|fun with seagulls
That’s what it’s all about, right? Gathering together, drinking wine, preparing dishes side by side, sharing stories. Making connections and building relationships through something that we all love and need, food. No matter where you live or who you are, food is bound to be a common tie, a place to begin and to continue to build lasting friendships. This is what has happened for us here in Turkey. Or should I say Turkiye, as my new friend Demet says, because “turkey is a bird, not a country”. In the beginning of our week here, I never imagined that we would spend our last few days in the company of such like minded, fun, kind and hospitable people, but I am writing this post from the 15thfloor of an apartment building in the Asian side of Istanbul, far above the rumble of traffic and nowhere near the touristy avenues of Sultanahmet. I feel so comfortable, and so lucky to have met these lovely people that have opened up their hearts and home to us so quickly. They have made our visit so much more memorable than it ever could have been otherwise, and have ensured that there will be a return visit in the future.
Meet Ilke and Tuğçe, our hosts. We all met by chance on the shuttle bus to Capadoccia, which at least in the snowy wintertime is a destination not only for tourists but for young Turkish couples at well. Between the stunning landscape, fascinating history and multiple vineyards, there is no lack of fun to be had in this area. An immediate connection followed by a lovely restaurant dinner helped to solidify a blossoming friendship, and upon our return to Istanbul we found ourselves not stashed back in a hotel for our remaining two days but scooped up by Ilke, fed by Tuğçe (friends call her Tete), and entertained with a fun day of wandering about Istanbul. The other two we met with them joined us later in the evening as food and wine were flowing, at a mini-party held in our honor. We are blessed, are we not?
|dolmas for sale
Highlights of this day include: riding a ferry boat on the Bosphoros and tossing bits of bread to seagulls flying behind the boat, and eating fresh dolmas and olives bought in the market. And getting to know our new friends.
I have been learning a lot about Turkish cuisine. Not being vegetarian themselves, our dinner party was something of a novelty to our hosts as well as to us, but with such rich and diverse dishes, I don’t think that anyone missed the lack of meat on the table, and there was much conversation of how fresh and healthy the fare was, how they should eat this way more often, how delicious and satisfying vegetarian food can actually be. (This is something we are well aware of, and I’m always delighted to see others come to this conclusion as well.)
I find Turkish food, which is fresh and delicious, to be rich and filling as well. I think its all the olive oil, cheese and yogurt that fill me up before I can go back for seconds or thirds. The wide variety of dishes on offer at most meals might also account for this; I counted seven offerings, not including dessert. The menu for our dinner party included two soups, an array of mezes (small dishes), and a variety of local pastries for dessert. Ilke had asked his mother to prepare some dishes for our feast: a yogurt, rice and mint soup as well as the ubiquitous lentil soup that I have quickly come to love here, although this homemade version certainly took the cake. She also prepared delectable zucchini croquettes made with egg, dill, flour and onion and a cold meze salad of boiled and seasoned vegetables: celeriac, carrots, and onions. Tuğçe made the rest (with a small amount of assistance from me): Zucchini (Kabak), and carrots with yogurt (Yaourtlu Havuç). There was also a delicious, fresh potato salad with dill, olive oil, and lemon juice. My favorite dessert offering was a buttery pastry stuffed with sweetened tahini, which was definitely not vegan or gluten free, but absolutely delicious.
It is going to take me some time to archive recipes for all the dishes I am learning about here, but I’ll start with a couple of the mezes that we had at dinner just to whet your appetite, and go from there. I hope you can get together with friends, and have your own veggie voyager style Turkish spread of mezes, wine and sweets.
- 2 medium sized onions, chopped
- 4 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
- 2 TBS tomato paste
- olive oil
- ½ cup water
Generous pinches of
- Turkish saffron (or a small pinch of regular saffron)
- dried mint
red pepper flakes
In a pan, heat a small amount of olive oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the zucchini and spices and cook for a few minutes. Add the tomato paste and water, stir to combine. Cook until zucchini is soft, season to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with more red pepper flakes.
Yaourtlu Havuç (carrots with yogurt)
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 large carrots, sliced thin
- ½ cup thick yogurt
- Olive oil
- Red pepper flakes
- Dried mint
In a pan, heat a small amount of olive oil and sauté the garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the carrots and sauté until soft. Remove from heat and add yogurt. Salt to taste. Stir to combine and place in a serving dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle the top with red pepper flakes and dried mint.