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Archive for September, 2011

Black Gold

Coffee. Beautiful, rich, bold, steamy broth of the gods.

Moved by the delicious cappuccinos I voraciously lapped up on a weekend trip to Rome in the spring of 2009, I started a post about coffee on a scrap of paper. It never made it online, but this week, the smell of my favorite drink wafting up the stairs prompted me to write about it today.

Almost every country I have visited has a version of this delicious brew and I have thoroughly enjoyed them all.  From cafe au lait in Paris, to cappuccino in Rome, to cardamon-spiced coffee in Dubai, to the dark and sweet Turkish coffee here in Istanbul or mirra in the east of Turkey, they are all delicious in their own right, but  not as endearing to me as a cup of coffee from my very own pot.

My morning always starts with a cup of Joe.  It truly is one of the highlights of my day.  I love getting up before the rest of the household when the sun is just beginning to stir from its night long rest, then brewing a pot of coffee and savoring it in solitude.  In fact, this morning ritual is something I so cherish that even after vacationing in some of the most beautiful areas of Turkey, if the coffee isn’t good, after about three days I yearn for my very own coffee pot. Of late, we have been known to bring a kettle, coffee beans and french press with us on vacation.  People often look at me in confusion when I say this since Turkey is the land of Turkish coffee, a drink you can get just about anywhere here.  But Turkish coffee and filter coffee are two different animals.  Turkish coffee is a dense sweet brew cooked in a pot upon the stove then poured into dainty little cups. Delicious and satisfying, but very different from good old North American filter coffee.

Maybe I love coffee because I am from the state of Washington, where the American coffee craze took root  in an uber-cool coffee joint, tucked away in the hippest of farmer’s markets perched atop the Puget Sound. Started by a couple of teachers and a writer, Starbucks is now synonymous with corporate coffee, but it didn’t used to be. Simple and low key, the original Starbucks coffee house still stands in all its humble glory. We tried to go there this summer, but alas, the line was out the door and with two tired five-year- olds and a sleepy baby cousin in tow, we opted to head back to our lodgings in the hip neighborhood of Ballard.

Cool coffeehouses can be found all over Seattle, but we were very close to one of the best coffee houses in the city.  Risking getting back late and messing up the “departure day” system, Cafe Fiore was worth getting up early for.   After a brisk 20-minute walk through quaint early 1900’s houses ensconced in well kept lawns and abundant summer flowers, Cafe Fiore was everything a coffee house should be: inviting, well-priced with many different coffees on brew.  That combined with the working folk gathered around the tables enjoying a cuppa and a chat before heading off to work made the trip well worth it.  It also made me sad to be leaving the beautiful city of Seattle that day.

Back here in Istanbul, on a rare but delightful occasion, K. was up before me one day this week. Being a coffee lover as well, he brewed the pot for the day. I awoke to my favorite smell, beckoning me out from under the covers into the crisp, dark morning air.

It is a sunny Sunday morning here, with the promise of fall just barely nipping the air.  The boys are at the football pitch with baba and the house is quiet.  I think another cup of Joe is in order.

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Kara Lahana

Over the past year or so, I have been reading about kale chips on the various foodie blogs that I follow. Even with all of the rave reviews, the recipe never tickled my fancy. Cabbage?  Baked?  Tasty? No way.

But this past bayram break offered up a chance to change my mind.   We stayed in a little seaside Aegean village called Assos in a small, restored village house.  Without going into details about the amount of sun, calamari, fish, garlicky mezzes and cold beer we consumed, for dinner one night we were served a plate of a dark green, crunchy, salad-like substance that made me pause in wonder.  I thought it was fried seaweed. Not being a huge fan of seaweed, but a firm believer in the “one bite” philosophy, I reached for a spoonful. To my delight and surprise, my teeth crunched down upon a salty, earthy mouthful of goodness that quickly dissolved and disappeared, leaving me wanting for more.  I promptly shared a spoonful with Koray, whose eyes also lit up.  The boys were a tougher sell. I persuaded them to eat it by promising to reveal the surprise origin of this crunchy side dish, but only after they took one bite. They promptly gobbled it up, and even liked it. They were even more delighted to find out it was fried “seaweed” something they had been inspecting with their new swimming goggles on the beach earlier that day.

So we scarfed down the plate of green goodness only to find out at the end of the meal that the “seaweed” was actually kara lahana, or kale. Pages and pages of web recipes flooded my mind and I was determined at that point to make this tasty side dish.

And it couldn’t be easier.  You can go to the web and find tons of recipes with slight variations, but here is how I made it:

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. or 400 F. Wash and dry (bone dry) as many kale leaves as you want to eat. Then you can either slice them finely or cut into larger chunks. Douse with olive oil and shake some salt on it, mix well so that the leaves are covered in olive oil. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on it.  The kale leaves are finished when they are crispy.  To maximize the crispiness, be sure the leaves are laid out in a single layer. If you do the finely sliced version, stir it every now and then so that all of the water can be baked out leaving a crisp and tasty treat.

Enjoy with a glass of cold beer and delicious sea bass as we did.

Afiyet olsun.

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