November 2008

dscn2249We made kafta (not, as I originally thought, kofta) and imam bayildi tonight, and they turned out so well that they’re definitely going to make another appearance!  The kafta is a baked, layered dish that makes a great entree.  The bottom layer is ground meat (we used lamb) mixed with parsley, onions, fulful bahar (spice blend).  On top of that is a layer of sliced potatoes, then a layer of sliced tomatoes, and on top of everything is a tomato-lemon sauce and pine nuts for garnish.  Once it’s all baked, we drizzled some tahini sauce over it.  The combination of nutty tahini, acid from the tomatoes and lemons, spices and potatoes is pure comfort food.  The imam bayildi was also really tasty; it’s basically stuffed baked eggplant.  The stuffing is made from the scooped-out eggplant flesh, tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, garlic, raisins, pine nuts, and lemon juice.

Last night we had our lamb dinner, which was originally supposed to happen on Sunday but our stuffed sardines “snack” was so filling that neither one of us was hungry for dinner.  The neck of lamb was good, but not really astoundingly so.  I think shoulder meat is definitely the most tender…especially given that what they sell here as “lamb” is probably more like mutton than like actual spring lamb.


We figured it was bound to happen eventually, but since he had really not shown any recognizable symptoms of teething, we were not expecting it to happen just yet — Stephen officially has his first tooth!  He’s been gnawing on everything he can get his hand on for months now, but other than that he didn’t really seem much different than usual lately — no excessive drool, no fever, no irritability.  The only thing I can think of in hindsight is that he did seem to get tired more quickly than usual for the past week or so.  At any rate, the tooth is here, and it’s already broken through the skin.  It’s tiny right now, not really visible unless you’re looking straight at it (which is challenging since he likes to stick his tongue out when his mouth is opened), but it’s definitely there.  We bought him a little toothbrush today and some fluoride-free infant toothpaste, and tonight I brushed his little tooth after he nursed.

It’s so bittersweet — my little boy isn’t the tiny baby he was just a few months ago.  I’m going to miss his big gummy smile.

Fresh sardines (“hamsi” in Turkish) are apparently in season right now, as there are huge piles of them at every fish stall in the market right now.  After looking at them curiously for a few weeks, we decided to take the plunge and try to cook some ourselves.  We found a recipe in the last issue of Cucina Italiana for Sicilian Stuffed Sardines, which looked absolutely delicious and also used primarily things we already had in the kitchen (with the obvious exception of the sardines).  We bought a half kilo of sardines this morning (for a whopping 1 lira or 60 cents), and having heard that they don’t keep very well we decided to prepare them for our post-church, post-grocery shopping snack this afternoon.

I know that a recipe that includes both sardines and anchovies may not appeal to everyone, but let me tell you, they were AMAZING.  Preparing the sardines was pretty time-consuming (partly because the ones we got are smaller than the sardines used in the recipe so we had to use 36 sardines instead of the 12 specified), but the preparation and cooking made for a great, relaxing Sunday afternoon.  For once I remembered to take pictures as we went, so here goes!

To prepare the sardines, we first removed their heads and gutted them:


Then we removed the spines to butterfly them.  While Danny prepped the sardines, I made the stuffing:


Then we laid the sardines in the baking dish, spooned stuffing onto them, and laid a second sardine on top:


Then we sprinkled more breadcrumbs on top, drizzled them with olive oil, and baked them for 20 minutes before serving:


Sunday: Roasted neck of lamb with lemon and thyme (from The River Cottage Cookbook), mystery greens, potato-celeriac mash

Lebanese night: Kofta with tahini, Imam bayildi (roasted eggplant with tomatoes)

Fish night: Pan-seared turbot, roasted fennel bulb with parmiggiano, brown rice

We’re also making a rempah sauce for rendang (beef, chicken, or shrimp) to use up the left-over lemongrass from last week, which we’ll probably make on Friday.

Incidentally, we’re having SO much fun with menu planning.  We totally didn’t expect to, but we’re really enjoying sitting down with our cookbooks and a cup of coffee on Saturdays and picking a few really interesting things to cook that week.  Next week is going to be an Italian extravaganza, since we’ve been neglecting Danny’s Italian roots of late.

I’m going to start a recipe blog so that all of the recipes we’re making will be in one place, but first I need to catch up on my posts!

I forgot to post this last week, so here was the menu plan:

Tuesday: 15 bean soup, cornbread (my parents and grandfather arrived!)

Wednesday (Indian night): Lamb with spinach, cauliflower with tomato and onion, lentils, brown rice, lemon pickle and mango chutney

Thursday (Asian night): Lemongrass shrimp, brown rice, salad

Friday: General Tso’s chicken, brown rice

The bean soup was perfect as it simmered and hung out on the stove until everyone got back from the airport and Stephen went to sleep.  Indian night was once again a success, although we discovered that the author of our cookbook was right that lamb leg is much less tender than shoulder.  Live and learn.  The cauliflower was the stand-out that night, although the lentils were also pretty tasty.  Stephen got to enjoy some of the pureed spinach that the lamb cooked in, and he seemed to like it…we have to make sure he’s willing to try all kinds of random things!  The lemongrass shrimp was also awesome, the perfect mix of creamy (from coconut milk) and tangy with lots of yummy citrus flavor.

Friday I was feeling sort of under the weather, and Danny spoiled me by making General Tso’s chicken.  Since there is apparently no such thing as good Chinese food in Ankara (there is, however, a good Indian restaurant here!), our homemade version was the first good Chinese I’ve had in months.  We put a little bit too much cornstarch in the sauce, but otherwise it was REALLY good.

This will be Stephen’s first Christmas, and Danny and I have been having some of those conversations about what we do and do not want to incorporate into our celebration of Christmas in our family.  This will technically be the second Christmas we’ve celebrated ourselves (as in not with extended family), but the last one really doesn’t count as Danny only got a half day off and although we enjoyed ourselves, it didn’t really feel like Christmas.  Check out our ghetto-fabulous decorations here.

At any rate, I’m building a sort of a “wish list” of children’s books that I’d like to have in our library, and I figured Christmas was as good as excuse as any to start chipping away at the list.  (Incidentally, does one ever really need an excuse to buy books?)  It’s been a while since I read children’s books, though, and I’m sure there are lots of good ones out there that I don’t know about, so I’m shamelessly soliciting suggestions.  Here is the list that I started…we also have most of the normal Dr. Seuss books and a few others that I’ll try to post about in the coming days and weeks.  Oh, and the entire collection of “Little Miss’ and “Mr. Men” books, which Danny gave me for my 24th birthday.  Yes, that was well before I was pregnant, for those of you who are counting.  He bought them for me, because I told him how much I loved them.

So weigh in!  What books can we not live without?

I’ve never really done a book review on here before, but now is as good a time to start as any, I suppose!

basraDanny’s sister Margo gave Stephen The Librarian of Basra several months ago, and I’ve looked at it myself a few times but today was the first time I brought it out to read it to him.  Not only did he love looking at the illustrations, I was reminded how much I love this book.  The illustrations are interesting and eye-catching, and the author does a wonderful job of presenting some of the human costs of war without getting so political and preachy that the story loses precedence to an agenda.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone with children, or to anyone like me who’s shameless enough to own and look at children’s books even when there are no children about to use as an excuse.

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