Monday, July 30, 2012

COOKING IN ISTANBUL - Cooking Alaturka

This is one of my favorite things to do while traveling - take a cooking class.  
After checking around I chose Cooking Alaturka mostly because reviewers just raved about the owner, Eveline, and her chef Feyzi. 

There were eleven of us and we all had a good time cooking together and then dining on the finished product.

                              So, let's get right to it and start chopping away with the machete!

                                                     Chopping mint, parsley, and dill

                          Because of the cooking time, we started with the eggplant boats

                                                Then on to the stuffed grape leaves      
                           The trick is to roll them tightly so that they don't fall apart during cooking  

                       Semolina cakes hot out of the oven and then doused with a simple syrup
                                                  The syrup is absorbed as the cakes cool

                                                                   DINNER TIME!

                                    Red lentil and bulgur soup with dried mint and chili pepper
                                                               (Ezogelin corbasi)
                                   This is one of the best soups I've ever tasted and the first recipe
                                                 I will make when the weather cools down

                                                Zucchini patties with herbs and cheese
                                                               (Kabak mueveri)
                                               Light and crispy, no extra seasoning required

                                           Eggplant braised in olive oil with onion and tomato
                                                                  (Imam bayildi)
  While I really enjoyed these, this recipe requires a lot of olive oil so I doubt I will make
                  Plus, eggplant is not at the top of my family's favorite vegetable list

                                                   Vine leaves stuffed with minced meat
                                                              (Etli yaprak dolmasi)

       These hot stuffed grape leaves were so delicious that I don't think I can ever eat them cold again
                                        Really, a lovely dish that holds its own as an entree        

                                  Semolina sponge cakes with hazelnuts and a dusting of pistachios

                                    Heaven--we all could have eaten more.  So sweet and moist.

                                                                      Apple tea
                                                              My new favorite tea

                                                      A happy, friendly, helpful group

                                                                     Chef Feyzi
                                (He looks so stern but he's very funny and offered great instruction)

                                                            George and Eveline
                                          Eveline runs the outfit and teaches, George is her
                                                               happy partner

Recipes will follows when I recreate--assuming the Arizona weather cools down some day

Thursday, July 26, 2012


 Glorious mosaic patterns were to be found everywhere in Istanbul.  If you are an artist in need of inspiration, Istanbul would be a good place to visit.

                                                                 The Blue Mosque
So many times when we enter ancient places of worship the interiors are very dark.  What a surprise then to walk into the Blue Mosque, built in the early 1600's, and see all these gorgeous tiled patterns of light and uplifting colors.

                                                                     The Blue Mosque

                                                                The Blue Mosque

                                                                  The Royal Mausoleum
                                                   Sultans and family members entombed here

                                                                      Hagia Sophia
                            Orginally built as a Christian church, Hagia Sophia is now a museum

                                                                      Hagia Sophia

                                                     Painted ceiling at Hagia Sophia

                                                                     Hagia Sophia

                                                              Courtyard at Topkapi Palace

                                                           Tiled wall at Topkapi Palace

                                                        A walkway at Topkapi Palace

                                                          The Harem at Topkapi Palace

                                                              Roman Cisterns
                              Love that they made the effort to beautifully design water storage

                                                          The Mosque of Suleyman

                                                       Carpet at Mosque of Suleyman

                                                             Mosque of Suleyman

Monday, July 23, 2012


The Whirling Dervish Ceremony
A form of prayer through music and dance

The Whirling Dervishes

One of six minarets surrounding the Blue Mosque

Call to prayer (5 times daily) is heard through speakers placed on minarets such as this one

Mosque of Suleyman

Faucets outside the mosque for washing
Mosque of Suleyman

Mosque of Suleyman

The Women's Prayer Section
Mosque of Suleyman

                                                                 Hagia Sophia
             Originally built as a Christian church, then turned into a mosque, now it's a museum
                                      The current structure was rebuilt shortly after532

                                                                        Hagia Sophia

                                                                    Hagia Sophia                   

                                                                 The Splendid Door
                                                                      Hagia Sophia

                                                                      Baptismal Font
                                                                       Hagia Sophia

Monday, July 16, 2012

ISTANBUL - Where to begin?

It took me three days to get into the rhythm of Istanbul.  I had been warned it was like no other place I've visited.  We arrived at 11:45 pm on a Wednesday night and after all the customs and immigration rigamarole, we finally were taken to our hotel at around 12:45 am.  The first thing I noticed was the restaurants were teeming with people--I mean fully packed!  At 12:45 am on a Thursday? This city does not sleep!

                                                                        Hagia Sophia
                                                            10:00 pm on a Tuesday night

                                                 View from our hotel room in the Old City

Don't you love that first morning view from your hotel room after you've arrived late at night in a strange city? Fingers crossed that something pretty is just behind the curtain.

                                  Breakfast every morning on the rooftop terrace at our hotel.

First, let me say it was hideously hot and humid.  My friend Leslie and I are Arizona girls.  We get the heat--no problem.  But high humidity is a game changer.  Day one was spent roaming around the city to get a feel for it and looking for shade.  Day two was spent with a private tour guide and keeping an eye out for shade.   Day three we went to the New City, definitely preferring the Old City, and took our cooking class.  Day four through six we finally got the hang of it--returning to our hotel at 2:00 and not venturing back out in the heat until 6:00 pm.  We also finally got used to the constant aggressive selling techniques and just rolled with it, since avoiding eye contact didn't really work.

I loved these hard working people, the food, the art, the textiles, the mosques, the call to prayer 5-10 times daily depending upon which mosque we happened to be near.

                                                         Hot off the grill corn on the cob

                                    Sweet watermelon sold in the streets for a late night snack

                              Tea, snacks, and cold bottled water delivered to your picnic blanket

                                                                  Hagia Sophia

                                                                    Yay for shade!

                       And yay for this yummy drink - lovely little bits of pomegranate seeds
                                                             mixed with blood orange

                                                                 The Blue Mosque

                         Just a smattering of pics for now--more to follow when I've come up for air!