Archive for the ‘Grocery stores’Category

What to buy in a Nassau grocery store

Nassau grocery store shelf
Bayside Food Store (242-323-2911) is located on Frederick Street, just steps from the souvenir shops and high-end jewelry stores on Bay Street. It’s the largest supermarket in downtown Nassau. Locals stream in to pick up take-away lunches and shop for the fixings for dinner. The store has a few shelves devoted to products that represent the taste of the islands. For visitors who have come to love Bahamian hot spices and sweet tropical fruits, it’s a good place to purchase a few items to bring back home. Best of all, most of the products are seasonings that pump up the flavors of a dish without a lot of effort by the cook. A couple of local companies offer a broad array of products.

D’Vanya’s Spices

D'Vanya's Bahamian Jerk Sauce in Nassau

Nassau-based D’Vanya’s Spices (dvanyas.com) began manufacturing about 15 years ago. Their Original Bahamian Hot Pepper Sauce is made with a combination of sweet bell peppers and hot chili peppers. Add it to a dish while cooking for a kick of heat, or place it on the table as a condiment. For those who prefer a bit of sweetness with their burn, D’Vanya’s Tamarind Hot Sauce mellows out the peppers with the sweet seasonal fruit.

D’Vanya’s Bahamian Jerk Sauce is a local version of the spicy sauce usually associated with Jamaica but also popular in the Bahamas. It makes a good marinade for chicken that’s going on a smoky grill. D’Vanya’s Mango and Guava Glazes add color and taste to foods. With their starch base, they help create a sweet glaze on meats or fish as they cook in the pan. Some Bahamians also use them as topping on ice cream. D’Vanya’s Tamarind, Cinnamon Papaya, and Pineapple Jams bring back island breakfast flavors when spread on toast or English muffins.

Pasión Tea and Coffee Company

Bahamian sea salt in Nassau

Bahamian-born Julie Hoffer’s first passion was fine teas, which is why her company is called Pasión Tea and Coffee Company (www.pasionteas.com). But she has branched out to incorporate many of the flavors of the islands into her products.

Pasión’s Plantation Hill line includes Bahamas Island Jerk Seasoning, a complex blend of hot peppers, allspice, thyme, nutmeg, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, brown sugar, and paprika. It can be rubbed on chicken, pork or fish. Then marinate the meat or fish in lime and olive oil for at least 30 minutes before grilling. The company’s Bahamian Sea Salt is made by evaporating seawater on some of the Southern Bahamian islands. With a clean salinity and a texture between a coarse crystal salt and a flyaway flake, it makes a good finishing salt on grilled fish.

Pasión produces several rum teas—including Pineapple Rum Tea—that combine tropical fruits, black tea, and the scent of rum. The company’s line of fruit teas includes both herbal and black tea combinations. Simple Orange herbal tea complements the aroma of orange with apples, rosehips, and hibiscus. Island Peach, a black tea, concentrates solely on the luscious flavor of ripe peaches.

Making guava duff at home

If you want to try making the Bahamian dessert called guava duff at home, be sure to pick up a couple of cans of Guava Shells. Chef Elijah Bowe of Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant (www.graycliff.com) shared his recipe for the local dessert favorite.


guava duff at Graycliff in Nassau

BAHAMIAN GUAVA DUFF WITH RUM SAUCE


Makes 4 logs

Ingredients

5 pounds flour
1 pound sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons baking powder
1 egg
7 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cans guava shells

Directions

Combine dry ingredients. Mix liquids in a separate bowl. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in liquid ingredients. Incorporate and lightly knead dough. Dough should be soft but not too sticky.

Cut dough into 4 to 5 pieces and roll out with a rolling pin, not too thin. Pour off liquid from the guava shells and spread shells evenly on top of dough. Roll up dough and spread milk on the end to stick together and seal the roll. Wrap loosely in foil so the dough can expand but thoroughly so no water can get in the foil.

Place in pan of boiling water and steam for 1 hour.

