Bitkiler büyümek (To grow herbs) My new garden

I know I haven’t been doing a good job of posting lately, but I have been crossing things of the old 30 in 30 list!  I posted about my cupcakes (from scratch) earlier today and am thinking about doing a round up to review my progress.

Waiting for my cuttings to sprout new roots

Waiting for my cuttings to sprout new roots

In the meantime, let’s talk about my garden.  And by garden, I mean a couple of pots on my kitchen window sill.  For now.  Who knows, maybe these will stay alive for ever and I can get more!  I have had tons of trouble trying to find potted herbs… of course, I didn’t look all that hard for them, but I did find a bunch of herbs at the Mirgos a few weeks ago (all but rosemary which I actually found in a pot).  I used them to make all kinds of yummy food last week and then saved a few cuttings from the basil, purple basil, and mint.  I stuck them in some water and waited for them to grow little baby roots!  Which they did.

Basil... Looking a little sad...

Basil… Looking a little sad…

Mint

Mint

Rosemary

Rosemary

Purple basil

Purple basil

I finally went to Koçtaş, the Turkish Home Depot, a few days ago and got some pots and soil for my soon to be garden.  And I did it!  I now have a very cute potted garden in my kitchen window.  Now let’s all just hope that they live… though I don’t have high hopes for the plain basil… Sadness.

Kitchen "garden" with a lovely view of Ankara covered in snow.

Kitchen “garden” with a lovely view of Ankara covered in snow.

Mini kekler (n.: cupcakes)

I did it.  I made cupcakes from scratch!  I’ve done this before, but these were a fun new recipe.  I got the idea for them from a few different places and adjusted to what I had/like.  They’re tiramisu cupcakes and recipes can be found from Martha, Je Suis Alimentageuse, and Confections of a Foodie Bride to name a few.

Delicious

Delicious

These are so light and fluffy with the coffee-kahlua syrup dripping into the cupcake section.  The frosting is a perfect combination of marscapone and whipped heavy cream.  If I make this recipe again, I’m leaning towards making it into a cake with layers of frosting as the cupcake version was a little sloppy to eat.

Yum!  Isn't this hot plate super cute too?  It was a Christmas gift from our cleaning lady.

Yum! Isn’t this hot plate super cute too? It was a Christmas gift from our cleaning lady.

Yes, it’s true… there are no step by step photos, but trust me.  These are from scratch.  The slightly melty frosting should be the give away to that.

I think I should go eat the last one that's hidden in the fridge...

I think I should go eat the last one that’s hidden in the fridge…

Makarna (n.: Pasta) A short adventure into my history

I did it!  Making pasta from scratch was on my 30 in 30 list in part because I wanted to add fun cooking-related things to the list and in part because, as a (non-Jersey Shore) Italian American kid I thought it would be good if I were able to make a pot of pasta on my own.  What I did not expect was for it to turn into a trip down memory lane of thoughts of my grandmother.

cook book, computer, wine

Ready to attempt pasta… armed with my honeymoon cookbook, williamssonoma website, and a bottle of wine. You know, just in case.

Both of my parents come from mostly Italian roots, but my mother’s mother is the one I remember having fresh made pasta and sweets ready for us when we were kids.  I should mention that while they both came from tight-knit Catholic families — the kind that stay in the same houses for generations, the kind that have 11 children (yes. true story.) — when I was a little kid my parents moved us across the country.  At the time it was tough, more for my parents than us, but over time I can say it was the best thing for us.  It taught my sister and I to be independent and to know that no matter how far we were physically from our families they were always with us.  Which having lived an ocean away for over three and a half years now has been a wonderful lesson to have learned.

Edith in the kitchen.

Edith in the kitchen.

So growing up, my parents shipped my sister and I back to the northeast to visit our extended families for a few weeks each summer until we were old enough to be ‘too cool’ for that.  The great thing about it was that since we weren’t around all the time like our other cousins, my grandmother would always indulge us and pull out all the stops.  We could have pasta every night and even her world famous nut roll (and it wasn’t even Christmas!) if we asked lovingly and would offer up hugs and kisses.

Untitled

Making pasta is tougher than I thought… though super delicious!

