Almond Tart With Caramelized Oranges

Aug 1, 2014

Almond-Orange Tarte

The Duck And The Lady

I'm watching the passersby on the street from the balcony in my usual morning absent-mindedness with a coffee cup in my hand. It is busier than usual because it's weekend; mostly there are people walking their dogs. On the street that stretches ahead of where I'm at, I see a duck on the sidewalk behind a woman. When the woman reaches the end of the street she turns the corner, throws a gaze at her back as if to see the duck coming and the duck follows suit. The duck waddles and effortlessly makes the ninety degree turn, seemingly undistracted by the cars driving by.  

Other people on the street gaze briefly at this odd scene and adding to my amazement, carry on their ways without finding much interest. On the other hand, had I not been in my pyjamas, I would run out to the street to follow the duck and the lady to discover all the whats, whys and where tos. But worried that I might miss a second of this, I stay put and avoiding to blink, I see them out of sight. 

The Plastic Trash Pin

The white plastic trash bin in my kitchen cabinet, one of those ugly ones with a turning lid, finally becomes disposable as soon as I get a handsome, metal one. I take it with me when I'm leaving the apartment that day, to throw it into the container across the street. I see a recycler boy looking for something of good use inside the container, ask him if he'd be interested in taking the bin, he expresses gratitude and takes it. 

Suddenly, the old man I usually see sitting by the shade of a tree at the entrance of my building and sometimes greet too, starts yelling at me from across the street: 'bring that to me, don't you give that away!'. When I look at his direction, I see him crossing the street coming our way, swinging his walking stick in a threatening kind of way. The recycler boy freezes with the bin in his hand and I, startled, retreat behind the container as I am too old - and too afraid - to be spanked by a walking stick.

The old man is so aggressively determined that for a second I pause and review the brief course of events to figure if I actually did take something that belonged to this man and if so, I certainly deserve to be spanked. 

Passersby stare at this woman hiding behind a container who have apparently lifted something that belonged to this unfortunate old man and her accomplice, the recycler boy. The old man occasionally lifts his walking stick up like a lightsaber. I mumble with fear ' hmm, sir, that was mine and I no longer use it so I gave it to him' pointing at the boy's direction. He, on the other hand, has no interest in my explanation and keeps yelling instead 'no give it to me! It's mine!'.

The fruit-vendor in our street who knows me and apparently knows the old man too, comes from behind him and gestures me that translates to saying 'don't mind him, just go'. I gladly obey and begin moving away sideways. I hear the old man behind me calm down and am relieved. The fruit-vendor helps him cross the street to the shade of the tree while one of the take-away boys who works at the grocery escorts me and says to me in a secretive manner, 'that man's a fourty-sixer you know'. I don't understand what the birth year of the old man has to with anything.

It turns out '46' is the section of the Turkish criminal code that deals with the criminal capacity of the mentally ill;  that's why in slang 'fourty-sixer' comes to mean certifiably insane. Who would know.

The Flying Plums

I return to my second floor home in the afternoon with eggplants I picked up from the marketplace on my way back. My plan is to cook rice with eggplants. I fill the pan with frying oil, turn the heat up and open the kitchen window wide. While I'm rinsing the eggplants in the sink facing the open window, I hear a muffled 'tap' sound in my back. I ignore it thinking it's the fridge making its usual noises but when I turn around to go next to the stove, an object flies right next to my ear into the pan, splashing the burning-hot oil. Scared as well as dumbfounded, I advance towards the stove on tip-toe to see what's lying in the bottom of the pan: a green plum minus a bite. 

I approach the window to discover the source of the flying plums when another comes flying and barely misses me on the forehead. Four boys are looking at my direction, one of them with his arm stretched to his back, about to send me another plum - perhaps minus a bite - freezes upon seeing me.

I loose my senses after almost getting burned because of a plum, I yell at the them like a fourty-sixer: 'are you boys insane, you almost burned me!' They apparently have no clue how a flying plum can burn a lady, but in any case they all point their fingers at each other. 

The Crow

After briefly simmering dried orange slices with sugar, I pour the almond filling onto the crust I half-baked the day before and pop it in the oven. When the tart is done and is conveniently at room temperature I decorate it with the caramelized oranges. I place it on the kitchen counter and take a step back to enjoy the sight of my glossy work of the art. 

