CacIk for Summer Heat


It’s been HOT.

Dashboard doesn’t lie.

And, until it cools down, that’s all the narrative I can swing…

Turks use cacIk (pronounced JUH-juk) as a refreshing soup-able side or with additional water and ice and mint as a yogurt drink. I’ve used it also as a salad dressing. And thanks to my Uncle Joe, I had the sweetest garden-fresh cucumbers for this recipe!

Ingredients

  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and grated
  • 1 tbspn olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

Instructions

  1. peel, seed, and grate cucumber; lightly salt and put aside
  2. mix remaining ingredients in separate bowl
  3. mix together and chill
  4. serve with sprig of fresh mint or dill

img_4715

For thinner cacIk (drink, soup, salad dressing), use a non-strained yogurt. For thicker, use a strained yogurt.

The Erik(calla lilies) are in Bloom Again…

The erik (a small, green, tart Turkish plum) are in bloom again…it’s that time of year. But this year their arrival is bittersweet. I feel like Katharine Hepburn’s character in Stage Door. “Now I place them here in memory of some[one] who has died…I’ve learned something about love that I never knew before…help should come to people when they need it…” And, thanks to my father-in-law, Oktay Ergunay, who for years until his retirement served as the Turkish government Director of Disaster Affairs and also the General Director of Turkish Red Crescent, help came to countless who suffered under the rubble and rebuild of earthquakes, who were left homeless from floods and landslides and every sort of natural disaster in Turkey, and who suffered neighboring regimes and migrated to Turkey with nothing but the clothes on their backs, children in their arms, and the hope of a better life. Baba devoted his life to loving and serving people through his scholarly earthquake engineering research and teaching, his smart and strategic disaster management, and his huge heart – steadfast in his insistence that every life is worth living, every life is worth saving.

And my father-in-law had a thing for green fruit – kiwi, green apples, and these tart little green plums. This spring, quite unexpectedly, he left this world, much to the devastation of my husband, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, our uncle, aunt, cousin, and all the family, friends, and colleagues who dearly loved him. And he left me with an entire climate-controlled refrigerator fruit drawer of erik that had been awaiting his summertime arrival.

I miss him terribly – his voice, his humor, his fatherly reassurance, the boundless love he had for his granddaughter – and start crying (again) when I see these things sitting in my fridge. And here’s the irony: I’m not exactly nuts about these plums. So what do you do when life tosses you erik? Maybe…erik salatasi? This will be the first of hopefully a handful of creative culinary #erikendeavors to help me keep my chin up. Will let you know when I come up with more…

iyi geceler, Baba.  (…iyi geceler, canIm.)

Ingredients

  • ~15-20 grape tomatoes
  • ~2-3 mini cucumbers
  • ~15-20 erik
  • ~12 Turkish olives
  • 1 fistful of Italian flat-leaf parsely
  • 1 tbpsn fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbspn olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  1. slice both tomatoes and plums in half (erik have pits, slicing will be imprecise, so my workaround was to munch on the middles while I made the salad)
  2. slice mini cucumbers in rounds
  3. coarsely-chop parsley
  4. toss ingredients with olives
  5. in a small ramekin, whisk lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, and salt; add to salad
  6. toss and serve

A (carrots) Rainbow of My Very Own

Once upon a time…before baby, when “date nights” were plentiful and leisurely meals were savored without a second thought as to what we’d owe the sitter if we linger another 15 minutes, we regularly frequented our neighborhood Turkuaz on the Upper West Side. With its warmly-lit, tented ceilings and its vast array of hot and cold small plates (and a spouse who could order in Turkish, which worked rather well for me…think Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in A Fish Called Wanda…), Turkuaz always delivered a delicious escape from the bustling city.

When Turkuaz first opened, at the start of the meal, they served a dip of carrots with yogurt – yogurtlu havuc salatasi – with warm pide bread. Loved it so much I had to run home and duplicate. And today I’m duplicating with rainbow carrots to create 3 different colored carrot dips.

Ingredients

yogurt sauce:

  • 4 cups of plain Greek yogurt
  • 3-4 cloves of minced/crushed raw garlic
  • 1 tsp salt (less or more, as desired)

carrots:

  • 3 pounds of rainbow carrots, separated by color
  • 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil

Instructions

yogurt sauce:

  1. in large mixing bowl, mix yogurt, garlic, and salt
  2. set aside

carrots:

  1. separate carrots by color (e.g., yellows, purples, oranges) – you’ll be making 3 separate dips, so have 3 small mixing bowls on-hand
  2. start with the orange carrots; in a food processor (another example of my culinary laziness – Turks would grate the carrots…but when I grate, I eat skin), finely chop orange carrots
  3. saute finely chopped carrots in 1 ½ – 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat to soften
  4. put aside in small mixing bowl to cool
  5. repeat for purple carrots…
  6. repeat for yellow carrots…
  7. after carrots have cooled, blend yogurt mixture to each of the softened carrot bowls, add additional salt to taste as needed
  8. garnish with fresh dill (my dexterity for garnishing was never…well, just see below…but these dips are so pretty, they can withstand even the clumsiest hand!)

IMG_3520

If at first you don’t succeed…PIRASA

Nine cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF).  Nine.  For those who aren’t familiar, a single cycle of IVF medications and ultrasounds and surgical procedures and non-surgical procedures can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks, often necessitating breaks and more tests in between cycles, and the requisite holding-of-one’s-breath for an additional 2 weeks to pee on a stick.  And of course, as you may have already read from Yalya CorbasI, it ain’t over, even then…

So our statistical mantra, borrowed from Aristotle’s Cardinal Virtues, for bringing home baby was fortitude, and persistence.  Then, of course, getting baby to eat pIrasa requires a similar virtue.  PIrasa is a dish of braised leeks with carrots, rice, lemon juice, and a hint of sugar.  It should be love-at-first-bite, but, like many things in our lives, this took a few tries before Ayla looked forward to her leeks.

IMG_3037Ingredients

  • 3 tbpsn arborio rice, washed
  • 8 long carrots, cut on the bias
  • 6 leeks, trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch-wide pieces
  • 4-6 tbspn olive oil
  • 1 tbspn salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cup boiling water

Instructions

  1. remove the outer layers of the leeks and trim off the bottoms and tops, then cut into inch/inch-and-a-half-wide pieces; rinse well
  2. heat olive oil in large saucepan on medium heat
  3. add leeks and carrots, stir then cover, and let them “sweat” as Anne says…about 5 minutes
  4. add rice, cover again for another 5 minutesIMG_8483
  5. add salt, sugar, lemon juice, boiling water; stir and cover
  6. cook on medium-low heat for about 25-30 minutes

This dish is one of my sister’s personal faves and is versatile in that it may be served warm or cold!