Over two years ago, I was first welcomed into Selin’s home. She lives in an old apartment in the heart of Nisantasi. Her home contains beautiful Turkish ceramics, art and my personal favorite: glorious bookshelves full of cookbooks. She is simultaneously your guide, host, mother, teacher and friend. Her background lies in Tourism, however her company was founded because of her love of food. She hosts cooking lessons in her home and leads market tours through Kadikoy. In the four hours you spend with her, you learn where to find the best products in Istanbul and Turkey, and how to make numerous Turkish dishes you can only find in the warmth of a Turkish home.
With numerous out-of-town guests for my wedding, I arranged a day of cooking with Selin. We gathered in her home at 9:30 and sipped fresh cherry juice as we learned about her family, her favorite restaurants and the best Turkish cookbooks on the market. We moved into her kitchen to discuss the menu of the day and quickly got to work. As we chopped tomatoes, and learned how to properly smoke eggplant, we were offered special olives from Southern Turkey, a sample of pomegranate molasses and 5 different types of Turkish cheeses. Selin creates the menu based on your interests and requests. In my particular group, she was able to accommodate vegetarians and vegans, as well as eggplant enthusiasts. We prepared borek, green olive salad with pomegranate sauce, smoked eggplant mezes, green pepper dolmas, a baked beef stew, wine infused figs with kaymak and a few other treats along the way.
After 2 1/2 hours of cooking, you sit down to enjoy the fruit of your labor at a beautifully set table in the heart of her apartment. You sip on wine, share your stories and Selin answers your questions. After a lovely feast, you are sent home with leftovers. It is the perfect activity for any foodie looking to experience a slice of Turkish home life and cuisine!
There is a fish stand at the top of our street, 3 minutes from our apartment. There is a rich culture around fish in Istanbul. It is usually (if done right) served with a table full of salads and appetizers plates, and must be accompanied by Raki, the Turkish alcohol (very similar, but never associated with Ouzo). Apparently, every type of fish is good in this season (we were told). Our favorite is Cipura, which I have found translated as Gilt Head Sea Bream (?!). It is delicious. We decided to seize the opportunity and create a new (albeit temporary) tradition. In our apartment, Sunday night is fish night. Every Sunday, we prepare fish. Last Sunday we prepared fish with lemon rocket and onions (Turkish style). My personal favorite is fish with butter and garlic. We treat ourselves to wine, prepare a salad and indulge in the most flavorful, moist, fresh fish I have ever tasted in my life. Who wants to come to dinner?