Tag Archives: turkey

THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS

Well, Thanksgiving is over, and it often has the same feeling: too much food and too much stress. Rich Table was closed, so our family, Sarah, Evan and their boys and Peter, Rene and their girls, took over the place. Sarah had planned to do the cooking, but because of the baby’s three-day illness and her being up for three straight nights, Evan took over. That was a busman’s holiday for sure.

I had baked rolls for the occasion in Sarah’s kitchen, including Sibella’s recipe from her blog. They turned out ok though not as beautiful as hers, but they were done in when Sarah forgot them in the oven while reheating them. They were sort-of edible cinders. Rene brought kale chips and stuffed mushrooms, and Evan made tacos from the turkey legs along with the usuals, including three kinds of cranberry sauce, as if one is not enough.  A pastry-chef friend, Bill Corbett, sent a spectacular pecan tart.

There was a play about pilgrims performed by the little ones, and then everyone pitched in to leave the restaurant as clean as we found it.

Apologies for the images. They are shakier than usual, but I had to give you an idea of the cinders and the spread.

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THE PARTHENON AND BAKLAVA

The Acropolis in Athens must certainly be on most people’s list of places they want to visit. It has been on my list since grade school, so it was a thrill to go there during our recent cruise. At the time of our visit, Athens was a worrisome place. The city is a teeming metropolis of more than three million people and there were demonstrations outside our hotel on Syntagma  Square (also called  Parliament Square) which caused the management to lower metal screens to protect the windows. The changing of the guard in front of the Parliament building went on schedule , but we had to walk past a cordon of police buses and armed military to get to our hotel.

Visiting the Acropolis was as if none of this was happening.  We got off our tour bus across from the entrance and began the long walk up the paths cut into the steep, rocky base of hill. Even though we were “off-season”, there were thousands of other tourists making the same pilgrimage, some racing up the steep stairs while others like me took it more slowly. Marble steps and paths were polished smooth, and one could only reflect on the thousands of years and millions of footprints that produced the patina. Even at that, there were flowers pushing up through the cracks.

As we climbed higher and higher, we could see some of the great landmarks. First was the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The ruins of this enormous theater, built in the second century are set against the Athens skyline. At one time this was one of the largest covered theaters in the world. Now it is an open air setting where Athens frequently stages modern musical and theatrical productions.

Beyond was a wonderful view of the Olympieion, an enormous temple to Zeus begun in the sixth century BCE but not completed until the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian more than 600 years later. Only a few columns remain standing, but it is clear how huge it once was.

We reached the steps of the Propylaea. This served as the ancient entrance to the complex on the Acropolis. Apparently the purpose of the structure was to serve as a barrier to individuals who were not qualified to visit the holy sites.

Off to the left we saw the Temple of Athena Nike with its beautiful columns and lovely symmetry.

Then the centerpiece of the Acropolis: the Parthenon. Construction equipment, scaffolds, and cranes were all over the place obscuring views that were not already obscured by tourists. Even at that, the building is an impressive sight and the ruins are beautiful. The building has been much abused over the centuries. The famous statuary of the friezes was taken by the Scottish Lord Elgin and now resides in the British Museum.  The building has been a Christian church, a Muslim mosque, and a Turkish munitions warehouse at which time it was it was destroyed by the Venetians. It is truly amazing that such a lovely ruin has survived so much abuse and neglect.

The Erechtheion sits off to the side with its famous Porch of the Caryatids. The pillars supporting the roof of the porch are marble maidens – both sculptural and engineering marvels in that their thin necks provide support for the heavy marble roof. Unfortunately, Lord Elgin  took one of the maidens for his estate, and one was seriously damaged, but the others have been moved to the Museum of the Acropolis. Still the replicas capture the marvel of the originals.

Too soon our visit to the Acropolis ended and we rushed back to the bus. It is clear that one could spend a lifetime visiting and studying this magic place.

RECIPE

Baklava

When I think of Greece I think of baklava even though it is apparently originally a Turkish creation. That should not be too surprising since the histories and traditions of Greece and Anatolia have been intertwined for thousands of years (Think Trojan War.) In Greece, baklava is a traditional Easter confection, and apparently it is often made with 40 leaves of phyllo to honor the 40 days of Lent.

