Thursday, March 28, 2013

How to be a Celebrity, or Kasarli Kofte.

Every moment of our life is a history. You live it- you post it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, wrote about it in your blog. In instant your post will appear in Google search, people will read your story and look through your pictures. Are you famous, yet?- I suppose not yet. I would like to think that you reached the status of celebrity, when you are getting your pockets filled with diamonds and dollar bills simply by being yourself. Then,the status turns into the full-time job. You can be a desperate housewife, model, nerd, or fortune-teller, excellent cook, writer, tenant in Playboy mansion, get married to a famous guy, get divorce from a famous guy,write another Gangnam Style song, have DDD size, train your cat to get onto the boxes, and walk over the Niagara Falls, become an enlightened guru, or write a book on how to become rich and famous. Note: I am not charging you for the above ideas on how to get famous.:)It sounds pretty easy at this age of social network, you only need a little bit of luck, and then hope, and then work. Is it a hard work to become a celebrity, or keeping a status of one afterward? I think it's pretty hard, and nerve-breaking. Every appearance outside of your home turns into the job. You have to wear certain things, you have to say right stuff, you have to be with the correct person, and act as the star. I see extremely hard work behind Justin Bieber,PSY, Kendall Schmidt, and many other, that got recognition, and fame, and keeping it working for them.
Now forget about everything I wrote above, because it's not applicable to Turkey. Turkey is an amazing country, as you might already know. The fact that you are born blond, with blue eyes is already an advantage and possibility for you to become a Star, or at least sign up for the beauty pageant. That's it! No hard work is needed. You don't need to be a musical prodigy, dancing athlete,spelling-bee champion, or have the longest legs on the planet. It's that damned easy in Turkey! The scheme is super easy.Here are the 10 steps that almost every celebrity used in her life.
No:1 You are pretty and good-looking,perhaps even beautiful. You are lucky if you are born this way. Not so lucky, you go ahead to the good plastic surgeon.
No:2 You participate in Beauty Pageant. The results... really don't matter.But first place makes it all so much easier.
No:3 You get on the cover of the magazine, they write about you in the newspapers.You got some talents, some secrets, some misery in you life-people will love it.
No:4 Open your arms for the fortune to come, and be ready! You are invited to the talk shows. I have to admit, you have to know how to talk. Beauty won't save your ass on TV.
No:5 This is important stage in Turkish entertainment business-you become singer. Yes, you have to sing.Music is the best tool to attract people, make money, and move you up to the throne of the queen.At this stage, usually you are allowed to call yourself "The most beautiful woman on the planet", "The woman with the best voice","The best singer".Modesty is not in fashion, here.
No:6 After couple of albums, happy marriage, successful divorce, you might slow down.
No:7 Next step is role in soap opera. You are an actress, now.
No:8 If that is not working, there is always a place for you to host a TV show, or to be a judge in another singing competition.
No:9 Your Botox consultations become more frequent, and you start writing a column in a weekly newspaper, sharing your thoughts of life, and opinion.
No:10 You lived a celebrity life, you may rest in peace.

I hear you saying,"Come on, bring us some examples!"One of the biggest celebrity is Hulya Avsar. She won a beauty pageant, but as a divorcee woman the title was taken away. The scandal brought this young woman fame, and attention, that have lasted for thirty years. Pinar Altug, Azra Akin, Gulben Ergen-these are the first names that come to my mind. Turkish public is one of the best public in the world. Public will love you, just be there for it. You have to remind of yourself, be on the screen , no matter in what shape, or role. I found this to be a turkish phenomenon, and have so much regret that I didn't live here when I was 18 years old, and could apply to the beauty pageant.

Let's get to the recipe, now. I chose kofte recipe today, because it reminded me of the concept, that kofte is always kofte-it's simply ground meat, onion, and spices no matter how you call it. There are hundreds of different recipes with different names in Turkey, but the basic stays the same, just like the beauty pageant winner, no matter how you will call it-actress, star, celebrity, model, TV person, or singer.It will be always loved for what is inside.