My grandmother was the first generation of Americans in her family (which is to say she was born in the US, but her parents were not) and she grew up with the ways of the old country.  She even grew up speaking Italian at home and only learning English in school.  Edith, the Americanized form of the popular Italian name ‘Aida’, was an amazing chef.  She somehow managed to feed eleven kids on virtually nothing — though they will all admit that those days the food wasn’t as good — and I deeply regret never learning her recipes from her before she passed away.

Close up of ravioli

Close ups of food make me hungry. Maybe I should pull out some leftovers?

It came as quite a surprise to me that somehow in the middle of attempting to roll out pasta dough into perfect paper-thin sheets — a much more difficult feat than you’d think when you see some of those old ladies do it! — I begin to think of my grandmother.  It isn’t that I don’t think of her often this time of year, I think we all think of those who aren’t here to celebrate the holidays with us this time of year, it was just a surprise at how easily her memory came to me during such a simple act.  I suppose to say I was thinking of her isn’t quite accurate either. I’d say I was channeling her or felt connected to her across time and space as though she were in my kitchen with me.

A young Edith.  Before marriage, kids, and all of us grandkids...

A young Edith. Before marriage, kids, and all of us grandkids. What a beautiful woman!

I’m not saying the ghost of my long-dead grandmother is haunting my rolling pin, but I believe that we’re all connected in ways we don’t fully understand (string theory anyone? yep, the yogi in me is showing!) and that maybe through my attempt to reconnect with my Italian heritage I connected with my grandma on a level I hadn’t before.  And more than that, I almost felt as though I were connecting with generations of women who had spent hours rolling out dough just as I was doing.  It was such a wonderful, calming feeling that I may even be willing to do it again.  But not anytime in the very near future, because my recipe made enough pumpkin raviolis to stash some in the freezer for a rainy day – just like Gram did!

empty plate pumpkin ravioli

Best evidence that it was not only edible, but delicious? An empty serving plate!

Poğaça (n. delicious bread roll)

Okay, yes.  I added the delicious to the definition.  But it’s true.  It is delicious.  And nice and full of calories (yes, that was sarcastic).  But the delicious part was totally true.

According to Wiki, poğaça is a Balkan speciality, but I never saw it while I was in Bosnia so I can’t really confirm that Wiki  is accurate on that one.  I can however confirm the tastiness.  Here in Turkey you can find quite a few different types: potato, olive, cheese, oh my!  I love mine plain and spread with different yummy things — kaymak, jam, butter, etc.

Surprise! I have a bag of poğaça!

The greatest part is that there is a place right across the park from us that makes poğaça every morning and is frighteningly cheap.  Let’s be honest, posts about food are all about the photos unless there’s smell-o-vision.  Has that been invented yet?  And am I the only one that remembers that episode (Simpsons? maybe… if not whatever it was…)?

Plate of poğaça

Plate of poğaça… there’s cheese, plain, and my favorite olive-stuffed.

Mmmm… Poğaça.  What’s that you asked?  Why aren’t there any pictures of poğaça not in a bag or neatly stacked?  Like maybe half eaten or sitting neatly on your plate, intelligentandwittylady?  You’re funny.  Like these things last more than seconds when they’re fresh and warm.

Gözleme (n.: a savoury traditional Turkish handmade and hand-rolled pastry)

First can we just take note that this is my first posting about food.  How is that possible?!

Look at all the yumminess stacked up!

Gözleme is delicious.  Amazing.  Heavenly.  In fact, it might be one of my favorite Turkish foods.  It’s something you’ll find in restaurants (usually for breakfast fare) or as a street food of sorts (generally at bazaars or set stands since it requires a big cook top).  It’s a thin pastry dough filled with your choice of yummy fillings (traditionally cheese, spinach, spiced potatoes, or spiced ground meat) and if you’re lucky it’s cooked right in front of your eyes.

Gözleme being made right in front of my eyes!

Dough being rolled out super thin

Sometimes gözleme is the only thing that gets me through an unfruitful bazaar trip really…  That and the need to get away from the sharp elbows of my fellow shoppers.

Patatesli (or starch wrapped in starch) was what I needed to get through the bazaar that day.

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