Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

One of the street foods Istanbul is famous for is roasted chestnuts. I lived here for four years before I learned it wasn't just a street food, but a cherished Turkish wintertime tradition for home too. Roasted chestnuts must have been a tradition for America as well. That fabulous Christmas carol had to come from somewhere, didn't it?

Recently, I moved into a new apartment, with a young Turkish woman. The first time she made homemade roasted chestnuts, she said, "now, I feel like it is really winter." Then she taught me how to make them at home. It's so easy, and so satisfying!
First, cut a cross into the hull,
so the hull will steam open later.
Then soak the chestnuts
so they will steam
themselves over heat.

If you skip this step,
or don't soak them long enough,
(at least 10 minutes)
the nuts become
hard and bitter to eat.

I discovered
you can throw them back
into the water,
to try and get them right
a second time.
Ooohh,
don't they just look wonderful?
They cook so beautifully
in a cast iron skillet.
Grateful for a real fire
on a cold winter night
Last week, I was invited to a party at a Turkish film maker's
place on Büyükada Island in the Marmara Sea. "There will be a fireplace!" my friend Burcu said, on an especially cold day. I wondered if it would be possible to roast chestnuts over it, just like the song, so I brought a kilo of large Bursa chestnuts as a gift.
A fire is so
comforting on a
cold, Winter evening
Our host,
Turkish film maker
 Erdal Rahmi Hanay
It was possible
to roast them
over an open fire!
Roasted chestnuts
were such a fun treat
to cook and share!
Former American
chestnut range
I became curious why there aren't chestnuts for sale in America anymore. I was sad to discover that at one time, chestnut forests were plentiful in the eastern United States with stands adding up to three billion trees. At one time, chestnut forests accounted for 25-30% of all of Appalachia's forests. Unable to fight off disease from imported Asian chestnuts, the American chestnuts developed blight and died off.

There is a group trying to bring back the original American chestnut, and a group trying to bring back a disease-resistant hybrid. I wish them well. Roasting chestnuts is a beautiful wintertime tradition. We don't want that gorgeous song, to be the equivalent of an audio fossil hearkening back to an earlier time whose reality we have forgotten. Let's make it real!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Jubilant American Summer, Part One

Loving Life in Chicago
Summer of 2014
This summer I spent two-and-a-half months back in America. It was the longest I'd been home since becoming an expat six years earlier. It was fantastic to spend quality time with my family.
We called this
"Take-Your-Mother-to-Work-Day."
Since my youngest daughter had an internship in Chicago for the summer, I decided to make the city of Chicago my base. Chicago is so spectacular, so joyfully sublime, so wonderfully world-class, I was just pinching myself every day there.
My new Brazilian friend,
Isabela, from Sao Paulo,
whom I met in Chicago.
We explored the Magritte show
at the Art Institute together.
I have been to Chicago many times. My daughter had to work most days, so my friend, Isabela, and I bought City Passes (a packet full of coupons to get into all the top museums at a discount - a great value that I highly recommend) and thus I started on a summer of experiencing every single main attraction as it if was new to me.
It was scary to stand
 in these glass boxes.
The attractions were new too! Every main attraction had added something new to bring people back. For example, the Sear's "Willis" Tower, now has those glass boxes where you go out and stand on glass 100 floors up (that's a lot harder to do than it looks without freaking out, especially given that one of them had developed cracks the week before).
Magritte says "this is not a pipe."
It is, after all,
just a picture of a pipe.
The Art Institute had an amazing Magritte show, his first comprehensive retrospective in 65 years. 

I went to the Field Museum to see the show on the World's Fair, but was blown away instead by the exhibit they had created on bio-mechanics, easily the finest science exhibition I have seen in five years.
I literally paused in reverence
in front of this fantastic
American art form,
the root beer float,
created at the Museum of Science and Industry's
old-fashioned ice cream parlor. 
And then I ate it!
video
 At the Shedd Aquarium
(the largest and oldest aquarium
in the Western Hemisphere)
there was an exhibit where you
could touch sting-rays.
How cool is that?!?
 The Adler Planetarium
had state-of-the-art
shows about the cosmos,
but I found myself responding
to the original fixtures,
including these fabulous
art deco iconic representations
original to the building.

I was fascinated by this
old-time, low-cost
mechanical way of teaching people
about the night sky in their own city
at the Planetarium.
A box car of visitors
goes into the sphere
with a guide
who points out the constellations
made by the pinpricks of light
that have been punched into
the sphere.
They show up perfectly in the dark.
This contraption is 100 years old!
It's still going strong.

