Turkish Cooking with a Mexican View


In my last post I told you all how I fell in love with Turkey: her beauty, history, people and blend of cultures. Well, I also loved the food. Succulent, savory lamb, and roasted and raw vegetables in multiple combinations with every meal. I especially loved how the Turks prepared eggplant, or patlican (pronounced “patlijan”).

So, I bought Greg a book called “Turkish Cookery,” figuring his real gift would be that I’d try out some of the recipes. Today was my first try. I was of course worried. I’ve never cooked anything Turkish before. But man oh man oh man, was it good! At left is a glimpse of the meal we ate today on our Mexican terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The weather here in Mazatlán has been very hot and humid. We took a long sweaty walk along the malecón/boardwalk this morning, and I then spent a couple of hours gardening. So, a cool meal sounded best today. Cucumbers are in season here, so first on today’s Turkish menu was cacik (pronounced jajik), yoghurt with cucumbers.

This dish is similar to Indian raita. I’d call it a cucumber-yoghurt salad, though my boys called it “cucumber soup.” I guess it is sort of like a gazpacho. It was easy-peasy to make and I HIGHLY recommend it on a hot day!

Peel, thinly slice and chop 2 large cukes. Sprinkle them with a bit (1 teaspoon or so) of sea salt. Let them sit. Put 500 grams plain yoghurt in a bowl, and with a whisk whip in about 1 cup of water. Add to the yoghurt mixture the salted cucumbers along with a clove of crushed garlic. Stir, and garnish with chopped fresh mint and dill. You can also drizzle a bit of olive oil on top (I didn’t and it still rocked). Be sure to chill this and eat it cold; the flavors really came forth after a couple of hours in the refrigerator. So refreshing!

The second dish I made was the one I was really craving: patlican salatasi, or eggplant salad. I ate this dish, or adaptations of this dish, quite a few times during my trip. Every time I’d ask the waiter, my meal mates or friends what the dish was called. Everytime they’d tell me “patlican,” “eggplant.” “Yes, I know it’s eggplant. But what is the name of the dish?” No one seemed to know. The photo in the cookbook looked like the dish I was craving, but what would it taste like????

First step was to mix the juice of one lemon with 1/2 cup of olive oil.

Then, just like in Japan, this recipe required that I roast the whole eggplants over an open flame, till the inside becomes tender and the outer skin becomes charred, then hold under cold running water for a few seconds before peeling off the skin. In Japanese cooking I absolutely love eggplant roasted in this fashion, and my taste proves consistent for Turkish cooking as well, evidently. After peeling the roasted eggplants (I roasted 3 big ones), you put them in a bowl and mash them up with a fork. I also used two knives like pastry knives to make sure all the pulp was cut and easy to eat.

Into the mashed roasted eggplant I dumped the oil/lemon juice, added a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and a couple of cloves of minced garlic (the garlic wasn’t called for in the recipe, but hey, we love the stuff). I garnished the plate with sliced tomatoes (the recipe said to also garnish with onion, green pepper and olives), and we ate the roasted eggplant salad with French bread. Mmmmmm! Definitely a hit!

As long as I was roasting on top of the stove (too much work to start the grill, I guess, or maybe I just like that grill to be Greg’s territory), I figured I might as well roast the shrimp we had for lunch as well. After grilling I drizzled these with a bit of sesame oil and a bit of homemade aioli.

What to serve all this in? While in Turkey I bought a few Kütahya bowls, underglazed and handpainted. You can see them in the photo at left, the bowls to the right of my Japanese plates. The Kütahya remind me of our Mexican Talavera, don’t you think? In the same way as Talavera, Kütahya painting varies widely quality-wise (and price-wise!).

Here is a close-up of some of the food. Afiyet olsun!!! (Bon apetit!)

