Sunday, July 31, 2011

A smattering of houses ...

Warning: Dear readers photos! Take a breath! Calm down... in ...out ...phfeuuu...okay... It will all be fine. I know you can do it. It will be fun. Warm up your vivid imaginations, off we go...

It was sunny and windswept that morning on the mountains of Mediterranean Turkey. We were seaside and on our way somewhere very special. The scent of the sea drew me in and made me a little dizzy with anticipation. I closed my eyes and relished the warm sunshine on my skin and the thick mineralized wind that tousled my hair. It wasn't soft wind. I inhaled the salty air, tasting the ocean and let out a sigh of content. I was on my way dear readers, to a little place, nestled in an orange grove at the foot of Mount Olympos.  

For the better half of one sunny morning, we had been winding our way up coastal mountain roads. These particular coastal mountain roads were very special coastal mountain roads (I know, I just love to say it). Specifically etched into these majestic rocks to enchant passers with a magnificent view of ethereal mountains plunging into an endless ocean, these particular roads were taking us to a restaurant (of course), in an orange grove (naturally), nestled on a beach (where else), at the foot of Mount Olympos (mais oui).

It was wild out there on those mountain roads dear readers. Seascapes turned into forests while you blinked. Groves of trees engulfed roads that moments ago had been boasting nothing but skyline. The air changed. It was a long way to our little restaurant. We drove deeper in and the roads became evermore narrow and I felt a little anxious. We were close now and a small wave of excitement peeked through as I took it all in. I drank in the the sun glinting through the dense sea jungle that opened up to a tiny road on top of the mountain we had just sumitted and prepared myself for the windy descent. The tiny, curvy, bumpy road down seemed endless. The jungle seemed to get deeper and darker, at some points completely blocking out the sun, while the sound of unseen waves crashing in the background made its way through the flora. Time dragged on on those windy roads and just as I was starting to doubt any village or grove (never mind restaurant) actually existed there and was dooming myself to starve in this forest by the sea, it disappeared. Just like that, the rocky bumpy road, engulfed by dense forest, became a tiny sand road, formerly engulfed by forest. At the foot of Mount Olympos dear readers, in the middle of this forest by the sea, lied a teeny, tiny, clearing. We had reached Cirali. A smattering of houses, on a sandy road and an orange grove. 

Now, given our main objective (eat, plunge into ocean, drink, eat, get the drift) we settled into said fragrant, shadowy grove and started the walk through the pebbled path, to the pebbled beach, on a pebbled cove. Unbeknownst to us dear readers, this particular pebbled cove was taking us to an old, magic place. A place that speaks of god's of fire and blacksmiths, knowing monsters and eternal flames with ancient wise fires of Chimaera, burning since the beginning of time. Of kings and battles and pixies and  age-old ways. Quite by accident, in search of food (what else) we had stumbled upon a city, situated in a wild forest off said pebble beach that is a few thousand years old. We had found Olympos. I have a secret dear readers. For a split second, we actually considered going back because for sure, there was no Orange restaurant in said ancient ruin. Shameful (I never would have forgiven myself), I know. But we didn't go back. Instead we walked, crossed bridges, admired, sat in silence, pondered the first ships that had sailed and conquered, stood in awe in front of the magnificent architecture, walked some more, accumulated blisters,  and then it was time. Time, to waddle our way back through all the pebbles. eatIt was dusk then and the age old sun set behind the horizon as it has since its flames started burning. The sky held its hands out and waves were softly rolling onto the shore, a cool, salty breeze blowing in off the water. We sat, tired, salty and sunburnished with wraps on at our table in the sand, starving and content. We drank Raki and ate the mezzes they brought us, one better than the next, and silently enjoyed the simple beauty of beans just picked and braised with sweet tomatoes and onions. Of cabbage leaves filled with ground lamb, so soft, fatty and succulent, of thick yogurt, oven fired bread and sheep's milk cheese and of the best simple salad around. We couldn't get enough and ate until we were too sleepy (and snookered) to go on.

The evening ends now dear readers. Night has fallen and the sky is black. We sleep with windows open, breathing in the ocean air and dream of tomorrow's breakfast. 

**The breakfast's we ate in Turkey were not so much recipe based as they were a gathering of the most beautiful ingredients. Allow me now to share with you what we had the pleasure of eating.**

You made it! I'm so proud of you. How does it feel?!

Time to dish.

Tomorrow's breakfast

Here is what you need:

Goats milk feta, creamy, softly salty and oozing 
Ripe, fragrant, sweet red tomatoes
Sun-dried, meaty wrinkled black olives
Cucumbers, seeds fat with juice
Pastirma, stinky, salty, cured delicious
Green melon, sweet, soft, beautiful
Honeycomb, whole and with bees still working in it (if you don't have bees, it's okay)
Fat creamy dates
Butter, freshly churned, creamy, salty
Inconceivable amounts of jams
Fresh mint
Peppery olive oil
A variety of fresh breads
Black, astringent, fragrant tea

Here is what to do:

Place all gems, everything together, on a large platter (silver and curvy if you have one, any other if you don't) and paint your plate with all the beautiful colors, black's, white's, green's, red's and all the rest. Serve and enjoy with your dearest ones. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I come bearing jewels ...and flowers ...