Look, World!
This is the planet's largest
public library building.
I can't even fit it into one photo.
Who built it?
My people, Midwesterners!
The exquisite Winter Garden
on the top floor of
Chicago Public Library.
Boo-yah!
This is the greatness of my country.
We are a marketplace of ideas
where the people themselves
are entrusted to evaluate them.
I was grateful to see
Senator William Fulbright's
words on the walls
at Chicago Public Library.
I fear his wisdom is being forgotten
Before becoming an expat
I wouldn't have noticed
or understood how wonderful it is
that this spectacular Chicago synagogue
doesn't require 24/7 police protection.
That is not true
everywhere in the world.
May it ever be so in my country.
While in Chicago,
I watched a Palestinian protest
about Gaza
go through the streets
of Chicago.
I was struck by how the police
led and followed the demonstration
protecting the people demonstrating.
After watching Turkey's
best-educated youth
tear gassed all year
for wanting
to protect
Taksim Square's Gezi Park,
I was so grateful watching how this
Chicago protest was handled.
When I stepped up to
the police officer to say thanks,
he said,
"we are all about the first Amendment
and the exercise of free speech in Chicago."
I immediately teared up.
I was so damn grateful
for this attitude.


Being an expat makes
my gratitude
for America's
accomplishments even greater.
Rotary International started in Chicago.
I've been in four different Rotary Clubs
across America.
If you're a Rotarian,
I'd just like to say "thank you,"
for all that
you've done to help end polio.
If you're not familiar with Rotary,
let me tell you.
Each Rotarian, around the world,
doing their small part,
has collaborated to eliminate polio worldwide.
Rotarians are almost done,
 since there
are usually less than
5,000 cases a year globally.
Know a Rotarian? Thank them.
Don't know what polio is?
Thank them again!
This is Jenn and Alex,
my very first AirBnB hosts.
Jenn and Alex
were fantastic to stay with
while I was in Chicago.
This is the typical Chicago beach
two blocks from their house.
They taught me about Uber too
while I was there.
Plotting my explorations of Chicago
in Grant Park.

I'll share my very favorite thing
I was able to experience in Chicago
for the first time.

First and last photos
courtesy of Chicago photographer
Peter Yankala

Monday, May 19, 2014

Enjoying Olga's #Istanbulbreakfastclub


Watching the passing ships
in the magical morning light
I knew it was going to be a magical day just from the weather. The morning light was sublime. I missed the ferry just as it pulled away from the dock and didn't mind a bit. To sit down in this beautiful little ferry terminal, and watch the passing ships, was a moment of Zen stillness.
Passing by Maiden's Tower
and the Üsküdar Mosque
The half hour of still calm was broken only by my own laughter at myself when I looked down and realized my own silliness. I was carrying dress shoes across continents to wear to breakfast, forgetting that no one wears shoes in Turkish homes.
Enjoying the passing parade
of ferries on the Bosphorus
I was on my way to Olga Tikhanova Irez's home in Moda, a fashionable neighborhood on the Asian side of the straight. Olga is originally from Russia and is married to a Turk. She used to be a strategic management consultant and gave it all up when she realized what really made her happy was exquisite food: sourcing it, buying it, cooking it, and sharing it. She blogs at Delicious Istanbul and tweets at @Delish_Istanbul. 
Olga slicing the first of four
 fresh-from-the-oven
homemade loaves of bread
served that morning.
This was the third time I had been to Olga's breakfast. Once a month, she hosts a breakfast cafe in her home and 14 very lucky people get to come to breakfast. It always sells out. It is always hard to get a reservation and be one of the 14 (you have to fill out the form on her blog, and do so immediately when she posts her monthly invitation).

The first time I went I met all kinds of interesting locals, both Turks and expats, from all over the city. It's such a small intimate gathering that everyone had a chance to learn about everyone else there.

The second time I went she was just back from Morocco where she had gone to learn Moroccan cooking and she prepared a Moroccan breakfast for us. I pinched myself for being there!