KASARLI KOFTE ( Ground beef Kofte with cheese)
500 gr ground beef/or lamb
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 onion chopped in food processor
1 t baking soda, activated by splashes of distilled vinegar
black pepper
1 cup of shredded Mozzarela cheese/Kasar cheese

Mix all ingredients very well, and let it stay in refrigerator for 30-45 minutes. Form a thick finger-like kofte, and fry them on heated pan with vegetable oil.Enjoy the koftes in your sandwiches, wraps, or on your plate with some side dishes.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Turkish Soap Operas, Real Sets behind them, and Dereotlu Pogaca (Turkish Biscuit)

It is Wednesday! I am rushing my kids to complete their homework, I am loading dishwasher with few plates in rush, completing everything I had to do, check my Facebook page, Gmail, and Twitter-everything before eight o'clock. It's my night of Turkish Soap Opera.I am a big fan of "Kuzey and Guney", it airs at 8 PM every Wednesday on Kanal D in Turkey.
Turkish soap operas are real big deal for Turkey, and for Middle East, and for many Balkan countries where viewers wait by the TV for their favorite story to be continued. The competition among channels is gigantic! Channels compete by measuring the ratings during the prime-time airing. Time between 8PM and 10PM, are the most valuable hours for the TV companies. Every channel has its own dizi ( TV series in turkish), which is trying to beat the rating and gain more profits from Advertising company.This is the most talked business in whole country. Dizi is powerful tool to turn an unknown foreign actor/or actress into a king or queen of media in Turkey. Like Meryem Uzerli, who is more known as Hurrem from "Muhtesem Yuzyil" series. She was invited from Germany to play a famous wife of sultan Suleyman. She is one of the most beloved actresses in modern Turkey now. The Muhtesem Yuzyil/or Magnificent Century is most profitable and at the same time most expensive TV Series in country. It also airs on Wednesday, but I am not watching it, since Hurrem's role meant to be mine, and now by not giving its producer one extra rating, I am protesting it. :)
To make one episode, hundreds of people work full-time for 7 days a week. And by full-time, I mean 24 hours a day. One episode lasts for one and half hour, instead world standard -45 minutes. It takes a lot of juice from the crew to film a full movie-lenght episode in 6 days every week. Actors don't know their words until last moment,since the script writers are finishing their dialogues right in front of them on the sets. We met a director, who is filming famous TV series which lasts couple seasons, and she didn't see how her baby grew all this time. It's a really tough and crucial business. Viewers sometimes relate to the characters too much, and relate everything that happens on the screen as it was a real life. I will be honest if I will tell the fact about myself. My husband met Bugra Gulsoy (Guney from Kuzey Guney series), and I have been begging my husband to introduce me with him. In yesterday's episode, Guney turned into a negative character, and I told my husband, that I changed my mind, and didn't want to meet such a evil person anymore. Sounds funny, I know. The young and beautiful actress from "Eve Dusen Yildirim" was playing a character who was destroying family. The girl was attacked by people on the street for that. She had an extremely hard time walking and living a regular life without being insulted by women, who felt sorry for the left alone wife in the series.
Existence of Tweeter and Facebook, also plays a big role in scandalous situations with actors. For example, during the "Adini Feriha Koydum" series, there were two groups of fans, that attacked the producers of the TV series in the cyber space in order for them to change the story line.
Last week, I had a chance to visit a set of upcoming TV series "Otisabi", which is based on the Comic series, by Yilmaz Aslanturk. The series are going to be broadcasted on CinemaTV. It's a first-time experience for Private channel, that is doing an exclusive production of its own TV series in Turkey. Think of HBO special series. The director of the OTISABI is fantastic man, who has years of experience,who is trying to bring the level of the local production upto the Hollywood standards. The TV series is promising to be extremely entertaining, and very sexy. The set left an impression on me, which broke my dream of wanting to become and actress one day. It was a first time for me to see all the cameras, lights, people behind the camera, and one actor who has got all one hundred eyes on him. I felt like I didn't want to be in his shoes at that moment. This is so scary!!!Guys, I am telling you, it's not easy at all. Everyone expects you to show that perfect emotion, that one special move of the finger, or a sparkle in your eyes. The actor did fantastic job! He is hilarious, he is sexy, he is tough,simply the real OTISABI, that I used to imagine reading the comics. The Facebook page of Otisabi is already full of criticism, praising, opinions, reviews, even before anybody has seen any episode.

Criticism of famous "Muhtesem Yuzyil"went even further to the Premier Minister of Turkey. In his public speech, he told his opinion, that the TV series was not reflecting the real facts or was historically incorrect. The producers had to do certain changes in following episodes because of that.
My post got too long :) From the set of Otisabi, I am bringing you the recipe of usual snack. It's a POGACA (poacha). There are diffrent kinds of Pogacas in Turkey, some of them are yeasty and look like buns, some are simple and taste crumbly like scone or biscuit. I chose a simple and quick version of dereotlu pogaca (Biscuits with dill), which can be perfect for your potluck, or appetizer table, as a bread substitute for the fancy dinner.
The recipe is adapted from MutfakSirlari.

Dereotlu Pogaca -Bisuits with dill and Feta cheese.

