I once created a cooking class, called 'Zen in the Kitchen'. Then wrote a book called the same. Then started the group with that name and the blog came after. All this happened in Turkish. Now is the time for the English version of it. Let's see what will cook here!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Homemade jam, for spring breakfasts

What is better than homemade jam? Homemade jam on homemade bread. Or homemade cake. I'm serious. And you know I'm serious.

The story began last week. I had a guest from Canada. We had no jam at home. But I had little time to make this easy, fragrant jam. (I call it jam but you may prefer to say jelly.) And yes, I had the ingredients. Two handfuls strawberries, two apples. That was enough for a jar of this lovely creation. I cut the green parts of strawberries, I peeled the apples and diced them. I wanted extra fragrance, something I used to do: Few cloves and a pinch of nutmeg would do it. And it did. I added 5 tablespoons of sugar. This was enough for me. If you prefer it sweeter, add some more. I covered the pot, boiled the jam, lowered heat and uncover. I cooked it for 10 minutes, not more. For the texture, I mashed the ingredients with a potato masher. And there it was, my fragrant little jam. I discarded the cloves and put the jam in a jar. And that was the end of the jam story.

What then? Then one day I wanted something sweet with my afternoon tea. Luckily -these days I'm the luckiest one since there is always cake at home which I bake once a week- I had my sugarless banana and peanut cake in the fridge. Yes, I didn't add any sugar. The sweetness comes from the bananas and the dried figs came as a gift from a friend. There it was, few slices of cake, few spoonfuls of jam and there I was, melted in the moment...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sea samphire

"As fall approaches and the rains begin to bring the parched landscape back to life, wild greens gradually begin to appear in the markets of Bodrum. It takes a bit of knowledge to fully perceive the variety of greens, because the piles of greens on the tables, which seem fairly uniform at first glance, actually contain many different herbs. Collected by village women from gardens, fields, plains and mountains, they are priced according to their availability and where they were collected." These are the beginning sentences of my article called "Wild Greens Popular in Bodrum". As I boiled sea samphire this afternoon, I was thinking of my Bodrum days. The months I lived happily in the beautiful Bodrum, a Turkish coastal town. In those years (1987-9), Bodrum people didn't know much about sea samphire. It was known by Ayvalık people though. So I wrote these sentences: "The real season for deniz börülcesi or samphire is spring; although it is available in the autumn, the most tender shoots are available in spring and summer, and I attribute its appearance in November in Bodrum to lack of knowledge among the venders. It is interesting that while samphire is very popular along the strip of coast from Ayvalık to İzmir, in Bodrum there were people who didn’t know what was three or four years ago. When I asked the vendors what to do with it, how to cook it, they didn’t know. At that time it was sold at only a few tables in the market. They had seen someone collecting it, and collected it themselves from the seasides to make some money. But in Ayvalık, eyes shine at the mention of samphire, and they can give you a host of recipes for it. Samphire is boiled whole and drained. Then the central hard stringy part is pulled out, and it is served with a yogurt sauce, or with olive oil, lemon and garlic."
This time, I will serve it with a garlic tomato sauce I just made with the pink tomatoes I froze last fall. May be I'll add some yogurt, which I believe enhances the taste of this brilliant green. (This article is translated by my friend Bob. Thanks Bob, for the wonderful job you did with this and all the articles at the web site.)