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!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Steaming hot

I like steaming hot dishes. Especially on cold winter days. Or on days my heart is cold. Even the look of it warms me up. Warms my hands, warms my face, warms my body. Beans are staple food for the natives of the Americas. They have been using this nutritious ingredient in many ways. Then somehow, one day, in one year, beans came to my continent and my ancestors started growing them. Somehow, they became one of the staple foods for the Anatolian villagers. It is easy to grow them. A teacher, from one of the villages of the city Erzincan, in the eastern part of Turkey, told me that while they were planting beans, they were putting a few corn on each bean row. When they both grow, beans are hugging corn, that is nearest them, with love and never leave. This way, they grow together, as sisters and brothers. I like this story, since Native Americans did the same thing. Did my ancestors know that it is done by people of a far, far continent? I doubt it.

Anyways, here is the 'I created it with the ingredients at home' bean dish:
First you soak beans (you choose which one to use. Mine is a local type, tiny when it's dry) in cold water for 7-8 hours. Then boil with clean water, until they're tender. While it's boiling, you can sautee all the ingredients that you want to use. I had chard, leek, onion, garlic and carrot at home, so I used them. I sauteed onions in olive oil for few minutes, then add white parts of the leeks and stems of the chards. Then carrots, green parts of the leeks, chard, garlic and the boiled beans. I like to add cumin seeds when I cook beans. Cumin seeds are good to prevent gas, so it's quite useful to do that. And of course, salt and pepper. That's really it. It took me about 20 minutes to cook this earthy and nutritious meal. Now I have to eat it, before it gets cold.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Roasted chestnuts

“There is probably a smell of roasted chestnuts and other good comfortable things all the time, for we are telling Winter Stories - Ghost Stories, or more shame for us - round the Christmas fire; and we have never stirred, except to draw a little nearer to it” says Charles Dickens, depending on this site. I like to think of it that way. Or may be not. I like the feeling of warm, roasted chestnuts, that are sold on the streets of Istanbul, the city of Nobel price winner Orhan Pamuk. On each corner, on cold winter days, you see a chestnut seller. A guy, young or not, roasts them on small, simple charcoal grill (or whatever you name it). Usually, you pay a lot more than you'd pay for raw chestnuts but hey, that's the beauty of it. It's cold outside, your hands are cold, your heart gets cold and your nose cannot resist the smell of the roasted chestnuts. You pay the money, you get your little paper bag, full of warm, roasted chestnuts and you start whistling your favorite song, between the bites. What a wonderful life, isn't it? I love winter just because of roasted chestnuts. Otherwise, I can live without it...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pumpkin ravioli with a sage hazelnut dressing

It's pumpkin time, isn't it? Halloween is just celebrated, now it's Thanksgiving time. Americans will give their thanks, by eating lots and lots next thursday. Among the dishes, will be a pumpkin pie, as usual. But they won't eat pumpkin ravioli. They won't, but we had it the other day. Not made by me, no no, I'm not that patient. Visiting a famous ravioli and pasta shop some time ago, which is Piemonte in Little Italy, it was impossible not to buy pumpkin-ricotta ravioli. It was an exciting buy, I must say. But then, I had to find a sauce for that. It was the easiest part. I typed 'pumpkin ravioli' and googled. Recipes started pouring from the screen, screaming, try me, try me! I didn't want a heavy sauce, that I knew. One of the recipes were standing there, silently, with an elegant smile. I chose that, from the food network: Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage and Roasted Hazelnuts. I didn't apply the recipe exactly, since I had my pumpkin ravioli already. I found the butter too much, and I didn't have parmesan at home. So I used 1/8th of a stick (approx. 1 tablespoon), I roasted the hazelnuts, I added 6-7 sage leaves to the butter. I had great Asiago cheese, from Buon Italy at Chelsea Market. So I grated some to go with another Italian delicacy. So happened this dish. We liked it. I think this simple sauce can be applied to pasta as well and as a Mediterranean by soul, I should have used olive oil instead.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Roasted peppers for pasta