Slice and serve with Rum Sauce.

RUM SAUCE

Ingredients

2 ounces sugar
8 ounces butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can guava shells
Dark Rum

Directions

Mix sugar and butter. Add sweet milk. Puree guava shells and juice from can and add to mixture. Add Dark Rum to taste.

03

03 2017

Shopping for signature tastes of New Orleans

Cierrra Briscoe at the Louisiana General Store

The New Orleans School of Cooking (524 St. Louis Street, 504-525-2665, www.nosoc.com) is located in an early 19th century molasses warehouse in the French Quarter. Every day of the week, its hands-on and demonstration classes introduce folks to the fine points of such Louisiana classics as jambalaya, shrimp remoulade, pralines, and bread pudding.

Its Louisiana General Store, located in the same building, is also the most convenient place to peruse a carefully curated selection of food products essential to Creole and Cajun cooking. The shelves are packed with the products preferred by—and in some cases developed by—the school’s instructors.

I stopped in one afternoon and soon found myself engaged in conversation with staff member Cierra Briscoe (above). She is equally fascinated with food and fashion and will soon be studying fashion design in Los Angeles. She knew she would miss her native cuisine.

I asked Briscoe to recommend a half dozen products for my home kitchen. I suspect that she will also tuck them into her suitcase when she heads to LA. Here is her carefully considered list:

supplies for Louisiana General Store

Big Kevin’s Bayou Blend

This spice mixture is neither too hot nor too salty. It was created by Kevin Belton, a long-time instructor at the New Orleans School of Cooking. Briscoe likes to use it to season chicken and fish.

Cajun Trinity

The mix of green pepper, onion, and celery forms the base notes of Cajun cuisine. This is a quick way to add the essential flavor to soups, gumbos, and red beans and rice.

Cajun Power Garlic Sauce

It may not be part of the “trinity,” but Briscoe uses this garlic sauce like a hot sauce. It adds extra flavor to her gumbos and her red beans and rice.

more supplies at Louisiana General Store

Gumbo Filé

One of the ways to thicken gumbo is to add this blend of dried and ground leaves from the sassafras tree.

Crystal Hot Sauce

Tabasco Sauce, created to liven up cuisine after the Civil War, is Louisiana’s most famous hot sauce. Crystal Hot Sauce is a relative newcomer—introduced in 1923. Many New Orleanians, including Briscoe, prefer Crystal’s milder, brighter flavor. “I use it on everything,” Briscoe says.

New Orleans School of Cooking Vanilla Bean Blend

This is the school’s proprietary vanilla. They use it to make pralines like the samples that Briscoe is handing out in the photo at the top of the post. The recipe is on the back of the bottle.

29

12 2016

Sawers gourmet shop in Belfast champions Irish flavors

Sawers in Belfast has been around since 1897.
Sawers was established in 1897 to bring gourmet foods from around the globe to the people of Belfast. It is the oldest deli in Northern Ireland. The purveyor even provided the R.M.S. Titanic with game, seafood, cheese and other delicacies for its infamous maiden voyage. The people of Belfast can still rely on Sawers more than a century after that ship’s larder full of caviar and pheasant ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic. They can stop by to shop for Spanish hams, Italian pastas, French pâté and escargot, Greek olives, and Turkish candies. At the holidays, the place buzzes with people filling gift “hampers” with exotic gourmet goodies.

But Sawers also cherishes great Irish foods, making it a must-stop for overseas gourmands. The cheese case alone includes more than 200 varieties, including some of the spectacular artisanal Irish cheeses that have arisen recently. The staff at Sawers seem to know the pedigree of every Irish cheese in the case (shown below). For a cheddar type, they introduced us to Banagher Bold. Introduced in fall 2015, it’s made from pasteurized cow’s milk, aged for three months, and washed in a Derry craft beer. Northbound Brewery’s No. 26 helps impart the mouth-forward sharpness. For a blue cheese, it’s hard to say enough about Young Buck. The raw-milk blue is made by Michael Thomson in Newtownards, about 10 miles east of Belfast, with milk from a single herd. He calls his company “Mike’s Fancy Cheese.”