For a change, I'm going to do a shoot with a 'afternoon tea' theme out on the terrace with shadows and sun reflected in the background. I bring the napkins, plates and flatware I'm going to use for the shoot and finally the tart and place it outside on the table. And while I'm putting the tart down, I see a crow facing my direction on the fig tree whose branches are sweeping the balustrade.

As I turn around and step inside to collect my photography gear I instantly remember the fate of those eggs mom had left out at the terrace once. Their shells were skilfully cracked and through a tiny hole their insides were eaten by what it turned put to be one sophisticated crow. The likeliness of my tart suffering the same destiny seems suddenly very probable; I make a swift 180 degree turn on the heels to catch the crow red-handed. 

It is standing on the tart with its claws on my sticky oranges, working on the thickest edge of the crust with its beak. I leap forward swinging my arms to scare him away and seeing my reaction, it hastily flaps its wings but fails to take off because its claws appear to be cemented in the caramel. As it struggles to free itself, it slowly picks up while some of the oranges stuck on its claws fall down in slow motion, caramel stretching between its claws and oranges. Some fall on the balustrade and some disappear behind it. I run forward, look down and am surprised to see after all that on a mischievous day like this, the sticky oranges are only decorating the pavement and not somebody's head.

Once, a plastic ball fell on top of the meringue pie I concocted so diligently by whisking egg whites for unending minutes with a fork. Just as that didn't dishearten me, neither will this. As soon as I get over the shock of this even more improbable accident, I caramelize another batch of oranges, secure my set indoors away from predators and shoot the attached photos. 

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

So, three of these four events happened on the exact same day. But one, I made up entirely. Can you guess which?

Karamelizeportakal

Orangetarte

Almond Tart With Caramelized Oranges

Kitchen Equipments Required:

  • 20-22 cm / 8 inch round tart tin with a removable base
  • mixer

Ingredients:

For the tart base:

  • 200 gr flour, sifted
  • 100 gr butter, softened at room temperature
  • 100 gr powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 2 eggs
  • 80 gr caster sugar
  • 120 gr almond meal 
  • half a teaspoon vanilla extract
  • juice and zest of 1,5 lemons 

For the topping:

  • 2 oranges (or 3 lemons)
  • 330 gr caster sugar
  • 250 ml water

Directions:

The tart base:

  1. With a hand-held mixer whisk butter until creamy. Add flour and rub it into the butter in between your palms to obtain a crumbly mixture. Make a well in the centre, add egg, powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
  2. With a hand-held mixer or your hand, blend everything together to form a smooth and soft dough. Roll the dough into a ball. Flour your hands if the dough doesn't come off easily. Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat your oven to 180 C/350 F. On a clean, dusted surface, roll the dough into a disk slightly larger than the base of the tart tin. With the help of a spatula, place the dough loosely on the baking tin and press gently into the bottom and the sides.
  4. Pierce a dozen of holes in the bottom of the dough with a fork. Line the base with a grease-proof paper and put a handful of dried chickpeas or beans for weight. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Leave to cool at room temperature.

The filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F.
  2. Beat eggs and sugar for 4-5 minutes until light and creamy.
  3. Fold in almond meal, vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest. 
  4. Pour the filling onto the tart base. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until puffed and golden. To tell if the pie is baked, insert a toothpick into the tart. If it comes out clean, it's done. 

Caramelized oranges:

  1. Slice oranges in 2mm slices. (If using lemons, remove seeds).
  2. Put sugar and water in a sauce pan, occasionally tilting the pan in circular motion until the sugar melts. Add oranges and simmer for 20 minutes, until the sauce thickens and oranges get a darker color. 
  3. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. (The caramel will solidify if cooled completely. Heat it up slightly before use.) Decorate the cake with oranges and drizzle the caramel on top. Serve the tart at room temperature or chilled. 

Crepes With Strawberries And Nuts

Jul 4, 2014

Crepes

A friend showed me how to make crepes when I was at university. Judging from the way they sound, French and fancy, I used to think they required precision. My friend proved me wrong, by roughly whisking an egg, a cup of milk and ballpark flour enough to thicken the mixture to coat the back of a spoon. That's how I made crepes until this day, never questioning this method nor having the urge to find out exactly how much flour one needs to add. Hence I ate, throughout these years, bland, sponge-like crepes whose taste fell way too short of their reputation. Some college friends may have taught us wrong things afterall. 