I love the recipes that arrive as a bonus. So simple, so unforgettable, so appetizing, so unexpected. I love recipes that are created through a question: "What if?" What if I make a pasta sauce with the roasted peppers, that are sitting on the counter? Was my question. It was fall and I was buying kilos of red, sweet peppers each time I go to the farmers' market. I love them roasted. A wonderful addition to already colorful fall breakfasts; with some olive oil, homemade vinegar, sea salt, garlic and thyme (fresh or dried). That time, one of those gorgeous days in Antalya, I washed the peppers, roasted them (in the oven, around 200 -400 Fahrenheit- degrees for about half hour) and left on the counter so that they could cool a bit. I was in a mood for pasta. I looked at the roasted peppers, they looked at me. I said, what if I turn part of these peppers into a sauce. It could be like a basic tomato sauce, with slight differences. I could use heavy cream, if I had some. I only had some labaneh ('labne' in Turkish, a lighter version of cream cheese). The decision is made: Some of the roasted peppers are peeled, cleaned and put in a blender. The pasta is cooked, then garlic is sauteed in a bit of olive oil, then the roasted pepper puree is added, then some labaneh, a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then they became 'one'; pasta, cheese, garlic, peppers. Then I ate a bowl full, with some roasted pinenuts. I loved it so much. I had another bowl. I felt guilty. Oh yes, I did feel guilty but it wasn't my fault. The sauce was so out of this world!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Good old pancake

Who doesn't have memories with pancakes? I do. Like the ones my roommate Heidi used to make, with her dad's recipe. Like the ones we made on the trip to Boston, in our old bus, with the Green Tortoise tour. Like the ones I made for my brother, when he didn't have an oven at home and when he asked for a cake or something sweet. So easy to make, such a great comfort food. Mine have apples and raisins and I used a mixture of flours (wholewheat and regular flour). I cut the apple (just one) in small pieces, I measured a quarter of a cup walnuts and 2 tablespoons raisins. One egg is required and I seperated the white. To the yellow of the egg, I added 3 tablespoons of grape molasses (you can use brown sugar instead), a cup of milk and a little olive oil. I mixed a little salt and 1 teaspoon of baking powder with the sifted flour and added the flour mixture to the batter. Last, I whipped the egg white, until it became like snow and added it too. You know what comes next, raisins, apples and walnuts. When they're all set, you just need to heat a pan, start by dropping a tablespoon of the batter. When it becomes bubbly, turn and cook the other side. If the pan is big, you can cook few of them together. Cook until you go through the whole batter and serve it by itself or with fruit or with jam or with marmelade or with honey or with maple syrup or with whatever you might want to eat with it. I love these simple comfort foods. Especially with a glass of tea, on a cold day...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Shiny golden potatoes

Shiny golden potatoes,
just out of the owen.
They shine, they shine, they shine,
you look, you look, you look.
You can't wait to eat'em,
but you can't take your eyes off'em.
Easy. Take organic potatoes. Scrub them well, under running water.
Cut them in chunks, like the ones on the photo. In a bowl, mix fresh rosemary (cut in small pieces), fresh thyme, salt, freshly ground pepper, paprika, lotsa olive oil (virgin please!) Put baking paper on the tray, dip the potatoes in the mixture, put on the sheet. Heat the oven. 200 celcius (400 fahrenheit) is good enough. They need to be baked at least 30-35 min. Check after half hour. Then serve'em with fish, meat, burgers, veggies, salad, or eat as it is. Too good to be true. Too easy to be true.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pickles pickles

These peppers are from the market. The tuesday market in Antalya. From a very colorful fall market. Incredibly beautiful. You see all colors; purple, red, green, yellow, orange... These are all peppers. They are hot. Extremely hot. Some people eat them, some don't. They make a special pickle with these, with tomatoes. What you do is to buy half a kilo of these peppers. Wash them. Then cut just a little from the bottom or make a little hole with a needle or a knife. You then need lots of tomatoes. Grated tomatoes. At least two kilos, even more. And lots of garlic, 4-5 heads of it. You have to add 3 tablespoons of seasalt. Mix'em well and put in a glass jar. You may want to cover them with celery leaves, to give a nice flavor. You may also add few daphne leaves, for additional flavor. Cover it well and keep it in a cold, dark place. At least for few weeks. Your hot hot pickly pickles are ready to eat. They are ready, are you?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Simple, cheap, tasty