Sawers in Belfast has a broad selection of Irish cheeses.

All manner of spreads


Sawers favors pairing some of these cheeses with jams and chutneys. The house brand Sweet Chilli Jam is especially popular. Like their English cousins, Belfast folk love preserves and condiments. Sawers’ own line includes Belfast Preserve (raspberry and lime), Belfast Breakfast Marmalade (lemon, orange, and grapefruit), chutneys such as Indian Spiced Pineapple, Smoky Apricot, or the combination Mango, Chilli, and Lime chutney. Ditty’s Oat Cakes (made with County Armagh oats) are the classic support for cheese and jam.

Slicing salami at Saws Belfast. The Irish are big fans of fresh and smoked fish. Sawers smokes several species of fish, and sells smoked salmon from elsewhere in Ireland and from Scotland. The shop also sells the fish spread known as “patum pepperium” or “Gentlemen’s Relish.” Sawers has three versions. The traditional is made with anchovies. The Anglers’ Finest Relish contains smoked mackerel and lemon zest. The milder Poacher’s Relish has smoked salmon and lemon. Spread on crackers, they provide an instant hit of umami.

The charcuterie cases are piled high with a huge variety of sausages. The most popular seem to be imported French and Italian salamis and other hard sausages, along with Italian and Spanish hams.

Dining on charcuterie at Sawers Belfast. We were pleased to find a local “whisky salami.” Traditionally, it’s a garlicky pork sausage made with reduced Bushmills whiskey and whiskey-washed while curing. The salami is very firm and dry, so the Sawers staffer sliced it paper thin. Along with the cheeses, it lasted for days. We finished it off on the bus from Belfast to Dublin Airport, knowing we couldn’t take it through U.S. Customs Preclearance there. (See “Bringing Food Through US Customs.”) Other customers at the charcuterie counter weren’t planning to fly. They elected to enjoy sausages, ham, cheese, and olives at the indoor cafe tables.

Sawers, 5–7 Fountain Centre, College Street, 028 9032 2021, www.sawersbelfast.com.

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01

12 2016

Find homey holiday tastes in these New England stores

Sid Wainer kitchen at holidays
As the Eating Season approaches, we start craving certain flavors that we associate with the winter holidays spent with family. We want the taste of home—whether that’s a cuisine from the country where our ancestors originated or something forged by Norman Rockwell and Betty Crocker. Truth is, we love to forage for festive foodstuffs. As a service to our New England readers, here are five essential shops around the region where we find special holiday foods. This post is adapted from a piece we wrote last year in the Boston Globe travel section.

BRITISH AISLES


Tea at British Aisles at the holidays Denise and Gerry Pressinger founded British Aisles more than two decades ago so that ex-pats like themselves could get everyday British foods such as HP Sauce and the pickled onions found in every London fish-and-chips shop. Primarily selling wholesale and online, British Aisles has a retail operation in a small room on the side of a big warehouse a few minutes from downtown Portsmouth. They are ready for the holidays with tins of “biscuits” (cookies), tubs of chocolates, tinned plum pudding, jars of mincemeat, Christmas fruitcakes, and crocks of rum butter, and brandy butter.

Brits come by for pouches of mushy peas and Bisto gravy powder to dress up the Christmas roast. Of course, if all you need is a humble pork pie, a package of Smoky Bacon Crisps, and some Walker’s Shortbread, British Aisles carries those as well. “These things have been around so long that they are nostalgia,” says daughter Stephanie Malone. “I grew up with these foods. This is what my grandmother ate.” 1634 Greenland Rd., Greenland, N.H. 603-431-5075; www.jollygrub.com.