One of the things that distinguishes Olga is her standards. I tease her that she could be the princess and the pea, so sensitive is she to any product that in less than top notch, and therefore unworthy of her table. If you sense a certain snobbiness...well, you are right.
Olga began to assemble her buffet.
Turkish breakfast is famous
for consisting
of real actual food.
Look at those fresh-baked savory pastries!
And that homemade hummus
made with lentils.
Oooh, and three different kinds of jams.
And not just any cheese,
but cheese sourced direct
from the farmers themselves.
The final magnificent spread.
Afiyet olsun!
Marc Gulliet, of @TurkeyReport
deserved a great breakfast.
 He and his wife had been reporting
from Soma, Turkey
all week
on the mining disaster.
Orhan Bozkurt,
near the Küçük Hagia Sophia
in the Sultanahmet area,
gave Olga's cooking the 'thumbs up.'
This month I co-hosted Olga's breakfast with her. She cooked breakfast and I shared with our guests how to use Twitter to update and globalize your personal learning network (PLN). It was great fun to compare experiences with people. Their energy completely uplifted me for the rest of the day - actually even now, as I write this.
At the end of the meal,
Olga hand-roasted and crushed
cumin, cardamon,
and other spices to make her
final batch of tea.
"It's a wonderful detox," she said.
I floated out of Olga's home, well fed, completely and spiritually uplifted; it just seemed to me that all of Istanbul was gloriously, gratefully 'alive.' 

After a week of horrible news from Soma, I felt a sense of gratitude for the sheer gift of life. It gave me a new energy to live to the fullest and take pleasure in small things.
I stopped on the way home to
'take tea' at the Moda Tea Garden
along the Bosphorus.
It's an Istanbul tradition to while
away hours here over a glass of Turkish tea.
I was too well-fed to join the long line
at Famous Ali's Ice Cream Shop,
another Moda neighborhood
beloved, weekend
tradition in Istanbul.
The trip home across the Bosphorus
was quiet, contemplative & joyful
thinking about the
amazing friends
and food
I had experienced that day.
I was and am grateful.



I invite you to follow the Empty Nest Expat blog on Facebook.

You may also be interested in these posts:





Saturday, September 21, 2013

Afternoon tea and pastry with Guest Chef Yann Duytsche in the Gazebo Lounge at Cırağan Palace Kempinski

When Istanbullis want a sweet treat, they frequently head to the Gazebo Lounge at the Cırağan Palace Kempinski. The lounge has that see-and-be-seen stir of elegant people discussing engaging things while enjoying exceptional edibles. Were the food not so outstanding, it would be easy to take one's eyes off the edibles to appreciate all of the assembled aficionados of delectable desserts.

But it is actually impossible to stop looking at the food. The Gazebo Lounge features the pastry of Master Chocolatier and Philadelphian, Executive Pastry Chef William McCarrick, who was recognized by the entire Kempinski hotel chain when his dessert was selected 2013 Dessert of the Year in a blind taste test.  His creation is a sweet called the Bosphorale, combining bergamot-scented Earl Grey tea from the Black Sea region, and Turkish apricots from Kayseri with the finest Swiss Valrhona chocolate under a shiny glaze.

Talent greets talent:
Chef William McCarrick on the right
host to Chef Yann Duytsche, on the left
This year the Gazebo Lounge is celebrating its dessert destination status by inviting three world-class guest chefs to share their creativity with the Istanbul food-obsessed community. Pastry Chef William McCarrick suggested Frenchman Yann Duytsche as the very first guest chef for the Gazebo Lounge at Cırağan Palace Kempinski. Yann Duytsche is from northern France in Lille but finds himself drawn to the food cultures of the Mediterranean. He owns his own pastry shop in Barcelona, Spain named 'dolç par yann duytsche.'
 
Chef Yann suggests anyone visitng his shop in Barcelona try his signature breakfast sweet, the Karre Mango Croissant, and then take home his bestselling dark chocolate and passion fruit cake plus two or three kinds of cookies.
 
When Chef Yann asked where I was from, I shared that I was American. He said "America has delicious dessert creations - maybe not so sophisticated -but we all make them: cheesecake, cookies, brownies, and carrot cake."

 The chocolate club sandwich features
a crisp caramelized puff pastry. 
Chef Yann begins to assemble his
chocolate club sandwich
with help from Zeynep.
 
Notice the luscious green pesto
made of roka (arugula) and pine nuts.
It's a trend new to me to feature vegetables
in pastry.
 
A smudge of pesto
and a splash of carrots & apricot
nest a sandwich of thin luxe dark chocolate
with lighter chocolate inside.
"I like to play with a dessert that
one almost wants to pick up with one's hands."
The Chocolate Club Sandwich 
Having a guest chef come to Istanbul for a weekend is very much like having a top musician come in and give a master class, only in this case, it is a master class in pastry. "Yann is one of the top pastry chefs in the world," said Chef William. "I worked with him in 1989 in France for a week. We have kept in touch since then. Yann and I have had conversations through the months before he came about what he would make when he was here. His style has a sense of humor - you can see it in what he calls his chocolate club sandwich."
Cırağan chefs come out of the kitchen
to commemorate the moment
The energy in the Gazebo Lounge was sky-high as Yann and Zeynep, who was assisting him, began to assemble desserts for tasting. "The entire team is really excited to have him here," said Chef William. "I told my team to rest up on their day off and don't go shopping or be on their feet. The would need all of their energy for this moment."  I realized what sound advice this was later when Chef William showed me an app on his phone that showed he had walked 17 kilometers the day before just in the course of his work at the hotel.
The Valrhona chocolate ingots
created an inspiring foundation
for creation.
These desserts
have achieved global appreciation
and not just because of the gold leaf
on top.
 
