Project Baklava

by Caroline

Quick: name a Turkish food.

If you said falafel, go read my post about the falafel in Paris and then come back. We did eat falafel in Turkey occasionally, always part of a meze platter; we never saw it offered on its own in a sandwich.

We prepared for our trip to Turkey by eating at Turkish restaurants and cooking from a Turkish cookbook, including baking two different kinds of bread: simit and pide.

We did not prepare for Turkey by seeking out, making, or eating any baklava, because we figured it would be a) an easy sell for the kids and b) ubiquitous in Turkey.

So of course, somehow we didn’t eat any. And then when we came home, the kids complained. So we made it at home.

They continue to complain because we didn’t make the phyllo by hand, but until someone buys me a bigger kitchen and a pastry sheeter, I’ll continue to buy phyllo from the grocery store. Because with store-bought phyllo, making baklava is easy enough for the kids to do while I just hang out snapping pictures:

I read many different recipes for baklava, from Joy of Cooking to Gourmet to my Turkish cookbook, and it can get rather complicated if you let it, but really all you need is phyllo, melted butter, nuts, and simple syrup and/or honey. We made one with some rosewater for flavoring, which tasted too much like potpourri, and another with a little cinnamon and orange zest, which we liked much better. Explore recipes, play with ingredients, and chop, brush and layer your way to a tasty dessert.


by Caroline

What I love most about eating out is not having food brought to me, piping hot, and having my water glass refilled without my having to rise from the table. It’s not even avoiding the prep, cooking, or clean up. What I really love about eating out is the variety, a full menu of appetizer, salad, and entree options to choose from. We cook pretty well at home, but we fall often into the easiest possible routine of one pot, one dish meals, a simple something-on-grains/flatbread/pasta.

So among all the many ways I was inspired by our glorious ten days in Turkey, from the street food to the markets to the freshly-caught fish for our last lunch, I was most inspired by meze, that ever-changing, always delicious, predominantly vegetarian array of dishes to start (and in some cases, fully comprise) every meal.

I should note that the kids were not huge fans. Ben gamely tasted a variety of meze (and quite liked the little bulgar wheat patties cooked in pomegranate sauce), but Eli thought even Turkish rice was “weird.” But they did not starve or get cranky, so while I can’t now remember what they ate every day, they must have eaten.

Meanwhile, the rest of us feasted. The five of us traveling in Istanbul and then the nine of us staying together on the coast ate out, often, for the price of burritos all around. And when we cooked at our rental house we did pretty well, too:

So I have been trying to remember the pleasure of eating small tastes of many dishes now that we are home in San Francisco and recently cooked a batch of kisir, a bulgar wheat and pomegranate molasses salad we encountered in various forms throughout Turkey. I followed a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi gorgeous cookbook, Plenty, which is helpfully posted at his website but do check out the book; it is absolutely inspiring.

Once the salad was made, I filled out our meze platter (which skewed a bit Italian) with roasted artichokes, a simple grated carrot salad, caprese salad, steamed green beans, salad greens and sliced radishes. It wasn’t Turkey by any means, but it felt like a brief return, and it was delicious.

Learning to Eat: Fish

by Caroline

If you’re spending a sunny day on a small boat in the Mediterranean and your captain leaves briefly, in an even smaller boat, to do some fishing, then you’ll have a conversation with your vegetarian children about fresh food, trying new things, being polite to one’s hosts, and eating the best of what a place has to offer.

It’s a conversation you have often, though you have never done it in a bathing suit, rocking gently on the waves.

When the captain returns with his catch, you remind the kids about their great uncle and a lake in the Adirondack Mountains and some small bites of fish, many summers ago. They don’t quite remember, but they believe you. One boy looks away while the captain prepares the fish but the other watches closely:

The first boy is not too happy that the gangplank/diving board has become part of the kitchen:

But he is mollified when he sees how much else is available to eat:

And his younger brother eats with gusto, having learned to eat fish:

Farmer’s Markets, Turkish Style

by Caroline

We shop at farmer’s markets so regularly, they are such an unquestioned part of both Lisa’s and my weekly routines, that we don’t actually write much, specifically, about them here.

We have written posts about various fruits or vegetables we’ve introduced to our kids, new recipes found at the market, the farmers or fish mongers we visit, but, as it turns out, not much about the market scene: the day of the week, whether we walk or drive, what the kids like to buy, and how we haul our pounds of produce home.

So I’m looking forward to all of you discovering the three, very different, market essays in our book (available for pre-order now!) and for now, am continuing to punt writing about my local market. Instead, to supplement what I’ve written already about the fabulous street food we found in Turkey, I thought I’d offer a peek at the amazing variety of goods you can find in the local markets:



more spices

nuts and dried fruit



essential Union Jack sunglasses

backgammon sets


fruits and veggies

fresh crepes


spices and soaps

headphones and Smurfs

more beautiful fruit

fabulous green veg

more glorious spices

just couldn't get enough of the spices

And what, after all this, did we actually buy? Eli bought a laser pointer. Ben bought three different bags of this kind of weird, granulated fruit tea:

And the adults bought the fixings to make a few meals like this:

Four Things We Learned About Food in Istanbul

by Caroline

  • Turkish chocolate-hazelnut spread is every bit as tasty as Nutella:
  • Yogurt drink — ayran — is not milk! But it actually tastes delicious on muesli:
  • You can’t have too many ways to make coffee:
  • And street food, as in many cities, can be varied, healthy and delicious. But some of these were new to us:
  • roast corn

    rice and chickpea pilaf

    roasted mussels with lemon

    popcorn popped over a brazier

    more roasted corn on the cob, chestnuts

    little nut cakes