The Middle East, as you may be aware, has some amazing food. I’ll admit, I get sick of eating the same thing over and over, and right now, I pretty much can’t eat anymore felafel and hummus. But I have had some truly wonderful meals here, and most of them have been in someone’s home, in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, or even cooked out in a field. But if all else fails, there is really nothing quite like a bowl of fresh figs, ripe to bursting, still hot from the sun hitting the tree in a village in western Turkey.
Or these dishes, cooked by a friend of a friend in her little village home in Turkey – roasted eggplants and tomatoes, perfectly cooked fasulye (green beans) with yogurt and walnuts and honey on the side. If that wasn’t enough, imagine that this friend’s little house also has a swimming pool and all kinds of animals running around – ducks, chickens, dogs, rabbits – and you’ll get a feeling for how idyllic that day was.
Kahvalti, or Turkish breakfast. There were many balcony breakfasts of eggs and sucuk sausage with fresh bread, cheese, and honey, but they can also be a thing of beauty like the breakfast (below) at Cafe Privato in Istanbul. The preserves, cheese and clotted cream were some of the best I’ve ever tasted, and the back wall of the cafe is open, looking right onto Galata Tower (along with several hungry street cats).
Behold, the wonder that is Kumpir. If you think about it too much, you’ll feel disgusting for eating it, but it is seriously delicious (especially late at night). It is a giant baked potato filled with butter and melted cheese and whatever toppings you want – corn, olives, sausage, pickles, etc. Don’t question it, just eat it.
Chicken Zarb. While visiting a small town near the Dead Sea in Jordan, we stayed for lunch. The guys cooked this chicken by digging a pit in the ground, filling it with hot coals, putting in a bunch of chicken pieces on a wire rack and covering the top with blankets and dirt. It takes hours to cook, but it’s worth it. Served with a healthy amount of lemons, rice, onions and salad, with Pepsis to wash it all down.
I may be burned out on hummus and felafel, but makdous (tiny eggplants stuffed with walnuts/cheese and fermented in olive oil) is still my jam. Plus lazy Friday breakfasts with family are always good.
Manti. My go-to comfort food in Turkey – this was the first meal I ate when I landed in Istanbul on a cold January night three years ago.
Before I left Izmir, I got to take a day-long Black Sea cooking class, where we learned to make some seriously hearty, tasty dishes that you don’t find anywhere else in Turkey.