to go bring water from there." "They won't do that." "Al-lah Alllaaaah, why are you so stubborn? It doesn't matter, then you can go get water from the kiosk." Finally I just said "you can trust me on this, the waiter is not going to go to the other restaurant to get their water." And he laughed at me like I was some sort of idiot, but there was no way I was going to tell the waiter to go to the other restaurant, or a kiosk, because someon didn't like the size of the bottles! I had to use the bathroom -- when I came back, the food had arrived. I took a bite of fried eggplant and nearly gagged; it had so much salt on it. Boss's son says, "yaa, these Greeks don't put any salt in their food! I can't eat it without salt!" Fine, but there's such a thing as salting what you put on your plate...he'd turned it all into a slat flat...luckily there were a few things that hadn't arrived yet. I have an issue with people who immediately dump salt on everything without even tasting it (and here it's more or less de rigeur for many, even in restaurants that oversalt their dishes anyway), but I draw the line at doing it to everyone's food!
  21. Wow, does that bring back fond memories - mom was in the hospital for 3 weeks, and it was a steady diet of scrambled eggs, boiled hotdogs, soup from a can and sandwiches. Actually we ate lots of things out of cans anyway, but mom did use them in combination, tried new things and there were meals from scratch too. My dad was very good at anything done on the grill though. He was also really good at ordering at McDonald's, and we were pretty happy with that. I think it was the idea of getting to drink ice cream with dinner that did it.
  22. What a perfect analogy; I think you've hit the nail right on the head. As a musician who was drawn to Turkey for the truly intense mood of its various traditional musics, I'm continually disapointed at how the emphasis in music teaching has increasingly been on theory and technique at the expense of actual expression. You have a whole generation of musicians (of course witih exceptions) who can run circles around any of the old masters technically, they can play 100 notes per square centimeter. But what do they play? The musical equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade painting. Folk musicians who have no connection to the folk, folk dancers who've never gone to a village wedding, who've never spent a day in a village. -and cooks who grew up eating out of cans, or if there was actual cooking going on, eating simply to fill their stomachs. In that sort of enviornment, every aspect of food can be touted - how much it costs, prestige of ingredients, exotic origins, unusual combinations - except the basic question, "is it enjoyable?" Another thing that has popped up in this "experiential vacuum" is "nostagia" in food. The mental image of Grandma cooking old favorites is more important than whether the food tasted anything like Grandma ever made. The terms "homemade," "home-style," "country style" come to mind. Sorry but in my part of the country, grandma didn't use 50 different chemical additives. There's even "food populism." There's a place that everyone "knows" makes the "best profiterole in Istanbul." It's crap. Cheap cocoa in the sauce, no flavor, pasty. But people will swear up and down about how wonderful it is, eat two servings. It just shows they have no idea what good chocolate tastes like. It's more important to have eaten it there, than to think about whether it's really good or not. So...a bit more pertinent to the thread - my housemate (who will never read this site thankfully) is known among his friends as a "gourmet" because he is really interested in new and unusual ingredients, trying new things. But in the same way...he really has no feel for what those ingredients do, what sort of effects they have on a dish's flavor, texture. He'll cook eggs with a bunch of interesting ingredients, then put so much salt in it that it's inedible, and be completely unaware of it. His favorite "salad" is red cabbage or celeriac swimming in a soupy mixture of yogurt, mayonnaise, way too much lemon juice and salt (there really is a salad like this and it's good but it's not soup; he has no idea of the proportions, and it doesn't matter). Recently he made celeriac in olive oil, one of my favorite dishes - and at the last minute decided that a heaping teaspoon of chai masala would be just the thing. I almost gagged. It puts me in a hard position because he always wants to share meals, but 90% of the time I can't eat what he makes. It's not about a dish being "so-so" or "a little off on the seasoning" -- I'm not a food snob. It's that lots of them are really vile. (Thankfully not as vile though as the creations of my old Peruvian housemate who made fish head soup, boiled it for 4 hours till it was actually black, then added a handful of wheat germ to make it more nutritious.) That would bring us to the "mm isn't it wonderful" vegans eating a bowl of steamed vegetables and oat hulls with no salt or pepper or any other spicing and going on about how wonderful and naturally delicious it is, and the only reason you don't think so is that your tastes have been perverted by unhealthy food! But let's not go there just now.
  23. In the past I've made quince liqueur, but even after filtering, it comes out cloudy and has to precipitate before it goes beautifully clear. This means that to make it by Christmas, I have to kind of rush it. So this year I'm doing Limoncello. Brownies have become popular in Turkey in recent years but most versions are dry (the prevailing opinion is that brownies should be dry, and can't be eaten without the "sauce"). These are usually made with cheap cocoa to boot. So I also give presents of brownies, with the ulterior motive I admit, to show that they can be a lot better!
  24. I'm making a batch now that uses one 750 gr bottle of everclear and one of vodka. But from what I've read here the amount of lemos to liquid is a bit low, so I'm going to throw some more peel in, and will also splurge and buy a lime (they're expensive here!). What a source this thread is, thanks to everyone for sharing.
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