SID WAINER & SON


cheese at SId Wainer at the holidaysIt’s gift basket season at Sid Wainer & Son Gourmet Outlet in New Bedford, where the retail shop carries many of the luxury and ethnic items that the specialty foods importer provides to restaurants and gourmet stores. Shoppers can customize baskets with such treats as truffled artichoke pesto, Italian baby fig compote, chestnut honey, and—for big spenders—colorful tins holding an entire ounce of saffron.

Sid Wainer is also the spot to score the goodies for an impressive but easy cocktail party. That might include serrano ham from Spain, prosciutto di Parma from Italy, and such cheeses as English cheddar and Wensleydale, ripe Camembert, and little ash-rolled pyramids of goat cheese. That’s not to mention ready-to-serve-and-take-credit-for deli items such as vegetable spring rolls, artichoke and herb fritters, wild mushrooms in filo, and even New England crab cakes. Should you need inspiration, the sampling table always has a few items—such as roasted fingerling potatoes with duck confit—designed to showcase Sid Wainer products. 2301 Purchase St., New Bedford, Mass. 508-999-3665; sidwainer.com.

POLMART DELIKATESY


Polmart shoppers at the holidays Billing itself as “your doorway to Europe,” Polmart Delikatesy has become one of the largest sellers of Polish foods on the East Coast since immigrants Andrew and Margaret Mazur opened just over a decade ago. Polmart always sells a lot of imported hams, complexly spiced kielbasas, and freshly made pierogis and golobkis (stuffed cabbage rolls), but at the holidays eastern Europeans flock in to pick up smoked mackerel and cold-smoked salmon and Wawel cocoa and chocolate products. Throughout the year, Polmart also sells a lot of organic herbal teas that have become all the rage in contemporary Poland.

“Polish food is getting much more healthy with less fat,” Andrew Mazur observes. But there are always exceptions at the holidays. “We sell a lot of candies. People give candies all the time as gifts.” Polmart has multiple bins of wrapped Polish chocolates sold by weight. Among the most popular are the cream-filled chocolates called adwocat, which are lightly alcoholic, and the luscious chocolate-covered prunes known as sliwka naleczowska. 123 Broad St., New Britain, Conn. 860-223-7055; www.polmartusa.com.

PORTUGALIA MARKETPLACE


olive oil in Portugalia at the holidaysNow entering its fourth holiday season, this market celebrates the bounty of southeastern Massachusetts by selling great local products next to imports from Portugal. That means that delicate Hannahbell cheese thimbles from Shy Brothers farm in Westport are displayed next to wheels of buttery Casteloes cheese from Portugal, or that the fish section has both New Bedford scallops and big bags of frozen octopus. The huge selection of wines focuses principally on Portugal, and includes many table wines from regions that are hard to find in the U.S. Portugalia also carries a wide array of Madeiras and ports from both famous (Sandeman) and boutique (Quinta de la Rosa) producers.

It is said that Portuguese cuisine has 365 bacalhau dishes, one for each day of the year, so it’s no surprise that one end of the store is glassed off to display the pungent salt cod. As in Portugal, most of it comes from Canada or Norway, and it is available in a size to fit every recipe from small chips to 3-foot-long spread-eagled codfish. 489 Bedford St., Fall River, Mass. 508-617-9820; portugaliamarketplace.com.

THE BAKER’S STORE


King Arthur Bakers Store at the holidaysThis gleaming emporium at the corporate headquarters of King Arthur Flour is a perfect stop at the holiday season. Just as all the toys come alive in “The Nutcracker,” the flat pages of the King Arthur catalog spring to life on the shelves of this vast space. Whether it’s fruit stollen, gingerbread men, Swedish crumb cake, rugelach, or Christmas cookies, every family bakes some favorite treats at the holidays.