Sometimes the cheapest and the simplest ingredients are all you need, to create a tasty dish. The whole wheat for example, I purchased it from an old villager woman. It cost me less than a dollar per kilo. Onions, garlic, they're always in our pantry right? So all we need is to buy celery, red and green peppers, to make this dish. Whole wheat needs to be soaked in water for at least 4-5 hours. Then you need to boil it, as you boil dried beans. You must know how to sautee onions and vegetables, so I don't need to tell you what to do. I use virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, sautee onions first, then add peppers and celery. Last, I mix all the ingredients and cook for few more minutes. That's it. Yes, I truly believe that to cook a tasty meal, you don't need fancy and expensive ingredients. Usually, it's the opposite, like the life itself. Isn't it so?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A recipe from the Blacksea Region

Blacksea Region of Turkey has a rich culinary history. They use simple ingredients. Simple and seasonal. They use whatever they grow, whatever is available. Mostly corn, beans, kale, wild greens, wild mushrooms and fish, of course homemade butter and cheese as well. The recipe you see here is called 'dible'. It's mostly done with green beans but kale and other greens could be used instead. The other ingredients are oil, rice and onions. Some people add tomatoes as well but I'm taught to make it this way, 'aunty method'. What I do is to saute onions with oliveoil and add the beans. Two onions and a pound of (half a kilo) beans is enough for 3-4 people. After few more minutes of sauteing, I add quarter of a cup of rice, salt and pepper. I add half a cup (a bit more is better actually) hot water and cover the pan. I lower the heat and cook it as I cook rice, until all the water evaporates. In 5-10 minutes, your dible is ready. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

From a plum garden

I'm at a far far land.
This land, almost at the end of the world.
There is a green green garden,
full of plum trees.
Yellow, green, red, purple, small, large, round, long...
They make plum jam with them.
That's it.
And they eat.
When the winter comes,
they add water to some of it.
It becomes a soupy sweet,
to eat with pastries and pastalike dishes.
And when they pick more when they need,
they exchange them with wheat,
or whatever they need at home.
No money is used in that.
Just the plums and the wheat.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Love story

Have you ever fallen in love with a certain type of cheese? Stupid isn't it? Silly... But no. You may. It only takes few moments. You go to a far, far city.
It's called Kars. Then you go to a far, far village. In that village,
there is this guy with blue eyes. A tall guy with a beard. He makes gruyer
cheese as his family have been making for almost 100 years. The big, big
rounds of gruyer cheese -each weighs 70 to 90 kilos- are resting in cool rooms,
warm rooms. Some sweat. You take a piece of cloth and clean the sweat. They are like babies. They require attention. It takes almost two months for the big rounds to be ready for sale. How do you not love this cheese? Then you buy some, slice and eat them with few grissinis. A glass of wine is also required. Is it possible not to have wine with it?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Simple, yet colorful breakfast

Breakfast is the favorite meal for so many Turks. We love colorful breakfast tables. This simple, yet colorful item is called 'simit pizza', which can be served for breakfast. Simit is kind of a round bread with sesames which is sold on the streets of almost all Turkish cities. To prepare this recipe, you need 'fat' simits. You cut them in three or four pieces, then make deep cuts from the inside, empty the inner parts. To prepare the filling, you need to cut mozarella cheese (or any cheese that can melt) in small pieces, mix them with small chunks of red and green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms. You can add cold cuts or olives too. I like to add a little olive oil and dried oregano. Fill the inner parts of the simits and put them in the hot owen. 200 centigrate degrees is OK (400 F). In few minutes, your simit pizzas are ready to be served. Isn't that simple? You can serve it to your afternoon guests. I like to serve it with tea but red wine would be great with it too!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sweet bread

This is a sweet bread. Not because they add sugar or any kind of sweetner but it's because they use a traditional yeast, made of chickpeas. Yes, chickpeas. Surprised? Chickpeas are crushed and left in water for the evening, at a warm place. It becomes bubbly, then the water is used as a leavening agent. You're surprised? Yes, there are so many things that surprise us, when we go deeper in the traditional ways, old ways, our mother's, granny's ways... (Sorry that I confuse you. In Turkey, it's called yeast but yes, that's true that chickpea is not a yeast. It is the leavening agent.)