Luckily, Elle à Table magazine came to the rescue. If you are a reader you know that it publishes a brilliant feature in every issue called 'Recette de Base',  meaning 'the basic recipe'. It provides one basic recipe which comes very handy if you like cooking things comme-il-faut and provides 8-10 recipes that uses that basic recipe. Couple of months ago it was this crepe recipe accompanied by variation of sweet crepe ideas. With one look over the ingredients, I saw that there were other things than just egg, milk and flour, I began suspecting that I was doing something wrong all along.

First of all, I was being too tight on the eggs department, by strictly using one. That's what mine owed their unappetizing cast color to. Secondly, the added two tablespoons of Grand Marnier or Cointreu, no matter how pretentious they may sound, are the missing link that makes our crepes at home bland, and those at proper creperies extraordinary. My humble opinion strictly. 

When it comes to toppings, the sky is the limit. But by smearing it with say Nutella, one can eat a piece of wood. But this crepe is so delicate, using overpowering toppings would make it injustice. I like berries for their mildness and roasted nuts like pistaccio, hazelnuts and almonds for they counterbalance with their cruchiness. And finally, a little drizzle of honey adds slight sweetness, wrapping the whole thing together, giving you the best sweet crepe you can concoct at home.  

Interesting

Crepes

Serves 2-3/makes 12 crepes

Kitchenware Required:

  • mixer
  • 18 cm non-stick pan

Ingredients:

  • 100 g flour, sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 250 ml milk (almond milk or soy milk can be used)
  • 10 g granulated sugar
  • 10 g butter, melted*
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Cointreau
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • regular olive oil or clarified butter, for cooking**

For topping:

  • nuts of your choice almonds, pistacchios, hazelnuts and/or walnuts, crushed
  • fresh berries of your choice, bananas or peaches

Directions:

  1. Roast nuts seperately in the pan, over high heat, frequently tilting the pan back and forth for 2-3 minute, or until they become light brown but not burnt. (Pistaccios roast without changing color. Roast them very briefly until they exhume their aroma.) 
  2. Whisk all the ingredients with a hand-held mixer. 
  3. Heat the non-stick pan over high heat. Pour 3-4 drops of oil. Once the oil starts to smoke, remove the pan off the heat. Pour 1/3 cup of crepe dough in the pan,  while with your other hand tilting the pan in a circular movement for the dough to spread out evenly. Return the pan to the heat and cook each side of the crepe for 1 minute, until they lightly brown. 
  4. Transfer crepes to a plate covered with aluminum foil to keep them warm. (Edit after more experience: covering them with aluminum foil causes them to soften in their own steam and loose their crispiness. Instead, you can keep them warm in the 80 C / 170 F preheated oven,) Serve them with fruit, roasted nuts and honey. 
  5. Crepes keep fresh in the fridge for 2 days. You can warm them up in the 180 C/350 F preheated over for 5-10 minutes.  

*Fill one thirds of a small sauce pan with water. Put it over low heat. Place a heat proof bowl bigger than the rim of the pan and put the butter in that bowl. The butter will melt without being cooked with the steam of the simmering water.

**For clarified butter, place the required quantity of butter in a sauce pan and melt it over medium heat. Skim off the foam with a spoon. Pour the rest of the butter into a bowl leaving the milky residue at the bottom. The clear yellow liquid is the clarified butter.

BidikMy sweet Bıdık resting on the guest bed after breakfast

 

Black Mulberry Margarita

Jun 27, 2014

Margarita

If it wasn't for the outrageous overpricing of cocktails, I wouldn't be this much in love with margaritas. The formula for eternal love, the inability to fully own or reach the subject of desire - in my case margaritas - keeps my passion alive for them.

As the romance icon Julio Iglesias once said 'Love is like wine. To sip is fine, but to empty the bottle is a headache.' But who am I to learn from a wise man's experience; I'm human too. I will believe that I will never get bored or bore the one I love - the margarita - and we'll live happily ever after because our experience will be different. 

So what I do to fully own my subject of desire, I go shopping for margarita ingredients. I have tons of berries stocked up in my freezer left over from a series of marmalade and jam shootings. Using my long-neglected smoothie machine I puree the mulberries, squeeze some lime, mix Cointreau and my precious Silver Patron Tequila and sit down in an afternoon at the balcony to start sipping this glass from heaven. 