3 1/2 c of all-purpose flour
1 t.salt
1 t. sugar
1/4 cup of chopped and washed fresh dill
1 T baking powder
125 gr. of cold butter
1/2 c vegetable oil
3/4 c yogurt ( or sour-cream)
1 egg divided into e.g. white and yolk.
100 gr Feta Cheese -Optional

Mix the dry ingredients+dill, cut the butter into the flour mixture. You better use the pastry knife, or your hands to turn the butter and flour into crumbs.

Separately mix the liquid ingredients Yogurt+Egg White+Oil. Add them to Flour. Use your hands to knead the dough. We don't need to reach smooth texture, leave a little bit crumbly. Heat the oven 350F (185C). Use parchment paper on baking pan. Roll the doing in your palms into a golf size (or walnut)ball. Make a closed hole, and insert the piece of Feta cheese, close the hole.

You can close totally and roll it into ball, or leave it in kind of half-open shell shape. Brush egg yolk on top. Bake 25-30 minutes until dark golden color.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Artichoke Bottoms in Orange Juice or Secrets of Turkish Housewives.

Ohhh, those culinary secrets of turkish housewives.Every woman has its own secret recipe that she is proud of. They proudly talk about it, they praise their culinary skills, they have stories-no, no Legends-about that most delicious dish that's somehow can be cooked only by them in their sacred laboratories. If you decide to ask for the recipe, there is a chance you won't be given a recipe in full. There will be a definitely one secret weapon ingredient missing.It often goes like this :"My Kisir (kind of tabbouleh) is most famous in my family.I had been asked to make it for every wedding, party, holiday gathering, because there is simply no one better than me".Her eyes sparkle, nose goes up, and the whole thing sounds like she was the first woman astronaut. Cooking is not something I am proud of, cooking simply makes me happy. Smiles, emotions, smells, conversations, great endings for the bad day by the dinner table, starting a conversation in the market with "you-don't-know"person about how they cook that alien ingredient- that what moves me to learn more, to perfect the skills, and keep cooking.
My mother-in-law, is a great cook, and she got couple recipes in her repertoire, which make her proud. One of them is Artichoke Bottoms in Orange Juice. She was very young when she got married, and started her married woman life with cooking, taking care of family before she realized that she was grown up. She had to learn cooking, and was picking up the skills, tips from the women that surrounded her. She loved artichokes, but there were couple things missing in her recipe that were obstacles on the way of perfection, that she expected. The artichoke lose the color, simply turn darker, as potatoes without water. That's why keeping the hearts or bottoms of artichoke in the acidic water is very important for the color and freshness of the product. Boiling artichokes in water, won't take away much of the taste, but turn your artichoke into not a pleasant colored pieces of vegetables. So, my mother-in-law, asked chefs of the restaurant, asked neighbors, asked private chefs, asked older women. And no one shared their secret how their artichokes keep the right color. She thought, thought, and thought more. Until she saw an orange on the table. Orange is citric fruit, just like lemon,and that was her Eureka moment. After that she cooked her artichokes in orange juice only, and proudly spoke of her own creation in the weddings, parties, and by the cup of coffee.
She doesn't keep her recipe's ingredients in secret and shares them happily with everybody. She is sure that list of all the ingredients not going to make the dish delicious, because she simply has that magic touch to make dish delicious and out stand the other's.

My Mother-in-law Artichoke Bottoms in Orange Juice

4 Artichoke bottoms
1 Carrot
2 white onion
1 cup of frozen peas, you can substitute to canned one, or fresh
Olive oil
1 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 cup fresh orange juice (3 oranges)

Deep Frying pan, or a casserole pot.
Slice you onions, cube the carrots, drain the peas, keep the artichokes in lemon water until yo ready to add them.
Heat the pan, add olive oil. Sautee onions until golden. Add carrots. You can cube your artichokes roughly. Add then to your pan. Add some salt, and pour orange juice.

Cover the lid, and lower the heat. Cook for approx. 25-30 minutes. Check the artichokes for their softness (boiled potato stage-not soft). Turn off the heat. Leave the lid on for couple hours. Serve cool.

Buying and cooking artichokes in Turkey is a lot of pleasure, since the hardest part -CLEANING THEM is done for you by the seller in the market. Here is the video of me buying the fresh artichokes in Kadikoy market. In States the bottoms are sold frozen in supermarkets. Artichokes considered as the great Liver Cleanser, and Cholesterol lowering must-have ingredient in Mediterranean diet.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Spring is one of the most beloved seasons for most of the people. I really enjoy early spring here in Istanbul. Compare to cold, and snowy March in New York, we are enjoying Californian warm sun here. We have been spending so much time outdoors, exploring parks, sahil yollar (meaning pedestrian road by the water). Seeing jogging people, girls in tight sport outfits makes me feel comfortable. WARNING: I wouldn't do running in super sexy outfit in every neighborhood of Istanbul.

