Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Cooking like a Californian in Turkey

It's been challenging finding a good rhythm for cooking every night here in Turkey. Both our apartments so far have just had electric hot plates for stoves and two small pans. And the grocery stores seem so specific. Imagine if an American market only sold everything you needed for a 4th of July BBQ: hamburgers, hot dogs, buns, potatoes, mayonnaise, marshmallows, graham crackers. I feel like the stores in Turkey are like that, but I don't know the recipes that fit everything together. Do the graham crackers go with the hot dogs?
I had a bit of a breakthrough today when I stopped a beautiful old store on the walk home selling local, gourmet food.
I wish I knew what half the things they're selling were. I bought an amazing bottle of olive oil and a jar of unfiltered honey for $5.
The olive oil went into making bruschetta with tomatoes, onions, flat leaf parsley, and black olives on grilled slices of a foccacia-like bread. The honey topped slices of pungent goat cheese on the same kind of bread for breakfast. I did it! Rob won't have to eat red lentils with zuccini for the next six weeks!

Anyway, back to the grocery stores here. The first thing you notice is SO much plain yogurt. I have no clue what differentiates about 20 different kinds every small store carries. The brand on the top was super thick, almost like cream cheese. The brand on the bottom is a bit thinner. We have yogurt for breakfast in the morning, topped with muesli. They also sell a variety of herbed yogurts with dill and mint that are very good. A wide variety of cheese brands are sold right next to this - they all seem to be a kind of soft and salty feta.
The stores also sell a wide variety of Sucuk, a type of turkish sausage that tastes like a mix of summer sausage, hot dogs and pepperoni. One authentic way to prepare it is thin slices fried in a pan, which you then crack a couple eggs into.  Most stores don't carry much in the way of meat with butcher shops and fish vendors easy to find.
Sausage and eggs, lentils and herb yogurt...they all taste good wrapped in one of the kinds of thin flatbreads.
Breakfast sauce! Acuka is a pepper, tomato and walnut sauce served as part of a traditional turkish breakfast along with cheese, eggs, sausage, bread, cucumbers, olives, tomatoes and honey. It's really salty and almost Marmite-like.
The olives are delicious and so cheap. They sell black and green varieties in the grocery store and a hundred other kinds in the open markets. Along with olives, there are pickles, dolmas and pickled peppers.
Nuts are also a big section of the market and very inexpensive. This brand sells about 20 varieties including peanuts, pumpkin seeds and these: dried and roasted chickpeas. They're not that tasty but I can't stop eating them.
Just a couple more things round out the average small market here: pasta, beans, rice, lentils, tea, instant coffee, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, a specific type of green chili, onions, parsley, lettuce, green onions, cabbage, grape leaves, oranges, apples, lemons, peach juice and cherry juice. A lot of sweets too: cookies, chocolates (especially with pistachios), ice cream and a lot of pudding.

For an average day's groceries, I spend about $7 at the market on supplies. It will be interesting to see how things change when we cross over to Greece next week!


Anonymous said...

hi :) just to help you a little "yufka" is not thin bread as we do not eat it without actually cooking in an oven to make "borek". "katmer" and "lavas" can be alternatives of thin bread. as for yoghurt, some have "kaymak" which is like a clotted cream on top others don't. ıt is true we have a lot of brands as we eat yoghurt in almost all meals and also use it to make "cacik", "ayran" etc

Anonymous said...

you must want to try this with yufka. it is quiet tasty.

MrsEm said...

Thanks for the tips, Anonymous! I've had borek in a restaurant, but had no idea it tied back to the yufka I bought.