I don't have a smothering character, I like giving things I love, space. So, me and the margarita, we have a very balanced relationship; we get together only once a week; this way I allow myself time to yearn for it. But still, by having easy access to it, knowing that it will be there whenever I want, have I been less in love?

Actually the opposite, as we get to know each other, slowly and with moderation, I'm becoming more and more fond of it. 

“Be always drunken.
Nothing else matters:
that is the only question.
If you would not feel
the horrible burden of Time
weighing on your shoulders
and crushing you to the earth,
be drunken continually.

Drunken with what?
With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will.
But be drunken.

And if sometimes,
on the stairs of a palace,
or on the green side of a ditch,
or in the dreary solitude of your own room,
you should awaken
and the drunkenness be half or wholly slipped away from you,
ask of the wind,
or of the wave,
or of the star,
or of the bird,
or of the clock,
of whatever flies,
or sighs,
or rocks,
or sings,
or speaks,
ask what hour it is;
and the wind,
wave,
star,
bird,
clock will answer you:
"It is the hour to be drunken!”

Baudelaire

Cointreau

Pitcher

Silver Patron Tequila

Limon dilimi

Black Mulberry Margarita

Recipe: allrecipes.com

Serves 2 

Kitchenware Required:

  • blender or smoothie machine

Ingredients:

  • 12 (about 1/3 cup) fresh or frozen black mulberries (raspberries, strawberries and sour cherries are also good)
  • 1/3 cup Cointreau or other good quality orange liquor
  • 1/4 cup tequila 100% agave 
  • 4 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
  • a lime wedge
  • ice
  • A mix of 1 tablespoon sea-salt and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, for the rim

Directions:

  1. Rub the rim of glasses with the lime wedge. Dip them in the sea-salt-sugar mix. (You can skip this step if you don't like sweet-salty combinations)
  2. Blend black mulberries, tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and powdered sugar in a blender. Transfer to glasses. Serve on ice.  

Strawberry Tart

Jun 24, 2014

Strawberry tart

At the ground floor of the building I live, there is my local greengrocer. And the strawberries are displayed in a tray that lay right next to the building's entrance, like a trap. Each day when I'm passing through, my eyes catch a glimpse of the picture-perfect strawberries that have visibly dwindled since the morning. The vendor, seeing my interest hands me one, confident that the taste of his produce won't let me pass empty handed. I thank him, hiding my hesitance to eat unwashed fruit and after some small talk, I'm hopping up the stairs with that strawberry in one hand, to be gobbled after being rinsed and half a kilo in a paper bag in the other.

My brother have, like most brothers, always exploited my share when we were kids. Be it ice cream, chocolate or a round to play The Prince Of Persia. Strawberries too disappeared in a matter of minutes before I could get to eat my share. I don't know if it's that or because they used to be scarcer in those times, they were really precious to me. It was more appropriate to enjoy them exclusively and there was no need to 'waste' them on tarts or cakes.

This summer though, strawberries magically got so sweet and abundant and their source being so close to where I live, it was time to let go of my old-fashioned habit. The first thing to do was to 'waste' them with this classic, handsome tart.  

I used pâte sablée as usual, and crème pâtissière, custard cream. Strawberries don't last long on the tart, passing their color to the custard cream so it's best to assemble the tart right before serving. Both custard cream and the base can be prepared ahead and stay fresh in the fridge for a couple of days and for three to four months in the deep freezer. Sprinkling the tart with roasted nuts gives it a crunchy kick.

Strawberry tart

Strawberry Tart

serves 6

Kitchenware Required:

  • 20-22 cm/8 inch round tart tin with a removable base
  • mixer

Ingredients:

For the topping:

  • 500 g strawberries, pitted, washed and wiped dry
  • 1/2 cup strawberry, cherry or other berry marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cognac or orange liquor

For the tart base:

  • 200 g flour, sifted
  • 100 g butter, softened at room temperature
  • 100 gr powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

For crème pâtissière:

  • 100 g sugar
  • 3 egg yolk
  • 45 g flour
  • 250 ml boiling milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

For the tart base:

  1. With a hand-held mixer whisk butter until creamy. Add flour and rub it into the butter in between your palms to obtain a crumbly mixture. Make a well in the centre, add egg, powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
  2. With a hand-held mixer or your hand, blend everything together to form a smooth and soft dough. Roll the dough into a ball. Flour your hands if the dough doesn't come off easily. Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat your oven to 180 C/350 F. On a clean, dusted surface, roll the dough into a 28 cm/11 inch diameter disk. With the help of a spatula, place the dough loosely on the baking tin and press gently into the bottom and the sides.
  4. Pierce a dozen of holes on the surface of the dough with a fork. Line the base with a grease-proof paper and put a handful of dried chickpeas or beans for weight. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until slightly golden. Leave to cool at room temperature.

