Bio Abroad: Istanbul markets and Turkish Flavors

Beans and Peppers at Istanbul's Tarlibasi market Last month I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Istanbul. While visiting this breathtaking city I discovered its history, traditions, and its stunning setting overlooking the Sea of Marmara and Bosphorus Strait.

I'm repeating myself here, but whenever I visit a new city one of the first things I do is find out where the markets are and make them the first stops on my itinerary. Once we got to Istanbul, I wanted to see the Inebolu Sunday market, named for the town where the produce sold at the market is grown.

Fresh produce at Istanbul's Inebolu market

My sister and travel partner was patient enough to trek along with me, trying to find this market on our first day in town. We wandered through streets and neighborhoods near Taksim Square, which were filled with families enjoying their weekendsoutside amidst beat-up cars and underneath lines of laundry hung out to dry.

Istanbul and the recent citizen uprising  is currently receiving a lot of attention in the news, but these were the days before the protestors took to the streets and these modest neighborhoods, which even in times of civil rest are known to be rough, were surprisingly peaceful and welcoming despite the fact that we were not from there.

Piles of white cheese are a common site at Istanbul markets

While navigating the winding streets to the Inebolu Market, we stumbled upon an unexpected treasure- an enormous open-air food market that I later found out was the Tarlabasi market.

Produce, cheese, even baby chicks, intermingled with clothes, housewares, shampoo, and spices. Awkwardly gesturing we managed to purchase a kilo of strawberries and stopped in front of a few stalls, noticing that the seasonal produce seemed similar to what we find in France, but with more of a selection in beans, peppers, and summer squash.

 

Rose petals at Inebolu market

Inebolu Market was smaller, but stands were stocked with mounds of fresh products, including white cheese and butter that was served in slabs and scoops. Rose petals and other fresh herbs were also on sale. Here I found some of the telltale signs of farm-fresh produce: dirty veggies of all shapes and sizes that were grown with respect to the season.

After our short visits to a small selection of Istanbul markets, my curiosity was piqued and I wanted to know more about the food that is sold at the markets and the people who shop there.

A few days later I had an opportunity to have some of these questions answered. My sister and I had enrolled in a cooking class with Turkish Flavors, the Istanbul-based cooking school. Selin Rozanes, our host and instructor, guided us through making delicious traditional Turkish dishes such as Spicy Bulgur Wheat Salad, Split Belly Eggplant, and Stuffed Apricots.

Turkish Flavors cooking school in Istanbul

Selin was also kind enough to take some time to tell me more about market culture in Istanbul. I wasn't surprised to hear that in this city, as in Paris, the independent producers are slowly disappearing from the markets. Selin recommended a few favorite markets, including the organic market in Ferikoy and the Inebolu market because these are markets where "you can buy directly from the farmers and producers."

Selin says that many people in Istanbul still do their shopping at the markets, because the produce is "fresher and sometimes less expensive than in the supermarkets." In summer Selin looks for her favorite fruits and vegetables such as eggplant, green beans, borlotti beans, and peaches.

Selin Rozanes, founder of Turkish Flavors

The self-taught chef is dedicated to using fresh, seasonal ingredients in her recipes because she strives to create healthy meals using whole foods. "Ingredients that are grown out of season grow in hot houses," Selin explained to me, "plenty of fertilizers and hormones are used to grow them artificially to look the same as they would look in season. Those additions that help fast growth and make the vegetables look good are unhealthy for us."

Selin's cooking classes reflect her commitment to continuing the Turkish tradition of using high quality ingredients to make meals that bring people together. She inspires students to go home and recreate these amazing dishes for their friends and family and is happy to help you find sourcing for ingredients no matter where you call home.

Fresh and seasonal ingredients at a Turkish Flavors cooking class

Selin was kind enough to share her recipe for Borlotti Beans Cooked in Olive Oil.

Thanks Selin!

 

Speckled Borlotti beans are one of Selin's favorite summer vegetables

Borlotti Beans Cooked in Olive Oil

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh borlotti beans

1 sweet banana pepper

1 medium tomato

2 medium onions

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup hot water

lemon juice (when served)

Directions

Wash the fresh borlotti beans in plenty of cold water, set aside. If you can not find fresh borlotti beans, you can use dried borlotti beans but you have to soak them in plenty of cold water overnight. When you are ready to cook the beans, place them in your pot, add boiling water and boil the beans at high heat for five to ten minutes. Take the pot off the heat, discard the water you have just boiled the beans in, put the beans in a container and set them aside.

Finely chop the onions. You can use a food processor for chopping but be sure not do overdo it - you should not end up with an onion pureeLightly crush the garlic gloves

Slice the banana peppers. The slices should be about 1/4 inch thick. Chop the tomato, set aside. Boil the water, set aside.

Heat the olive oil in your cooking pot or the pressure cooker. Add the onions, peppers and the garlic cloves. Sauté until the onions are tender and look shiny and golden in color. Add the borlotti beans and continue to sauté for about two to three more minutes. Add the chopped tomato. Gently pour the hot water, add the salt and the sugar. If you are using dried beans increase the water amount to 1.5 cupsIf you are using a regular pot, reduce the heat as soon as the water begins to boil and simmer for 1 - 1.5 hours until the beans are tender.

If you are using a pressure cooker, 20 minutes is sufficient to achieve the right tenderness. If you are using dried beans, cook for 35 minutes. Serve at room temperature. Add a little lemon juice to each plate for zest.