The Baker’s Store has the ingredients, tools, and hardware to fill the house with the baking aromas of the season. It carries all the pans from Madeleine molds to quarter sheet pans that fit the ovens in small apartment stoves, as well as parchment paper and silicone pan liners to keep the cookies from sticking. For fancy holiday treats, you’ll find all kinds of decorations from every color in the rainbow of crystal sugar to special non-melting topping sugar to dust your warm doughnuts. FYI, the gorgeous photo of the store in the snow is courtesy of King Arthur Flour. 135 Route 5 South, Norwich, Vt. 802-649-3361; kingarthurflour.com.

17

11 2016

San Antón: Madrid’s best market makeover

slicing ham at San Anton market in Madrid
Madrid has been renovating and updating its historic fresh food markets in recent years, starting with the transformation of Mercado San Miguel next to Plaza Mayor into a jewel box full of tapas bars and high-end deli food. But we’re even more impressed with Mercado San Antón in Chueca. The market is a symbol of how that neighborhood—once the part of town where you went to buy sex or drugs—has become one of the hippest and most gentrified parts of the central old city. FYI, about the nastiest stuff you’ll find on Chueca streets these days are some shoes with 15-centimeter spike heels in the shops on calle Augusto Figueroa.

entrance to Mercado San Anton market in Madrid The Mercado San Antón isn’t exactly a temple of food like La Boqueria in Barcelona or the Mercado Central in Valencia. We think of it as the parish church of food for the fairly hip, fairly young crowd in Chueca. The basement has a small SuperCor supemarket for the essentials—laundry detergent, canned white asparagus, cheap wine, Coca-Cola in 1.5 liter bottles, etc. The real food is on the first level, where the market stalls have everything from perfectly selected fresh fruit in season to one of the best curated fish stalls we’ve ever seen. Madrid is in the middle of the country far from the fishing ports, but Madrileños so love their fish that the wholesalers overnight the catch to the capital. There wasn’t a cloudy eye to be seen on the mackerel, cod, hake, or grotesque whole monkfish. As befits a great market in Spain, all the ham is cut fresh, as in the photo above.

The second level is even more amazing than the fresh food. It consists entirely of tapas stalls, a wine bar, a pastry/ice cream/coffee stall, and a few tables around the edges. At mid-morning when people are shopping for food, it’s placid. From 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., it’s a madhouse as people come for a cheap lunch. Some tapas cost as little as €1, as indicated in the image below. You can also get a tuna or an eggplant empanada, a small pork steak and fries, or—at the stall of creative tapas, a fancy burger topped with foie gras for less than €6.

The top level is a restaurant operated by the Jabugo ham group Cinco Jotas. It’s not all thin, precious slices of Iberian ham served with Manchego and sherry. The menu includes a wide range of meat and fish dishes. Half the restaurant is on an outdoor terrace, which solves the Spanish need to smoke all through the meal now that indoor dining is smokefree by law.

Mercado San Antón is at calle de Augusto Figueroa, 24; tel: 913-30-07-30; www.mercadosananton.com. The market is open daily from 10 a.m. until midnight.

tapas at Mercado San Anton in Madrid

18

10 2015

Pomodorina belies canned tomato image

Spaghetti with Pomodorina and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese Pomodorina is tomato sauce rethought, and it’s my most unexpected find on a recent research trip to Modena. We’ve already written about “What to buy in an Italian grocery store,” but here’s a product I’d definitely add.

Pomodorina has been the best-selling product of one of Italy’s best food factories, Menù, since it was introduced in 1967. It’s made only during the roughly six-week tomato harvest season and combines freshly harvested and cooked tomatoes with celery, carrots, onions, fresh basil, and some olive oil. Menù sells it as a base ingredient for sauces, but I discovered that some restaurants consider it good enough to sauce pasta on its own. That’s spaghetti sauced with Pomodorina above, and it was delicious.

