Last night I joined our friend Sheila Kaufman as she presented a Turkish feast based on her cookbook, THE TURKISH COOKBOOK, which is her 26th cookbook published to date.
The event was held at the Fourth Estate here in DC at the National Press Club and as we arrived Barkan Israeli Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were being offered with some tasty tidbits:
Cheesy Fried Eggplants (Kizarmis Peynirli Patlican, Istanbul)-I will give the dishes name in Turkish as well as which region it comes from.
which I adored even though I am not an eggplant fan! The feta cheese was the magic key to these tasty fried treats.
Chicken Kebabs (Tarcinla Tavuk Kebabi, Istanbul) were moist and juicy
Chickpea patties with Garlic Yogurt Mint dipping sauce(Nohut Koftesi Yogurtlu Havuc) were awesome fried chickpea patties and remember I am not a mint fan, but the sauce was spectacular
Walnut & Red Pepper Spread (Muhammara, Gaziantep) was a tasty sauce broiled on slices of bread which I could have eaten all night....but more was to come.
As we sat down I was thrilled to be at Sheila's table and little did I know how much she knows. It seems she was a history teacher and this has spread to her cooking knowledge which was clear when she spoke so eloquently before and during the dinner. She was introduced and the catch phrase used for her cuisine was "easy, elegant and fuss-less." I have the cookbook, so we shall see....
First came Green Bean Soup with Green Lentils & Bulgur (Fasulye Corbasi, Sivas-Central Antalya)which had a bit of spice, which Sheila usually doesn't like, so I was quite surprised. The beans were cooked perfectly and crispy thanks to the amazing team of Chef Susan Delbert.
Vermentino 2013 from Argiolas Costamolino in Sardegna (Italy) was a crisp dry wine with lots of textures that was amazing with the soup thank to the work of The Wine Guy, Ron Brooks.
Next was the Salad which was supposed to be Grandmother's Purslane (Semizotu Salatasi, Gaziantep-Antalya) but was replaced here with celery, radicchio, parsley, sumac and more. The wine was a Regaleali Bianci 20102 from Tasca in Sicily which might just be my new go to salad wine!
I used my knife and was a bit disturbed when the server placed it (dirty) on the table for me to reuse with the fish. This is really not good for fine dining.
Moorenko Green Apple and Mango Sorbets came next for a palate cleanser.
The fish course was Baked Grouper with Mediterranean Flavors (Akdeniz Usulu Laos Baligi, Mersin) which was topped with a tapenade like sauce made of garlic, shallot, cubanelle peppers, tomato, mushroom, spices and more. On the table was a bowl of Hot red pepper sauce which I added for a bit more spice and the grouper was simply divine. The wine was a Vinkara Reserve Kalecik Karasi 2001 from Ankara which has to be my first Turkish wine. The Kalecik karasi Grape is novel to me for sure and according to Ron sits between Pinot Noir & Nebbiolo...okay--we all loved the wine and the pairing.
The entrée was Lamb Shanks with Romaine Lettuce & Scallions served with fingerling potatoes and root veggies. On a cold night, this is a super dish I will be ready to try at home. It's earthy flavors and spices went amazingly well with the Anima Negra 2012 from AN/2 in Falanis on the Spanish island of Majorca, another new awesome wine place for me! The grapes are Caillette and Montenegro and they leave a hint of spice on the back of the throat; the wines are also all natural and organic, always a plus.
We were getting full but dessert arrived in the form of Nightingale's Nest (Bulbul Yuvasi, Gaziantep) which is a phyllo pastry filled with walnut a la baklava but here rolled into a cylinder and formed into a coil bird's nest shape and sprinkled with pistachio. The sccop of vanilla ice cream was welcome as the dish was very rich and quite overdosed in the phyllo zone for me. We had a choice of Raki(arrack) from Yeni in Turkey or the Moscato d'Asti house wine, which I chose. Those that tasted the raki made awful faces saying it was way too strong and very licoricey....NOT FOR ME!
I saw the hot pepper sauce on the table and asked if I could take it home and a lady opposite me asked to have her leftover lamb to go; they refused. I called the chef over and she made an exception. I could not believe the Fourth Estate sneers on doggie bags!
Well, that said, the dinner was a success and the book is staring at me here begging for me to try something...maybe this weekend!