For crème pâtissière:

  1. Whisk egg yolks with sugar for 2-3 minutes or until creamy and light yellow in color.
  2. Fold in the flour.
  3. Add the boiled milk in a thin stream while whisking.
  4. Transfer the custard to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while whisking continuously. Reduce heat to minimum and simmer for 2-3 minutes and keep stirring.
  5. Remove from heat and fold in the butter. Cover the surface of the crème pâtissière with a cling film to prevent a crust from forming. Let cool at room temperature.

Assembling the tart:

  1. To prepare the glaze, boil marmalade, sugar and liquor in a small sauce pan, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat when it comes to a boil. Let cool at room temperature. Heat it up if need be since it hardens when cooled. 
  2. Brush the base of the tart base with the glaze. Pour the custard filling onto the tart and level the surface with the back of a spoon. 
  3. Arrange strawberries on the tart closely together. Put the largest strawberry in the center, their stems ending in the cream. Brush strawberries with the glaze. 
  4. Let the tart cool in the fridge for 1 hour before serving. Consume at once. 

Salad With Quinoa For Beginners

Jun 19, 2014

Kinoa

Yes, quinoa still remains an ingredient in Turkey so obscure and expensive that you have to repeat its name five times until the vendor can pretend he knows it and tell you ''we are out of it''. You are likely to hear the same answer if you inquire about ''tyrannosaur''; they are always out of it.

Those of us who follow international food trends (yes such a thing exist) and food blogs have familiarized with quinoa visually but had to wait a long time until we could lay hands on it. First, the word spread that it could be ordered online then it appeared in a high-end supermarket chain. And to my surprise before I made an effort to travel to that market's branch, I located it in a neighbourhood charcuterie that sells all sorts of imported goods like dried porcini, almond milk and halloumi cheese; a discovery that's likely to boost my contribution to Turkey's trade deficit. 

So, the first time I brought a pack of quinoa after paying an armful of money, I made quinoa salad but not a salad with quinoa, you see. Which means, I treated quinoa like bulgur, putting lots of it vis-à-vis the rest of the ingredients. It yielded a mushy and tasteless tabbouleh (which was unintended) and the more I added oil and vinegar, the mushier it got. I made an effort to like it because have I mentioned I paid lots of money? I hated it anyway, while taking a note to myself not to jump on every fashion train when it comes to food, I put the pack out of my sight.

As the memory of the mushy tabbouleh faded of my palate, I made thruce with quinoa and reasoned that maybe it was not meant to be used in large quantities. Over time, I used it in small amounts, adding it moderately to my salads and came to the conclusion that quinoa can safely exist in my food as a side-kick instead of a leading ingredient. 

In the future, I will probably explore quinoa pilaf and such and most probably love it too but for the time being quinoa remains to bring my salads texture and well... only texture because let's admit, this thing is tasteless. However, it conveniently absorbs whatever sauce you put on it, a trait that assures versatility.

I prepare this salad at least two times a week with crunchy lettuce, fragrant arugula, season's ripe tomatoes at their peak, handful of nuts and sometimes tuna or halloumi. It sends me to bed with a satisfied stomach and a detoxicated, healthy feeling. I can't tell whether it's just the idea of having ate quinoa or if it actually is as healthy as said. Either way, welcome to my life quinoa. 

Kinoa Salatası

Green Salad With Quinoa 

Serves 1

Kitchenware required:

  • a non-stick pan

Ingredients:

  • two big handfuls of arugula
  • couple of romaine lettuce leaves
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, washed and drained
  • 1 ripe tomato, sliced in crescents
  • a handful of pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • salt 
  • balsamic vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Wash and drain quinoa. Boil in 1 cup water for 10 minutes, until white ring appear on the edge of the grains. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside to drain.
  2. Roast pine nuts in a non-stick pan over high heat, tilting the pan constantly back and forth, until they slightly brown. 
  3. Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl. Add salt with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Toss well and correct the seasoning to your liking.