BULGUR SALAD (UNDER THE TOSCAN SUN, 1)

under the toscan sunUNDER THE TUSCAN SUN: AT HOME IN ITALY is a memoir by Frances Mayes. In this book the author recounts the purchase of her home, Bramasole, in Tuscany. She tells about all the adventures she and her partner had in renovating the house and working in its gardens while enjoying the sights and food of Tuscany. First published in 1996, this memoir helped in starting the worldwide Tuscan-mania that doesn’t seem to fade. A must read if you are planning a holiday in Tuscany or you want just escape a boring raining weekend in winter. But what a  Turkish recipe, as Kısır (bulgur salad) is, has to do with Tuscany and its sun? The fact is that at the moment I am in my home in Tuscany, enjoying the lovely panorama and the fresh vegetable that my father (healthy 85 years old-thanks to the olive oil) grows in the garden. I had fresh tomato, parsley, onions, salad from the garden, excellent organic olive oil from our trees and some fine grounded bulgur I brought from Turkey… The next thing to do was to prepare kısır a typical Eastern Turkey recipe but with fresh, zero-km ingredients from my Tuscan garden. The freshness of the ingredients and the quality of the olive oil (Tuscan olive oil is less acid than average Turkish olive oils), added extra flavor and texture to this recipe, but I assure you it is tasty also with market-fresh ingredient. If you are gluten intolerant, you can use quinoa  instead of bulgur, it taste beautifully also with quinoa that add a crunchy texture to the recipe.

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The view from my home (typical sweet Toscan hills :-))
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The vegetable garden
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Ripe and green tomatoes

 

Ready to enjoy Kısır
Ready to enjoy Kısır

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 spring onions (chopped) and 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • the juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp mild chilli flakes or Turkish pul biber
  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 5 tbsp chopped parsley
  • salt to taste
  • 2 handful of chopped green salad leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the water and when it boils, pour it on the bulgur, let it cool
  2. Heat oil in a small saucepan over low-medium heat
  3. Add the onion, and sauteé for a few minutes, until soft
  4. add the tomato paste and mix well and let simmer for 5 more minutes
  5. When the bulgur is cool and soft, add all the chopped ingredients
  6. Season your salad with lemon juice, chilli and salt
  7. Let it set for at least two hours in the fridge.

 

 

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The Art of Eating Well’s Fricassée

I am sure that fews of my English speaking friends has heard of Pellegrino Artusi and his “The Art of Eating Well”, but for as Italians is a classic as for the Americans is “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child. Pellegrino Artusi was a wealthy Italian business man, born near Bologna in 1820 and died in Florence in 1911.  Believe or not it is the first cookbook written in Italian, using metric measures understandable by all the inhabitants of Italy. Before him, cookbook writers used to express quantities with non metric measures and not to explain step by step the procedures. If you try one of the recipes in Artusi’s book you are certain of attaining the expected, yummy result. He doesn’t only give the recipe but also explain the necessary tips to obtain a professional-like result.

Artusi’s fricassés is a light one, do not make milk or cream like other recipes I sow, instead he uses the binding property of the yolk to add creamy consistency to the sauce adding a slight citrous flavor without overriding the natural taste of the meat.

Ingredients:

  • 500 gr. of veal breast, cut in to pieces
  • 50 gr. butter
  • 1 tb. of flour
  • a  bouquet  garni made of slices of onion and carrot; parsley, basil and celery sticks all tied together so that they will not melt in the fricassee.
  • 2 egg’s yolks
  • juice of half a lemon

Directions:

Melt half of the butter in a casserole and add 1 tablespoon of flour, mix it with a wooden spoon until the flour take a hazelnut color.

Slowly add some hot water (not boiling), the bouquet garni and season with salt and pepper

When the sauce starts boiling, add the left butter and the meat, cover the casserole and simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes until the veal is tender.

Discharge the bouquet garni and beat the yolks with the lemon juice.

Turn off the heat and pour the yolk mixture in the casserole, gently mixing with the spoon until it is very creamy.

Put the fricassee in a hot platter along with toasted bread.

Easy Panna Cotta

panna cottaPanna Cotta is probably the easiest dessert in the Italian gastronomical tradition. 3 basic ingredients (cream, milk, sugar) combined in different ratio, give birth to one of most delicious treat ever. The origin of Panna Cotta is obscure, there are rumors that Panna Cotta, is just the easy copy of the French of Bavarois (obviously French started the rumor!), other claims that it was invented in the Langhe area, by a lady of Hungarian origins, and many others believe that is the Northern version of the Sicilian “Biancomangiare” a dessert of Arabic origins.   Be that as it may, the fact is that Panna Cotta is easy, can be done with what you have in the fridge and with the help of the right mold you will get a spectacular result. Panna Cotta is such a star that deserved a book of its own.

My recipe is not from this book, it is mine. I use organic Agar Agar power instead of gelatin, because I read things about gelatin that made me feel uncomfortable.  It is not always possible to control the origins of the gelatin. Moreover with agar agar, Panna Cotta can be enjoyed also by my vegetarian friends.

Ingredients:

For the panna cotta

250 gr. of cream

250 gr. of milk

4 spoonful of sugar

1 vanilla pod or half a teaspoon of extract

1 and ½ teaspoon of Agar Agar powder

For the sauce:

200 gr. of raspberry

1 spoonful of powder sugar

Some drop of lemon

Directions

In a saucepan, heat cream, sugar, vanilla pod, vanilla seeds and agar on medium heat and bring just to a boil until sugar and agar dissolves. Remove from heat and discard the vanilla pod.