In this version, I have used only one of the two packages of dough that come in a one-pound box. There are 20 leaves in the package, so if you are able to fold them over on themselves, you will have the 40 requisite layers. I used an 8 x 8 inch pan, so that wouldn’t quite work, but I think you’ll find it close enough for an amateur try at the real thing.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups mixed walnuts and unsalted pistachios, toasted in a dry sauté pan and coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon powdered lemon peel
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup honey (preferably orange blossom)
  • peel from 1 orange without pith
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • ¼ teaspoon orange flower water
  • ½ pound (one packet from one pound box) frozen phyllo dough, wrapped but thawed for 2 hours

Method

  • Prepare clarified butter by melting in an ovenproof measuring cup in the microwave. Skim off foam and pour off carefully without the solids that settle to the bottom. You should have about 180 mL. Set aside
  • Combine the chopped nuts, sugar, powdered lemon rind, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, orange peel, and lemon juice. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to the simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the liqueur and orange flower water. Strain and set aside. Reheat when ready to pour over the baked baklava
  • On a clean, dry work surface, open the package of phyllo dough.The leaves will probably measure about 9 x 15 inches.  Spread out, cover with a sheet of plastic film, and a damp kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out while you work. Work as quickly as you can.
  • With a pastry brush, paint the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 inch baking pan. Then take one leaf of dough and fit in the bottom, folding over as much as you can. Brush on some of the clarified butter. Repeat with 4 additional leaves of dough.Then sprinkle the top with 1/3 of the nut mixture.
  • Repeat the layering process twice more. You should have three layers of dough and nuts.
  • Top with the remaining leaves of dough, buttering each one as you go. That should use up all of the phyllo.
  • Score the finished stack into 1½ to 2 inch diamonds with a sharp knife. It is important to do this before you bake the baklava; otherwise the pastry will shatter when you cut it.
  • Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 325°F for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300°F and bake for 6o minutes more.
  • Meanwhile, reheat the flavored syrup.
  • When the top of the baklava is a golden brown, remove from the oven and cover with the syrup while it is still warm.
  • Let cool completely for at least 4 hours so that the syrup is completely absorbed.
  • Serve by cutting through each score.

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EPHESUS AND LOKUM (TURKISH DELIGHT)

Ephesus

One of the highlights of our recent visit to the Mediterranean was the ruins of  Ephesus in Turkey. Our ship docked in the nearby port of Kusadasi (Bird Island) which is named after the island, now called Pigeon Island, which dominates the harbor. The island is crowned by an ancient Byzantine fortress which has been rebuilt several times over the centuries and is still a commanding presence. The island has restaurants and entertainment centers and is connected to the mainland by an ornate causeway. At night the lights along the causeway and on the fortress battlements create a stunning view.

Ephesus is not far away on a modern highway and is only a little over a mile from the modern Turkish city of Selçuk, population 36,000. . Ephesus dates back thousands of years and was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the seventh century BCE.  One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis, was located nearby. Ephesus was a center of Greek culture until the second century BCE when it became a part of the Roman Empire.  At its height, the city had between 250,000 and 500,000 inhabitants and was one of the largest cities in the entire empire. Later, it was an important city of the Byzantine Empire.  Its dominance was because  it was a center of trade, related to its harbor. Over the years and in spite of dredging efforts, the port and the river silted up, and Ephesus became landlocked. Earthquakes and Arab raids also contributed to the decline of the city, and it was abandoned in the eighth century.

Ephesus was important in early Christian activities. Because of its size and importance, there were early missionary activities there. In the Book of Acts in the New Testament, there is a story of Paul arriving to preach in the massive open-air theater. He was discouraged from doing so by friends who worried for his safety. One of Paul’s’ letters, “Epistle to the Ephesians”, was addressed to the Christian community in Ephesus. Tradition has it that Saint John was imprisoned here and that Jesus’s mother Mary lived out her final days in a house a bit removed from the city.

Ephesus was clearly a wealthy city. The ruins, including baths, gymnasia, temples, theaters, and enormous residences all bear that out. The Library of  Celsus is beautifully restored and preserved. In its day it served as a mausoleum for a prominent Roman as well as a library with many scrolls.

Terrace homes of wealthy residents line one side of the main thoroughfare, Curetes Street. The houses were at their peak from about 100 to 700 CE at around the time of abandonment of the city. The rooms filled with dirt resulting in remarkable preservation comparable to that in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Still under excavation, the homes reveal elaborate mosaic floors, ornate wall decorations, and marble doors, walls, and pools.

The enormous theater, seating 35,000 has been amazingly well-preserved as have the agoras (gathering places) with their arcades and shops, public latrines, a brothel, and numerous public buildings.

Map of archaeologic site open to visitors

Map of archaeological site open to visitors

Of course the marble streets are filled with tourists, and you could easily spend much more time than that alloted in the usual tours. Even with all that, though, it is a place well worth visiting.

Lokum

This is a traditional sweet that was invented by a famous Turkish cook in the 1700’s. It is soft, sweet, dusted in sugar, and usually flavored with rosewater.  Supposedly lokum or Turkish delight is offered to guests with coffee, but you will see it everywhere, boxed up for purchase from street vendors or small shops.

There are many recipes for lokum on the internet. In general, they fall into three categories depending upon what is used as a firming agent. Some use cornstarch; some use gelatin; and some use pectin. This recipe is derived from one published in the Joy of Cooking as late as 1975. Subsequently the recipe disappeared from the index of the cook book, I think because the candy may turn into a sticky mess if you are not careful. I have made the recipe several times over the years, and this is by far the most successful version. You need to make sure the pan and waxed paper are well-greased or you will never get the candy out of the bottom of the pan.  Actually, I had to throw away the pan the first time I tried making Turkish delight. You also need to make sure that you cook the sugar mixture at least to the soft ball stage or it will not get firm enough.