There is a traditional mezze in the Aegean coast, called the 'shipman's mezze'. It's made with dried slices (rebaked) of this sweet bread. What you do is mix grated tomatoes, grated cheese, oliveoil and if you wish some oregano (fresh or dried) and spread the mixture on the hard bread. With the juice of the tomatoes, it becomes soft and you eat it with much pleasure. I took the picture above in Karaburun, few years ago, when they served us this mezze on a different kind of dried bread, which is called 'peksimet'. If you're Greek or have been to Greece, you might have seen it there too, which is called almost the same. Greek seamen were also taking the dried breads when they had to be away from home (also the soldiers) for a while. It's still made and eaten in the villages in Turkey. At homes, they break the bread by hand but at the bakeries, the 2 day old bread (that is not sold on the day it's baked) are slices and rebaked to be sold as peksimet.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Make a wish

Make a wish.
Not for yourself only.
Not for your parents,
For your children,
For the loved ones only.
Make a wish.
Then tie it on a tree,
On the lonely tree of the savannah,
The pine on the hill of the island,
The mimosa, although it's not blossoming this season.
Tie it.
Then blow it,
So that it can fly to freedom,
So it can reach where it belongs to.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


They sometimes,
Fly with the wind.
Sometimes they break the wind,
with their wings.

Monday, July 30, 2007

First figs of the season

First figs of the season.
From our farmers' market.
From the lovely old woman I called "rose faced aunty".
Not because her face looks like a rose.
It's a saying in Turkish.
When we like someone,
we say "rose faced."
Her face is angellike.
First figs of the season.
One kilo costs 2 Turkish lira. Which means 1.2 euro or 1.5 USD.
I love figs.
What should I do with them?
I love figs.
I love to eat them one after the other.
My dear friend Erhan, the creative chef of Zeytinbagi, made a
wonderful appetizer last week. He sliced them, added goat
cheese between the slices and wrapped them in vine leaves.
Then grilled.
So tasty.

Friday, July 20, 2007


I can swear there is a bird in this flower
Oh, perfect daughter of the mother earth,
Bring news from my beloved friend.
Is he content?
Is there joy in his heart?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Mouth watering.
Just rocket and alfalfa sprouts.
I know eating them
will bring health.
And joy.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


It's summer time. Working people are planning for their holidays. Ayvalik is in so many people's list, because of it's waters, food, history... Ayvalik market is a must to see. The weekly farmers' market.

This is one of my favorite sweets, special to Ayvalik. It's called 'lor tatlisi', sweets made with ricotta style Turkish 'lor' cheese. Güler Pastanesi is the place to have them, especially with their mastic icecream.

Ayvalik has so many specialties. The seafood, olives, oliveoil, cheeses, special toasted bread filled with cheese, tomatoes and cold cuts if you prefer, called 'Ayvalik tostu'. If you'll ever visit Ayvalik, I'm sure you'll taste them all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

a little gift for a new life

I celebrate
the new life,
the new age
of a dear one
with this blossom
opening to a new life
yet has been longed for.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Salad with apricots and cashews

I love simple meals. I love using seasonal ingredients. Moreover, I love using ingredients from my own garden. The garden is small. Very small. And I can only take care of it in summer but it still is a world in itself with two trees, tomato and peppers, greens and some flowers, including few roses. Not a well planned garden since it was there, with a big apricot tree in the middle, when we bought this little summer house. But still, I love it since it's my garden. Picking rockets and parsley from the garden today, I had part of the ingredients for my simple salad. There were green apricots, fell of the tree. I wanted to use them and as I did last year, I add them to my salads. In this salad, there is also lettuce and cucumbers. I added cashews I bought from Syria last time I went there. The olive oil is from the region, from Laleli, which is among my favorite brands, lemons are from Antalya, the ones we brought with us, and the seasalt is from Ayvalık, which is about 40 km far. So this salad is pretty local, if you take the cashews out and yes, I also don't know where the cucumbers are from. And these are the apricots, I adore.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Linden flowers

Especially in winters and if someone at home is coughing, linden tea is the cure. The usual Turkish way is to (now I know it is not right to boil the flowers. Adding hot water on the flowers or herbs and letting them wait for few minutes is better) boil the linden flowers in water. What we do is to reheat it several times, which again, is not good for the healing properties of this wonderful flower. The usual additions to it are cinnamon sticks and apple skins. You can add other spices too but it is always good to keep it simple, to be nourished by this early summer medicine of the earth. The reason why I'm adding this post is that it's just the season of linden flowers in the Northern Hemisphere. At least in our area of the world. I'll pick the flowers and lay them on a clean towel in a well lentilated room when they're dry enough, I'll put them in a jar and use in winter, thinking about this season. That simple. Do you have linden trees around where you live? Do you make linden tea? Are there other uses for it that you would like to share?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tevfik Usta