Pour cream into individual serving molds. Refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours, until completely set.

Prepare a sauce, processing the raspberry with sugar and some drop of lemon

Gently remove the panna cotta from the molds and serve it with the raspberry sauce.

The Mediterranean Waltz Bulgur Pilaf

The Mediterranean Waltz is an almost prophetic novel written by Buket Uzuner a powerful Turkish writer not only very talented but with the gift of foresight. Why do I use big words like “prophecy” and “foresight”?51Av2aohV6L._SL500_SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

It is because in the mid-nineties, in a period of relative peace and prosperity for Turkey and the global world, Buket Uzuner wrote a novel about a civil war in Turkey where all the terrorist movements (Islamic, Kurdish etc.) joint together to attack Turkey. The novel ends with a general saying that next global war will not be fight only with guns but through the internet… Fitted in the framework of this civil war there is Duna, an Istanbulite high school teacher (and mind that the civil war thing maybe only his own delusion) and his impossible love for Ada. The other main characters of the novel are Turkey and Istanbul.

To honour this novel that I really love, I decided to prepare a classic Turkish food, Bulgur pilav, but instead of using wheat bulgur, I used spelt bulgur. If you can’t find spelt bulgur in your area, traditional bulgur will give similar results.

This recipe, as all traditional foods, is very healthy and provides all the nutrients to make it the perfect one-course meal.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup of spelt bulgur
  • 150 gr. of chopped beef
  • half a cup of cooked green lentils
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 Tbs of olive oil
  • 2 cups of broth or water
  • Turkish red pepper flakes

Directions:

  • Sauté the garlic lightly in the olive oil for a couple of minutes and the add the meat and keep on sautéing for about 15 mins then cover and cook on low heat till the meat releases its moisture and reabsorbs it and becomes tender.
  • Add the diced tomato and when the moisture is reabsorbed add the bulgur and mix it for 5 minutes
  • Add the green lentils, mix and cover with broth or water. Keep on stewing at low heath until all the broth have been reabsorbed.
  • Dress it according to your taste with red pepper flakes.

 Enjoy!

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A Soup for Nazim

I don’t want to present the famous Turkish Poet Nazim Hikmet,

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Better to introduce him in his poetic words:

 

Autobiography (1962)

by Nâzım Hikmet

I was born in 1902

I never once went back to my birthplace

I don’t like to turn back

at three I served as a pasha’s grandson in Aleppo

at nineteen as a student at Moscow Communist University

at forty-nine I was back in Moscow as the Tcheka Party’s guest

and I’ve been a poet since I was fourteen

some people know all about plants some about fish

I know separation

some people know the names of the stars by heart

I recite absences

I’ve slept in prisons and in grand hotels

I’ve known hunger even a hunger strike and there’s almost no food

I haven’t tasted

at thirty they wanted to hang me

at forty-eight to give me the Peace Prize

which they did

at thirty-six I covered four square meters of concrete in half a year

at fifty-nine I flew from Prague to Havana in eighteen hours

I never saw Lenin I stood watch at his coffin in ’24

in ’61 the tomb I visit is his books

they tried to tear me away from my party

it didn’t work

nor was I crushed under the falling idols

in ’51 I sailed with a young friend into the teeth of death

in ’52 I spent four months flat on my back with a broken heart

waiting to die

I was jealous of the women I loved

I didn’t envy Charlie Chaplin one bit

I deceived my women

I never talked my friends’ backs

I drank but not every day

I earned my bread money honestly what happiness

out of embarrassment for others I lied

I lied so as not to hurt someone else

but I also lied for no reason at all

I’ve ridden in trains planes and cars

most people don’t get the chance

I went to opera

most people haven’t even heard of the opera

and since ’21 I haven’t gone to the places most people visit

mosques churches temples synagogues sorcerers

but I’ve had my coffee grounds read

my writings are published in thirty or forty languages

in my Turkey in my Turkish they’re banned

cancer hasn’t caught up with me yet

and nothing says it will

I’ll never be a prime minister or anything like that

and I wouldn’t want such a life

nor did I go to war

or burrow in bomb shelters in the bottom of the night

and I never had to take to the road under diving planes

but I fell in love at almost sixty

in short comrades

even if today in Berlin I’m croaking of grief

I can say I’ve lived like a human being

and who knows

how much longer I’ll live

what else will happen to me

Soup for Nazim Hikmet
Turkish red lentil soup

As Nazim himself says in this poem, he tasted any kind of food but I was lucky enough to get acquainted with his Italian translator and friend, the late Joyce Lussu and in one of our conversations she told me of the preference of Nazim for the simple and humble of country.

So here the recipe for the Turkish red lentil soup: 5 minutes to prepare, low in calories, healthy, full of good nutrients a real food for the soul…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils
    1  onion, finely diced
    1  carrot, diced
  • 1 small potato, diced
    ½ teaspoon dried mint
    ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
    6 cups of homemade broth

Directions

  1. Rinse the lentils 2 or 3 times
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, put he lentils, potato, carrot, onion, broth, and salt. Bring the soup to a boil.
  3. After it has come to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot until the lentils have fallen apart and the carrots are completely cooked.
  4. After the soup has cooked and the lentils are tender, blend the soup and add more salt if necessary.
  5. Serve the soup with a sprinkle of mint and red pepper flakes, wedges of lemon, and toasted bread.

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