I'm here. I'm here! I know. I know. It's been a while. I wish I had a list of witty, well thought out excuses. Alas, I hadn't even realized that three weeks had gone by dear readers. Three weeks. Yikes. And when I did realize it (two days ago), straight to the keyboard I went. It felt good. I had been missing it, and you, dear readers.  I typed and I typed, diligently for hours, knowing I had at least three posts to deliver this week and after an afternoon of walking through my brain, I had completed what I needed to complete. Phew, said I. A Quick reread, some editing, ready to post ...and then, the unthinkable... I didn't like it.

I didn't like it! I really tried to like it. I had after all just spent hours writing and editing text and photos and it was all ready to go and it had been a while... I thought to myself, is this even possible? Do people not like their own stuff? But I couldn't do it. It didn't work. It didn't come together. I didn't feel it in my gut. You know? So what did I do dear readers? Well, after feeling down in the dumps for a bit and bombarding myself with what if I'm all dried up's?! what if it's gone's?! what if I can never write anything again's?! and after resisting the temptation to take it out on innocent laptop, I made myself a cup of tea (cure for all), went outside, and thought.

I thought about what the heck it is that I have been doing for the last three weeks that had kept me so busy. The time had literally flown by. When I started writing, a little over nine months ago now (wow), we were at the beginning of winter (ughh). I remember thinking to myself (shivering  and cursing under my blanket), wait... just wait until summer is here ...the markets! the produce! the adventures! I would go to the market every day! I would prepare feasts that blow minds! Every day! I would kill pigs and hunt deer and kill fish (or fish fish, or whatever!) and so on! 

Well, dear readers, what I have actually doing is quite far from what I had imagined I would be doing. It's pretty regular stuff (minus the crazy pig killing (not) roast (happened, so cool)). I've been spending a lot of time outside dear readers. Bike riding all over the place. Swimming like a fish. I started jumping and diving (off the boards!) into pools again (oceans soon, with the fish). I haven't done that since I was little. I'm working up the courage for flips. I've been taking walks and forgetting my camera, cooking (and forgetting my camera), going to the market and ...well... forgetting my camera (except once, and then I snapped way too many pictures of flowers, I can't help it). of many...I love them so ...

I've been  eating ridiculous amounts of ice cream and sorbet (like almost every night...sometimes twice ...shhhh!). I've been reading thousand page British trash (lurve them), existential tombes and everything in between. I've been soul searching and pondering life. And nothing. I have been doing a little bit of nothing at all ( say...nothing at all say...and why exactly wasn't I writing if I so clearly had time on my hands, you ask?). Well, I don't really have an answer...but I do have a recipe...a jewel of one from my cherished Australian Gourmet Traveler. So really, I come bearing jewels...and flowers... Zucchini flowers ...I love you dear readers. Thanks for reading.

Time to dish.

Zucchini flowers with ricotta, Parmesan and mint anchovy sauce

Here is what you need...for the Zucchini...
  • Zucchini flowers, fifteen lovely blossoms
  • Tempura flour, sieved, two cups
  • Soda water, one and a half cups
  • Peanut oil, for deep frying, or canola, if you like
  • Flour, for dusting the little gems
  • Egg whites, four, whisked to soft peaks
Here is what you need...for the filling...
  • Firm Ricotta, 200 grams
  • Your finest, aged, Parmesan, gingerly grated, 60 grams
  • Soft goat's cheese, 60 grams
  • Mint, finely chopped, a bunch, as much as you like, or a cup
Here is what you need...for the mint and anchovy sauce...
  • Mint, yes dears, finely chopped, a whole bunch, go crazy, or three cups
  • Your best olive oil, I mean it, half a cup
  • Parsley, finely chopped, one cup
  • Capers in vinegar, rinsed, chopped, finely, of course, two tablespoons
  • Anchovy fillets, chopped! finely! or you could muddle them in a mortar and pestle, five of their delicious oily little bodies
  • Lemon juice, of one, or as much as you like
  • Or, you could forget all the chopping and just mash everything up in a mortar and pestle, yup, that's what I do

Here is what to do ...

1. Place tempura batter flour in a bowl, season to taste (salt! pepper! a dash of heat?), then gradually add soda water, whisking until combined and smooth. Set aside to rest (20 minutes).
2. For ricotta stuffing, combine ingredients in a bowl, season to taste (salt! pepper!a pinch of nutmeg?) and refrigerate until ready to stuff, gingerly.
3. Carefully remove stamens from zucchini flowers. Shape scant tablespoons of ricotta and gingerly place into fit each flower (be careful not to break the flowers as you stuff them). Gently now, twist tops of petals together to close in the yummy filling, then place on a tray and refrigerate until  ready to fry.
4. For mint and anchovy sauce, combine ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until you need it to drizzle all over awesome zucchini's.

eggwhite, then dip in batter. Deep-fry in batches, turning occasionally, until golden (3-5 minutes; be careful as hot oil may spit). Drain on newspaper, or other paper, or towel, whatever you have, you get the point, season to taste (salt! pepper!) and serve hot with mint and anchovy sauce.

Enjoy dear readers, I have two more for you this week. Stay tuned.