Saturday, June 23, 2012

Turkey 2011 Chapter 5 - Turkish Cuisine

I do love to eat! Prior to traveling to Turkey I researched the cuisine so I had a heads up on what to expect. I was not prepared for the amount of food served at just one meal. I learned quickly to go easy on the first course. At least two more courses would follow and then the mandatory fruit and tea.

Usually the table would be set with the salads, appetizers and bread.
The plates were beautifully arranged and very colorful. There was very little "dressing" for the salads. A squeeze of lemon was added. The red cabbage was marinated. The other dishes usually consisted of eggplant in a yogurt sauce and stuffed grape leaves.

Variations on this salad were served in most of the restaurants as well as the homes we visited.

Soup is served at most meals. Lentil is the most common also eaten with a squeeze of lemon.
There were different breads, however, my favorite was the "poofy" bread pictured above.

We had breakfast at a family home. The meal was served in the garden.
This photo shows the pretzel-shaped bread with sesame seeds called simit. Simit is very readily available and is even sold by street vendors. It is served with jam or yogurt or as a fast food eaten plain.

Here are a couple of examples of the typical restaurant main course. The meat is cooked over a "spit" and consists of lamb, ground beef and usually chicken kebab. The vegetables are also grilled. Watch out for that green pepper! Sometimes it would be mild but other times it would set your mouth on fire. The parsley is not considered a garnish - it was eaten as well. Bulgar pilaf is shown on these plates. I enjoyed this dish flavored with tomato paste and spices.

A special fish dish cooked with cheese and mushrooms. This was an outdoor restaurant with a stream and trout pond on the premises.
Baklava was served following most meals.
It consists of filo pastry filled with chopped pistachio nuts and soaked in honey.

Two common beverages in Turkey are hot tea and Ayran.
Ayran is made by adding water, milk and salt to yogurt.

The tea was so hot I had trouble handling the hot little glasses.
(But they are so cute!)

Tea preparation is very serious business in Turkey.

I did find Nestea but not the diet that I prefer. And don't even ask for ice.
After much delay the waiter will bring out a tiny ice bucket and proudly place about two small cubes into your glass with a smile. Just don't ask.
 Following most meals fruit was offered with tea.
The apricots were really a treat. The plums were eaten green and sour.
The cherries were delicious.

Fresh fruits and vegetables were readily available in the cities as well as the countryside.

Another Turkish specialty.
Doner Kebab

Most evenings we had dinner with "host" Turkish families in their homes.
Here are some of the meals we had with the families.

In one home the tables were set up for our arrival. After being seated the courses were served. The women were busy preparing and serving and didn't join us until everyone was served.
Most of the families we visited lived in high rise buildings.
This family had a lovely stucco home with a garden.
We were invited for breakfast.

Fruit and tea was always offered following dinner.

Our "host" families were very welcoming and seemed excited to be entertaining "the Americans". Their hospitality was what made this journey special. They hold a special place in my heart.

Turkish ice cream
The temperature was in the 90's. The texture is very different.

Most mornings we had breakfast in the various hotels.
Fresh bread, pastry, cereal, vegetables, fruit, olives, cheese, yogurt, boiled eggs and processed meat (similar to lunch meat) were the standard.
There were usually several prepared hot dishes available as well. 

Turkish cuisine is a wonderful way to experience the country and culture.

♥andPeace, Myra

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