Pomodorina sauce can Menù (http://en.menu.it/) is based in Medollo near Modena and launched as a salami factory in 1932. In 1941, the company branched out to make a ragù meat sauce and moved into a variety of ready-to-eat foods for the catering industry by the mid-1950s. Today it sells more than 450 items from its catalog to more than 30,000 customers that range from small catering companies and restaurants to large institutions like school systems, corporate cafeterias, and restaurant chains. Pomodorina is shipped to the U.S. for the food trade but not for retail sale. But in Italy, home cooks can have it too. You’ll find Pomodorina on the shelves of supermarkets, sometimes in the can (pictured here) and sometimes in a glass jar holding 750 milliliters, or about 28 fluid ounces.

I brought home a can and one night when we were in a hurry for dinner, I heated up the contents with absolutely no additions, tossed in some freshly cooked pasta, and served (as above) with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It was good enough that I’d serve it to company.

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07

04 2015

What to buy in a Dublin grocery store

Dublin grocery store 1
Whenever we visit Dublin, we make sure to enjoy lots of incredible butter and cream since we can’t bring any home. (U.S. Customs frowns on such dairy products.) Fortunately there are lots of other good Irish foodstuffs that we can pack in the suitcase. For cheeses, we make our purchases at Sheridans Cheesemongers (see earlier post), but here are some of the things that caught our eye in a neighborhood Dunnes grocery store:

Irish soda farls

Pat’s mother still remembers her own mother, who hailed from Northern Ireland, making soda bread farls in a round pan on the top of the stove. First she would shape the dough into a circle and then cut it crosswise into four pieces, the so-called farls. This style of soda bread is flatter and more moist than the more common cake-style. Most grocery stores sell the farls already packaged in plastic bags. They remain fresh if we put them into the freezer as soon as we get home.

Odlums mixes

Odlums began milling and selling flour in 1845 and the company remained in the family until 1991. Its flour has been a staple in Irish kitchens for generations and the Odlums web site (odlums.ie) is full of recipes. But we generally just pick up a couple of mixes for brown bread or for brown, white, or fruit scones.

Flahavan’s Porridge Oats

The Flahavan family has been milling oats for more than 200 years, uses only local oats, and has perfected a technique to produce a fine flake that cooks up more quickly. Even if the oats weren’t so good, we would probably buy them anyway because we can’t resist the old-style packaging.

more food from a Dublin grocery store

Erin Meal Mixes

This Dublin-based company’s seasoning mixes for meats and vegetables include a number with a French accent, but for an easy to prepare flavor of the Emerald Isle, we opt for Shepherd’s Pie or Country Stew.

Lakeshore Duck Fat

We almost hate to admit how good French fries taste when they are cooked in duck fat. We don’t do any frying at home, but we agree with the Irish that a bit of duck fat gives roast potatoes or roast vegetables a richness that belies their humble origins. The manufacturer advises adding one tablespoon of duck fat per pound of vegetables, which means that a 200g jar will last for a couple of weeks in the winter. Better get two.

Marrowfat peas

mushy peas with fish and chipsThese green peas left on the vine until they have dried are the primary ingredient in mushy peas – the classic accompaniment to fish and chips (see photo at right). They’re available canned, but it’s easier to throw a bag of the dried peas into the suitcase.

Lemon’s sweets

You can find just about every type of Cadbury chocolate bar in Dublin, but for a treat with local roots, we look for Lemon’s. The company started out as a confectionery shop on what is now Lower O’Connell Street in 1842 and even made its way into James Joyce’s Ulysses. It has changed hands several times and experimented with a number of products. Our favorites are the Mint Iced Caramels, with a smooth center and a crisp coating. The company claims that it takes two days to make them from a secret recipe dating back to 1926.