And here is a photo of one of the handsome men who lunched with me, a new convert to the joys of Turkish food 🙂


Turkey Trip: Istanbul and Capadoccia, May 2011

It has been a lifelong dream of mine to travel to Turkey. The home of so many civilizations all in one place, the intersection of European and Asian cultures, the architecture, food, people, handicrafts. Highest on my list were visiting Aya Sofia in Istanbul, and hiking amongst the fairy chimneys of Capadoccia, which I’d first seen in National Geographic as a child.

As luck would have it, two of our Cultural Detective authors decided to conduct a facilitator certification workshop in Istanbul, sponsored by our professional association, SIETAR Europa. And I had the blessed privilege to facilitate the course. It was held in an absolutely beautiful venue called Cezayir, the former Italian trade union building, off Itsiklal Cadessi in Istanbul. We lunched each day in the garden restaurant, and had a view of the Marmara Sea and the Bosphorous that was incredible. The participant group was very talented, experienced, and diverse. We had a terrific time and I believe everyone learned a lot and improved their skills. Click the slideshow below if you’d like to see the Cultural Detective workshop participants and the venue, or keep reading below for more on the sights and sounds of Turkey.

And, fortunately for me, I had two free days in Istanbul before the training, a partial one after, and two full days to tour Capadoccia before returning home. In a place so rich with experiences to savor and places to visit, these five and a half days were only a meze/appetizer, but they were surely an awesomely good one!

I have so very many photos that I felt the best way to show them to you would be in the form of a few slide shows. I have set the slide shows to some traditional Turkish folk music. Please pour yourself a cup of chay/tea or Turkish coffee, or Capadoccian wine, and enjoy!

The slideshow below, includes photos of Istanbul:

  • Galata Tower
  • New Mosque
  • Spice Market/Egyptian Market
  • Train Station/Oriental Express
  • Rüstempasa Mosque
  • Süleyimanye Mosque
  • The Grand Bazaar
  • Basilica Cistern
  • Aya/Haggia Sofia
  • The Blue/Sultan Ahmet Mosque
  • Tünel
  • Itsiklal Street
  • Topkapi Palace and Harem
  • Turkish Handicraft Center
  • Istanbul Handicraft Center
  • Bosphorous Boat Cruise
  • Military Officer College
  • Maiden’s Tower

My trip to Capadoccia included a hot air balloon ride over the region, extensive hiking, and a private tour by automobile that included an underground city and a gorgeous thermal hot spring. The Capadoccia/Kapadokya slide show is below:

  • Hot Air Balloon Tour
  • Göreme Open Air Museum, including Dark Church
  • Anatolia Cave Pension
  • Rose Valley
  • Red Valley
  • Love Valley
  • Pigeon Valley
  • Fairy Chimneys
  • Çevusin
  • Avanos
  • Kaymakli Underground City
  • Uchisar
  • Turasan Winery
  • National Rug Weaving Cooperative
  • Bayramhaci  Hot Spring
  • Göreme Village

We of course live in the land of hand painted tile work, Mexico. With that existing love, it was quite easy for me to absolutely fall in love with the tile work in Turkey. OMG I saw UNBELIEVABLE tiles! Below is a slideshow of some of the tilework.

As you saw above in the Capadoccia slide show, I took a hot air balloon ride. It was an incredible experience. I will post a few videos here if you’d like to take a look. The first one is taking off in the balloon.

The second clip shows the pilot of our balloon as well as a shot of the fire shooting up into the balloon to take us higher. It was awfully warm when that torch was blowing!

The third one is a short clip of the people in our balloon. There were loads of large tour groups, and it seemed that anyone traveling alone or in pairs was kept aside and made into a “group” for the ride. Interestingly, we all ended up being women, and we were from all over: Japan, Singapore, UK and Mexico. We called ourselves the “beautiful girls’ club.” Take a look.

The fourth video clip is of our high-tech landing. The crew, these guys landing us, were all terrific fun. And it was just hysterical to watch them pulling and running, over hill and dale, getting pulled through trees, in their quest to land our balloon.

My final video clip is of me opening a petori kebap for dinner in Göreme with my tour guide and the waiter.

Please let me know what you think! It’s always nice to know someone’s is reading/looking.