To warm up my friends on East coast, and Europe, I am baking today specialty of this week -BLINY (блины), Blintzes, Crepes.Whole week was a week of celebration called Maslenica Wikipedia gives us this meaning "Maslenica is a port and village in Zadar County, Dalmatia, Croatia." -No, no, no -that's not what we celebrate. MASLENITSA is according to Wikipedia "an Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday. It is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent—that is, the seventh week before Eastern Orthodox Pascha (Easter)" Traditionally, we bake Bliny, and eat them with various fillings -herring, caviar, honey, jams, smoked fish,hard-boiled eggs+rice, meat, and more modern and most popular sweetened condensed milk, Nutella.
There is no recipe of Bliny in my family. It's a product of leftovers, mixing them, reaching correct consistency, and frying on right heavy-bottomed pan. Like yesterday, my mom said that Bliny were fantastic, not like on Monday.
- Mom, did you do something different this time?
- No, of course not. Little bit of milk, 2 eggs, flour. That's it.
So, every time I am about to beat up the batter, I am hoping that BLINY Gods will be happy today with my mixing skills and my bliny will be soft, delicious, and just like my mom's. After 100th recipe, that I had tried, I believe I am getting better, and can post a recipe that you might follow and get delicious result.
In Turkey, I am in constant search of good ingredients. Recently, I found Organic Flour in Migros. I bought two kinds -whole wheat, and regular white flour packages. I cannot write review in fully yet, but I will be making Bliny with white flour today.

I usually, mix the batter right before I pick up my kids from school. After we get home, I work it on two frying pans, and getting the bliny ready in no time in front of my two hungry men.
1 1/2 cups milk
3 large eggs
3 T sugar
1/2 t salt
70 grams of melted butter
1 T Vanilla extract
1 cup of all-purpose flour

You can use blender to mix all the ingredients together. If you are using mixer, then mix Eggs+ Sugar, do not make it foamy, add salt, butter, half of milk, and vanilla. 1/2 cup of flour, rest of the milk and the rest of the flour (1/2 c).Cover the bowl with batter with plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Butter hot frying pans. One ladle of batter should be spread by moving the pan.The edges will turn into light golden color, you flip the crepe over, and fry the other side. Stack crepes on top of each other on the plate.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Apple Tart, or Thanksgiving Preparation

Oh, I haven't written anything in a while. I feel like I am learning to cooke all from scratch here in Turkey. My oven doesn't bake the way I used to ovens, the ingredients don't taste the same, the measurements for local recipes call for tea cups, coffee cups instead of our usual measuring cups and pyrex cup. And my Kitchen Aid mixer was not with me ( and you know it's my best friend)

So, here I am adjusting to the new way around my turkish kitchen, and begging my husband to find me Kitchen Aid mixer, and here my wish comes true. During the recent holiday here in Istanbul, the price for my "Diamond" was reduced by %50. I ran to the store, and purchased the present of the year for myself. I couldn't wait to beat up a batch of my favorite chocolate chip cookies, or chocolate cake. I baked, baked , and baked. Until I realized that I wasn't so comfortable in my pair of jeans. I had an emergency, and last week on Thursday started a Dukan diet. Now, I am cooking for family, and for myself separately, and not so much of baking will be happening in my kitchen for some time until the holidays. I lost so far about 5 Lbs, and happy how the diet is simple and makes me feel. I will try to share some recipes with you from my diet plan, if you'd like.

The thought of having a Thanksgiving Dinner at my home, made me think of all the delicious things, that I can cook. I decided to try to bake some of my Thanksgiving recipes in my new oven ,and using local ingredients. Today I baked an Apple Galette, which I really liked. The original recipe was found on, however I baked it with some slight changes.

Oh, how much I struggled not to swallow the slice of galette ( I am on protein diet).The crust is nice and crumbly, the apples are delicious and sweet, and if you place and vanilla ice cream on top, you will be on heaven.

adapted from Epicurious, originally from Chez Panisse.

1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 sticks (165 gr) cold butter
3-4 Tablespoons of ice water

1 1/2 lb Granny Smith apples
4 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon lemon peel
1/2 lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup of apricot preserves
whole milk or egg wash

You can use processor to make dough or fork/pastry knife. Mix flour+salt+sugar, add cubes of butter, and work it until it looks like crumbs.
Add water, and put the dough into one piece, make a disk,wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Peel your apples, clean and core. I didn't have the core cutting tool, I simple quartered an apple, and gently cut out the seeds.