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20

02 2015

Sea salt from Costa Brava brings home tastes of Spain

Sal costaWhen we shop for groceries overseas, we like to bring home salt. We never realized how acrid American table salt can be (and how bland kosher salt is) until we started using salt from other places. It’s obvious that gray sea salt from the flats of Brittany or Normandy would have a distinct flavor, and we often use such salts for cooking. But our favorite, hands down, is simple supermarket sea salt from Catalunya, specifically the Sal Costa brand, which sells for less than two euros a kilo. Unfortunately, Spain has succumbed to the American penchant for adulterating food by putting in “healthy” additives, so the finely ground Sal Costa sea salt for table use has added fluoride. Like the iodine in American salt, the additives make the salt bitter. Fortunately, Sal Costa does not mess with its granular salt intended for baking fish. (The recipe is on the package: Pack a whole fish in a kilo of salt. Roast in 425F/220C oven for 30 minutes.) We keep some of the “roasting salt” on the back of the stove to add to pasta water and we fill a couple of salt grinders with it for other cooking and table use. It adds the perfect Spanish coastal flavor to a paella or a tortilla española. For other recipes (in Spanish), see Sal Costa’s own home page: www.salcosta.com.

21

08 2013

What to buy in a Cajun grocery store

grocery2 Usually Pat and I write about buying specialty foods in overseas grocery stores, but Cajun cooking stands so far apart from most other American regional food that the grocers have developed lines of goods we can rarely find anywhere else.

The pickled tabasco peppers, gumbo file powder, and various hot pepper sauces shown above are cases in point. In fact, I was once told by a northern grocer that file powder was illegal. (Not true, but it is allegedly mildly carcinogenic. If you eat three pounds at a time, you might develop a tumor in 20 years.) Needless to say, file powder can be hard to find up here in the chilly north.

grocery1 The ingredients immediately above are even more local. Dried shrimp might be a worldwide commodity, but Louisiana dried shrimp has a distinctive flavor of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s great in a shrimp cream sauce or a soup. The garlic sauce from Poche’s is an essential ingredient in some quarters for dousing boiled crawfish tails. The instant roux mix, while not so different from Wondra flour, makes a great tan roux.

grocery3 The last item is a latecomer, at least to legitimate grocery stores. At 100 proof, this colored corn likker has the requisite kick to be called moonshine — minus the chemicals to make you go blind.

What to bring home from a Turkish grocery store

Turk 1 Yusuf Kilig When we were in Istanbul last week, we were surprised to discover that it’s common for unmarried men and women to live with their families well into their 30s. So when we asked our first guide, who is 30-something, what to buy in a grocery store, he was utterly clueless. His mother does all the cooking, and apparently all the shopping too. He’s not even sure what’s in her recipes.

Turk 2 Olive oil But our second guide proved a more modern young Turk. Yusuf Kilig works in Istanbul, far from his family’s village in the south, and shares a flat with roommates. He knows his way around the kitchen, and the supermarket aisles as well. Yusuf had also worked for a few months at Walt Disney World in Orlando, and remembered vividly the foods he couldn’t find at the local Publix. So off we went to Migros, where we discovered that vivid packaging helped ameliorate our inability to read Turkish.

Turk 3 coffee Because he grew up in an olive oil producing region, Yusuf is particularly knowledgeable (or at least opinionated) about which oils are best. He recommends the Kirangic Çökeltme extra-virgin oil as Turkey’s finest. And he has strong feelings about the best Turkish coffee (Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi).

Turk 4 mantiAlthough he cooks a lot of simple meals from scratch, Yusuf is a big proponent of dried soups and spice mixes for dips. The classic red lentil soup of Turkey (ezogelin çorbasi) is widely available as a dried mix in pouches, and the spices to make a tomato dip (domates çeşnisi) or a yogurt dip (yoğurt çeşnisi) speed the process of getting an assortment of mezes on the table. They’re often found together with the vast array of dried soup mixes, many of them made by the Turkish branch of the Swiss firm Knorr. One of our favorites proved to be manti soup – a yogurt broth with tiny pieces of pasta wrapping bits of ground lamb and mint. Yusuf, though, is partial to tarhana soup – an ancient dish made from a mixture of yogurt, cracked wheat, and vegetables that have been fermented together, then dried. Cooks all over Turkey rehydrate it and chop some red peppers on top to make soup. Turk 5  tarhana

“It’s what your mother makes for you when you’re sick,” says Yusuf.

29

03 2013