My very strong advice is that you should travel to Turkey and buy your supply of Turkish delight from a street vendor. Failing that, go to your local Middle Eastern market.

 

RECIPE

Lokum (Turkish Delight)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 packet (  ) liquid fruit pectin
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup fruit jelly
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ cup unsalted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped
  • confectioners’ sugar

Method

  • Prepare an 8 x 8 inch baking pan: grease well with butter, line with two buttered sheets of waxed paper arranged crosswise and overhanging the rim of the pan. Set aside.
  • Combine the water, pectin, and baking soda in a heavy 2 quart sauce pan. The mixture will expand and foam.
  • In a second saucepan, combine the corn syrup and sugar.
  • Bring the corn syrup and sugar mixture to the boil and heat to the soft ball stage, 240° F. Check with a candy thermometer. Then bring the pectin and baking soda to the boil over another flame. Stir until foaming subsides.
  • Gradually pour the pectin mixture into the sugar mixture, stirring continuously.
  • Stir in the jelly
  • Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and pistachio nuts.
  • Pour into the prepared pan and let cool at room temperature for at least 3 hours or preferably over night.

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WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE? SOME SAY TURKEY, I SAY DRESSING

Thanksgiving for nearly every American family is a special holiday where grandparents, parents, children and often more distant relatives and friends gather around a bounteous table to share fellowship and a delicious traditional meal. The meal has become almost ritual, and each family table is filled with particular foods that absolutely must be there. There is usually the roasted turkey, although in recent years more and more families are substituting roast beef, ham or some other protein. Then there are mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with miniature marshmallows on top, dressing or stuffing as the case may be, gravy, cranberry relish, and green bean casserole made with canned mushroom soup and canned fried onion rings.  All of this is followed with both pumpkin and pecan pie with lots of whipped cream. (How can one possibly choose – so of course you need “a little sliver” of both!)

One of our family traditions is creamed onions. No one eats them, but the whole family complains if the onions are not on the table.  What nobody complains about is the bread dressing. The recipe came from Susan’s aunt who used to visit the family around Thanksgiving-time and always brought good food and new recipes from Delaware. Her dressing  has been an all-time hit so that we always double and usually triple the recipe to have plenty to eat with leftover turkey the next day. I suspect that she got her recipe out of a newspaper or magazine, because I have seen a lot of similar though not identical recipes since then. Still, this is a family heirloom which has to be made exactly the same every year.

Our family Thanksgivings have been both days of joy and family happiness (There are three birthdays in November) as well as days of sadness when one of the clan has been diagnosed with a serious illness or when a loved one is no longer at the table.  The day can also be one of discouragement for the cook or cooks who have been baking and preparing for days ahead. They often arise before dawn on the big day to put the finishing touches on the meal. Hours of hard work, sweat over a hot stove, and attention to details all seem to be for nothing when everyone sits down, only to have the meal disappear in a few minutes. That’s so folks won’t miss a minute of the football games on television or conversations around the fire. Mountains of dishes still have to be done by the kitchen crew.

Cubed French bread

Crumbled corn bread

This year we are doing things differently. We will be going to the dining room of a local hotel where they will serve a traditional turkey dinner ending with a huge buffet of desserts. When everyone has eaten his or her fill, the leftovers get packaged up to take home for the next day. No hot work in the kitchen and no dishes to clean up. Everyone seems happy including the usual cooks.

Ready to eat

Still, we will miss AA’s all-time best bread dressing. We might even make some beforehand to make sure we have it on Friday.

RECIPE

AA’s All-Time Best Bread Dressing

Ingredients

5 Cups cubed French bread

5 Cups crumbled cornbread

1/2 Cup butter

3/4 Cup minced onion

1/2 Cup minced green pepper

1/2 Cup minced celery

1 chicken bouillon cube

2/3 Cup hot water

1/2 pound bulk sausage

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

2 eggs,beaten

3/4 Cup chopped pecans

  1. The day before, cut French bread into 1/2 inch cubes and spread them out to dry overnight.  In a separate pan, crumble the cornbread and spread it to dry overnight.
  2. In a large, heavy skillet, saute the onion, green pepper, and celery in the butter until tender.
  3. Place the bread cubes and crumbled corn bread in a very large container.  Dissolve the bouillon cube in the hot water and sprinkle over the dried breads. Stir in the sautéed vegetables.
  4. Using the same skillet, saute the sausage until browned and finely divided. Set aside.
  5. Add the salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, eggs, and pecans to the crumb mixture. Stir in the sausage and pan drippings and mix well.
  6. Bake in a large greased pan, covered, at 325 for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.

Yield: Enough for 6 to 8 with no leftovers

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