Flavors Of İzmir

Vedat Başaran Serkan Eldeleklioğlu May 2014

THE HISTORIC PORT CITY OF IZMIR, WHICH DATES BACK TO ANTIQUITY, IS ALSO ONE OF THE GASTRONOMIC CAPITALS OF THE REGION.

İzmir Lezzetleri Üzerine

Izmir at the far edge of west central Anatolia is uniquely placed geographically, linking both the western Mediterranean and the northern Aegean to the Anatolian trade routes. Thanks to these advantages, the city has been a vital port and commercial capital for millennia and has never ceased to be a major center of attraction for the peoples of the Mediterranean. Its temperate climate has also ensured that it produced food on its on soil. At the same time, the city’s gastronomic culture has also been enriched by both the sea and the countryside. But the main factor that makes Izmir so original and colorful gastronomically speaking is migration.  Different ingredients and ways of cooking have endowed Izmir cuisine with a rich variety. The predominance of olives and olive oil, for example, is palpable. Finds uncovered in excavations carried out at Clazomenae in today’s Izmir province, one of the twelve cities of Ionia mentioned by Herodotus, show for how long the processing of, and trade in, this magnificent foodstuff has been practiced in the region. Boasting dishes made with hundreds of different fresh herbs as well as influences both from the Anatolian hinterland and from the Balkans and the Mediterranean through migration, Izmir cuisine is a school unto itself.

ÇALKAMA
INGREDIENTS
3 zucchini
6 potatoes
1 bulb of garlic
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

INGREDIENTS FOR THE ÇALKAMA SAUCE
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp red pepper flakes
A pinch of salt
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil

PREPARATION
Wash and peel the zucchini and potatoes and cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Slice both the zucchini and potatoes lengthwise into 1-2 mm wide strips and arrange in a baking dish in layers starting with the zucchini. Arrange the garlic cloves among them, sprinkle with the salt, pepper, rosemary and oregano, and drizzle with the olive oil. Bake for about 40 minutes in a pre-heated 200° C. oven. Mix the ingredients for the çalkama sauce in another bowl, pour over the baked zucchini and potatoes and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve hot.

LAMB AND ARTICHOKE STEW WITH EGG-LEMON SAUCE
INGREDIENTS
200 g lamb
100 g fresh artichokes
2 medium onions
4 cloves garlic
20 g butter
10 g olive oil

PREPARATION
20 g yoghurt
5 g flour
Juice of half a lemon
1 egg
A pinch of salt
A pinch of black pepper

PREPARATION
Melt the butter with the olive oil in a deep pot. Add the onions, garlic and diced lamb. When the meat is tender, add the diced artichokes. Mix the ingredients for the egg-lemon sauce together in another pot and pour over the meat. Garnish with flat leaf parsley before serving.

CHEESE-STUFFED SQUASH BLOSSOMS
INGREDIENTS
4 squash blossoms
30 g string cheese
10 g fresh basil
100 g oil for frying
10 g flour
10 g cornstarch

PREPARATION
Clean the squash blossoms. Mix the finely chopped fresh basil with the string cheese in a bowl, shape into balls and fill the squash blossoms. In another bowl, mix the flour and cornstarch with a little water to make a batter. Heat the oil in a pot. When it is red hot, dip the stuffed squash blossoms first in in the batter, then fry quickly in the hot oil. Drain well and serve.

WHITE BEANS WITH BABY’S TEARS
INGREDIENTS
250 g dry white beans
2 medium onions
3 cloves garlic
4 long, thin hot green peppers
2 tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 g baby’s tears, aka hairgrass (Helxine soleirolii)
10 g butter
A pinch of salt
A pinch of black pepper

PREPARATION
Soak the beans overnight and boil the next day. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onions and garlic. When the onions begin to color, add the peppers. When the peppers are tender, add the boiled beans, baby’s tears and diced tomatoes and cook over high heat until boiling. Lower the heat and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, then serve.