Chef Duytsche led a team of Spanish
pastry chefs to first place
 at the Club de la Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie
(World Pastry Cup Club) in Lyon, France,
the premier world event for the pastry-making elite.

Chef Yann's creations will be featured at three afternoon teas from 3-5 p.m. Friday (yesterday), Saturday and Sunday. His creations will also be the showpiece of the Sunday brunch.

"Chef Yann is interested in the newest trends. The creative brief I gave him was to push the boundaries even farther." When Chef William McCarrick explained some of what the two of them had planned for Sunday brunch it sounded delicious, and frankly, gravity-defying. Also, on Sunday they will feature a festive cake at brunch enjoyed by Lionel Massi, a sportsman well known to Europeans.
 Another pairing well-matched for Istanbul:
a crunchy chocolate base supporting eggplant.
It was delicious.
 
Surely, the addition of vegetables
means all of this pastry is good for us.
 
Chef Yann has created desserts with
asparagus, tarragon, even potatoes.
He said it is easy to bring sweet vegetables
to pastry, and each element has sense in context.
And what is Chef Yann most excited to learn during his stay in Istanbul? "He's most interested to learn about baklava, because the hotel has our very own baklava chef. We made him a savory mushroom baklava to sample," said Chef William.

Chef Yann also added that "he enjoyed eating at Tuğra, the Ottoman-inspired restaurant in the Cırağan Palace Kempinski that overlooks the Bosphorus. I want to see the markets too, to see how Oriental meets Occidental."

What he most enjoyed sharing with the staff in the Gazebo Lounge is his combinations of ingredients, the sophistication of presentation, and his specific aesthetic. "It's like creating a garden. Pastry doesn't need decoration. The decoration comes by how it is all arranged."
Many of the city's writing foodies
enthusiastically watched the preparations.
Large newspapers and
food website representatives
 were present
plus solo bloggers like me.
A Japanese inspired dessert:
Doraiaki
My selection of treats
served alongside a very elegant
presentation of
Earl Gray English tea.
One of the most fun parts about participating in this
was meeting other writers,
especially Turkish ones.
Two young culinary students
who write for http://iyiyemek.com/:
Burak Özbay on the left and Gizem Dinçbaş on the right.
Burak said this about his studies,
"You don't pick gastronomy to study.
Gastronomy picks you."
Chef McCarrick and his mentee, Ayşe
Chef McCarrick wanted to make sure I met one of his team members, Ayşe. Having cooked all over the world in Switzerland, Austria, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Phillipines, Malasia, Bali in Indonesia, Dubai, London, and Istanbul he felt particularly strong that his legacy at Cırağan Palace Kempinski must be more than "putting cakes on the counter."

He said, "Ayşe is like a flower that just needs to be watered. She has tremendous potential as a chef. I want to help women succeed in this role because she will need thick skin to rise in this industry. Turkey doesn't have a tradition of women moving past helpers or assistants. When I was just starting out as a chef in Delaware, a chef helped me move to Switzerland to learn from another great chef. Part of bringing a guest chef to Istanbul, is to make opportunities happen for up-and-coming chefs to learn all around the world. When someone has personally met you it makes it easier for them to take a risk on you being on their staff for a few months." As I watched Ayşe's face beam under Chef McCarrick's words, I had to turn away less the catch in my throat and the tears in my eyes peaked out.
Thank you, gentlemen,
for an exquisite afternoon tea
and an inspiring day
watching your excellence in action.
I could see why the Gazebo Lounge is the "heaven of desserts" where people in Istanbul go when they feel like having a sweet. It is an avenue to all of the sweet things in life.

 
 
 
Part Two of My First Istanbul Hammam Adventure at Çirağan Palace Kempinski Hotel

Yes, Empty Nest Expat is on Facebook. 'Like" my page and follow my blog.

 
Travel Sites Catalog All Traveling Sites Expat Women—Helping Women Living Overseas International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory expat Czech Republic website counter blog abroadWho links to me? Greenty blog