This morning, I went to my favorite place in Antalya. It is a simple pastry shop, which is open between 7-12 in the morning. Tevfik Usta, or Master Tevfik, has been making this Antalya specialty for over 40 years. He has two kinds of 'serpme börek' as said in Antalya, one with a ground meat filling, other with cheese filling. But you may have the cheese börek -which he makes with unsalted cheese- with powdered sugar as a dessert. So with that choice, you have three selections. Since I'm not a meat eater, I eat my cheese börek each time I go there. He knows how I like. Cheese, parsley and black pepper. Then he rolls my pastry, turns it few times on his hand to make it thinner, folds like an envelope, adds the filling, folds once more and bake until it gets crisp. Not only the börek he makes, but also the atmosphere is magical. I feel like I'm at home. I watch him make the pastries, mesmerized. Peace fills me while watching. My gift is the warm pastry and a glass of tea. Isn't that a wonderful way to start the day?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Viva Brazil!

Would you vote for Zen in the Kitchen at the www.bloggerschoiceawards.com website for the best food blog and best blog of all time categories? You can see the link on the right.

This simple, spring meal is a gift to a dear friend, who makes me so happy with his friendship, who brings meaning to my life by sharing insights, smiling and thoughtful moments. So I cooked this little vegetarian meal today. I cooked fresh peas in virgin olive oil from the Aegean region of Turkey, rock salt, black pepper and lots of young garlic (almost one head). I boiled young potatoes I got from the tuesday market, which are grown nearby. I peeled the skins of the potatoes, added them to the pot. Now they are ready to eat. I'll be praying in silence and will share this meal with my family, thinking of a dear friend who is so far away but at the same time so close, as close as my skin.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Breakfast at 2nd Street Cafe

2nd Street Cafe is in Brooklyn, on 7th Avenue. There are drawing papers on the tables. They bring you color pencils, so that you can draw while you're waiting for your order. Than what happens? They glue all of them on the ceiling. So you can see all the artwork if you look up. These three selections were eaten by different people. I just took the photos. My choice was the omelette with house fries, came with toast, jam and butter. Omelette was supposed to come with goat cheese and mushrooms but instead of cheese, they filled it with roasted green peppers. Did I like it? Not as much as my own omelettes, made with free range eggs that I buy from the villagers in Antalya. I guess photos don't need any explanation but in case you want to know something about them, don't hesitate to drop a line.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Scenes from the Farmers Market

I love going to Union Square Farmers Market in New York. It's every monday, wednesday, friday and saturday and very colorfol. It's spring time so seeing daffodils, muscaris and all other spring flowers should not suprrise you. And yes, it is also time for Easter. You can see the colors of Easter at the gift packs that are prepared by the jam makers who sell their jams at the market for many years. Cheese and bread are from Bobolink Dairy and Bakeyard. Bread baked at a wood oven, cheese from grass fed cows. What else do you need on a spring afternoon?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A warm welcome

A warm welcome from the other side of the ocean. A warm, quiet spring day. Magnolias are about to blossom. Daffodils and other spring flowers are smiling everywhere.
I'm happy to be here. A welcome treat for myself: tempura, miso soup, a little plate of shumai and California roll, green salad, brown rice and lots of genmai cha, Japanese green tea with roasted rice. All is $8.56. I say it, a warm welcome. I'm pleased.

Monday, March 12, 2007

To breath or not to breath

For a dearest friend, who knocked on my door, after all those years, to remind how important breathing is!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Olive oil

This oliveoil photo was taken in Sirince which is a small, beautiful town 9 km from Selçuk. Selçuk is the home town for Ephesus, if you've visited or have heard. It was one of the first days of 2007 and this was a virgin olive oil just pressed (cold) at an old, traditional (more or less) factory. You can imagine how great it was to have it for breakfast. What else was there for breakfast? The usual stuff. Black and green olives, cheeses (in Selçuk, you can get great local cheeses from local cheesemakers), dried tomato sauce with capers (this isn't the usual breakfast item!), freshly baked -again- local bread and of course tea. What you do is to get a piece of bread, dip it in the golden olive oil and just eat it. That's it. The simple pleasure of life yet a unique experience!