Greeting Autumn

SLOWLY BUT SURELY IT’S BEGUN TO COOL OFF. INDIAN SUMMER STILL LIES AHEAD, BUT IN THE KITCHEN PREPARATIONS FOR WINTER ARE GRADUALLY GETTING UNDER WAY.

Among the boons of Turkey’s traditional cuisine are the fresh tarhana, pickles, noodles, jams and dried vegetable dolma that are easily prepared as winter approaches.

Preparations for winter in a cuisine that extended from the Ottoman palace kitchens to the villages of Anatolia and Rumelia took place in a virtual festival atmosphere. The palace kitchen hierarchy functioned flawlessly of course. Back in the villages meanwhile people made preparations for winter in solidarity with each other, literally turning the kitchen into a social space. Cooked in season, jams and fruit syrup bases were stored in special glass and porcelain jars and took their places on the shelves of either cellars or cool, dry stone chambers. Noodles, paper-thin yufka bread, couscous, fresh and dried tarhana (homemade dried soup mix, Turkish style), myriad fruit jams and preserves, fruit syrup bases, sauces and dried fruits and vegetables were carefully stowed in the cellar. For the sake of our cuisine, it is heartwarming to know that these lovely traditions are being kept alive in many parts of Anatolia today.

STRAWBERRY JAM CREPES
Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1 egg, 1 cup coarsely ground walnuts,
1 small bowl kaymak (Turkish clotted cream),
1 small bowl strawberry jam, 1 tsp sugar, 2 tbsp liquid oil, 1 1/2 cup flour (enough to make a runny crepe batter), salt to taste.

Preparation:

Mix together all the ingredients and let stand. Then heat a little liquid oil in a teflon skillet. When hot, add one ladleful at a time and cook on both sides. Fill with kaymak and strawberry jam, sprinkle with ground walnuts and serve.

TARHANA SOUP WITH TARRAGON
Ingredients:

5-6 cups chicken stock,
3 1/2 tbsp dry tarhana (or 2 tbsp fresh), 1 tbsp butter, 1 tsp dried tarragon leaves, salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation:

Dissolve the tarhana in a little water and let stand. Then bring the chicken stock to a boil and add the tarhana, stirring constantly. Melt the butter in a small skillet, add the tarragon and heat briefly. Drizzle over the soup. Serve piping hot.

WHAT IS TARRAGON?

Aka pelin in Turkish and Dragon’s wort in English, tarragon is a perennial, brush-like plant that grows in almost every region of Turkey. One of the staple herbs of French cuisine, it stimulates the appetite and acts as a diuretic, as well as having antiseptic properties and being a remedy for gastrointestinal gas. Interestingly, an infusion of tarragon is also an instant cure for the hiccups.

NOODLES WITH WALNUTS
Ingredients:

1 bowl coarse walnut meats, 1 1/2 bowl homemade noodles, 1 tbsp butter, salt and pepper to taste, water for boiling.

Preparation:
Add a little salt and olive oil to the boiling mixture to keep it from clumping. Boil the noodles to the desired tenderness and drain. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the walnut meats and stir well, then add the noodles. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve piping hot.

DRIED PEPPER AND EGGPLANT DOLMA COOKED IN OLIVE OIL
Ingredients:

2 cups rice (soaked in water and drained), 3 large onions, 1 tbsp pistachios,
1 tsp currants, 2 sugar cubes, 2/3 cup olive oil, half a bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped, half a bunch fresh mint, chopped, half a bunch fresh dill, chopped, juice of 1 1/2 lemon, 1 tsp kofta spice, 1 tsp cinnamon,
1 tsp dried sumac, 2 tbsp sour pomegranate syrup.

Preparation:

Saute the pistachios and finely chopped onion in the olive oil until the onion begins to color. Add the rice, salt, pepper, currants and sugar and stir. Saute until the rice turns transparent. Then add 1 1/2 cup hot water. When the water has been absorbed, add the cinnamon, sumac, chopped herbs and lemon juice and mix well. Boil the dried eggplants and peppers separately. When fork tender, plunge into cold water. Let stand in water for half an hour and drain. Then fill the lukewarm vegetables with the rice mixture and arrange, open end up, in a pot. Add 1 1/2 cups hot water and a little olive oil and salt and cook until the rice is tender. Arrange on a serving platter, garnish with fresh mint and serve. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolk with the juice of half a lemon. Add slowly to the boiling soup. Remove from the heat and serve piping hot.