Slice the apples, and mix them with cinnamon, 2 Tablespoons of sugar, lemon peel, and lemon juice.
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Roll out the dough in between two sheets of parchment paper into 14 inches circle. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Take off the top parchment paper, and place your circle on the baking sheet. Spread the preserves over the top, leaving 1 1/2 inches for border. I didn't have apricot jam, and used homemade figs preserves-loved it.

Arrange Apple slices on top. Fold the borders. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar and walnuts on top.

Brush the borders with milk or egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes (I baked 15 Minutes), reduce to 375F, and continue baking until crust is pretty golden color about 30 minutes.
Best served warm with an ice cream on top. I am planning to warm it up in he oven after the dinner, and serve it with delicious walnut ice cream.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Making home at new home

It's funny, how I am trying so hard to make our new home look like our old one. Things, that make us feel comfortable , and are familiar to us are gathered from store to store. And of, course, food is a big part of it. Whenever I see a similar ingredient in the supermarket, I am grabbing all the boxes from the shelf in fear that I won't find it some other time.Cooking home-comfort food for me was a natural call, that I followed, and cooked our favorite dishes all week long. Uzbek plov, Borscht, Pelmeni, fried potatoes with mushrooms(russian style),chicken noodle soup, and of course a piece of simple cake. I shared the recipe of Uzbek plov before in my blog.
Sometimes, if I want to make a quick version of it, I use chicken meat instead of lamb, and it becomes super-quick and delicious meal.
The basics are the same, please, let me know, if you want step-by-step recipe for Plov with chicken.
Today, I want to share a recipe for Borscht soup. It's a "landmark dish" in Russia, and Ukraine. Everyone makes borscht their only right way, and everyone knows, that their mother's Borscht is the only best version of it, that have a right to live. I am very flexible about cooking, and accept their versions, but still , my grandmother's borscht was the best, I had ever tried. After consulting with my mom (live Skype conversation, she followed every step of the process), I am ready to put this for public view.


Soup Pot-5 liters.
One Frying pan.
Box Grater
Knife and cutting board.

Beef Bones with some meat on it.Mom's preference is veal.-500-700 gr. (For Stock)
Beets-1 medium/or 2 small
Yellow onion-1 medium
Carrots-2 medium
Sweet red pepper- 1
Tomato paste -1 Tablespoon
Ready tomato sauce 4 Tablespoons/or 1-2 fresh tomatoes grated
Parsley or celery stalks for meat stock.

1.Make a basic meat stock. Wash your meat, and bones, add cold water, after it gets to the boiling point, skim the foam, add salt. You can tie together parsley, and few pieces of red pepper, and add it to your stock at this point.
2.Peel, and wash the beets. Add whole beets into the stock.It will be easier for you to work with them later after they will get little softer.
3.Chop your onions, cut 1 carrot into small cubes,1 carrot grated, cut potatoes in cubes. Slice the cabbage. My cabbage was medium size, and I used a quarter of it.Grate the tomatoes, if you use fresh ones.
4. The stock cooks about 40 minutes. Depends on your meat. After 30 minutes of cooking time, pull out beets, and cool them down under the cold water.
5. Grate the beets. Heat oil on the frying pan, and add onions. After onions turn golden color, add beets, and grated carrot. Cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste, stir, and add tomato sauce/or fresh grated tomatoes.Cook 5 minutes. Add 1 ladle of your meat stock to it. Cook until beets are soft-about 10 minutes.
6.Add potatoes to your stock. If your cabbage is hard, add it to stock before the beets mixtures.If it's not, add it after the beets mixture. You have about 10 minutes to decide that, before your potatoes are getting ready. Cabbage cooks about the same time.
7. Turn off the heat.Cover it with the lid, and let it stay for 30 minutes. It has to absorb all the juices.
8. For the serving, I make bread croutons, or toasted Garlic bread . Add a teaspoon of sour cream to you plate with Borscht. Borscht is always more delicious the next day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Alacati, Cesme, Urla.

I must say thank you to our wonderful friends-Guniz & Deniz. Deniz's mom opened the doors of her beautiful home for us, where we enjoyed fantastic weather, great food, and best company ever. We stayed at Urla, which is conveniently located next to more crowded and popular Cesme, and Alacati cities. We did couple day trips to Efesus, Cesme beaches, and enjoyed our evenings by browsing streets of Alacati. Absolutely the best breakfast, I ever had. (Urla)