Tastes Like Fall

fallgroceries

Here in Istanbul, we went through a very short and deceiving phase of freezing weather all of a sudden at some point back in September. Then all of a sudden it was really warm again, and all of a sudden I realized that maybe I had taken out the winter clothes a little too early. The good thing though is that I am at least organized for the winter now, washed everything, gave away what is probably unnecessary and still in good shape, and also got really confused in the process about why nothing is fitting my daughter. She must have had a growth spurt over the summer, because even pants that fit her a few months ago are now uncomfortable. I do forget she’s turning 4 very soon.

So I have been ordering most of my groceries from an organic farm in a village a few cities away for the last 2.5 years or so, and obviously everything is seasonal. So you’re not going to find eggplants and cucumbers, for example, in the winter. I find that by the end of a season, I am really looking forward to what the next season has to offer. So last week was the first week I had my first ‘fall’ delivery, and I was so excited to finally prepare some beet root, spinach, cabbage and whatnot for the week ahead. Of course there’s still some ‘summer’ staples available, like grapes and figs, but Fall is finally coming through.

I am not going to be sharing any recipes, but I want to give a few quick ideas on what you can do with some of the seasonal vegetables I got last week and what I did with them myself.

Also, a note on eating seasonally… I know in some countries you can still find fruits and vegetables that are out of season but are still produced without hormones and pesticides, usually shipped in from other countries or states. However, eating seasonally is ideal because foods that are in season correspond to what our bodies need the most during the current season. Have you ever craved watermelon on a cold winter day?

Other than crunching on most of the cauliflower head just straight up raw (my kids love raw vegetables but once they’re cooked… it’s a battle), we made it into a low carb cauliflower ‘mac ‘n’ cheese’. Honestly I prefer it just roasted until really tender, but it was going to be the main dish rather than a side dish that day so I had to be more creative. I usually roast beet root before storing to use in salad mostly, but I ended up boiling them instead – without removing the skin – and storing them in the fridge. Every time I make salad, I cut some into the salad, or I serve on its own as a side. You can sauté the tender shoots with some olive oil or butter and serve as a side. I grated the celeriac root with some carrots and sliced an apple into small, thin pieces to make a salad with a yogurt, olive oil & lemon juice dressing. The spinach was sliced and washed thoroughly before cooking with a very little bit of water just to allow some steam to develop in the covered pot on low heat, just until tender, and stored in the fridge. We used it in the morning to make some scrambled eggs with spinach. You can grate some aged cheese on top upon serving, or add some homemade pesto like we did. So far I have used both cabbages to make salad, once slaw and once just regular salad, thinly sliced with some tomatoes and cucumber and balsamic vinegar dressing, and I still have a ton of cabbage left so I will be using the white cabbage to make a delicious & simple cabbage stir fry with olive oil, turmeric, salt & red pepper until the very thinly sliced cabbage is extremely tender and well cooked. The fruits, we just enjoy straight up raw (except for the grapefruit which I prefer for juicing), and we do that as a snack in between meals or first thing in the morning before breakfast, because fruit is better before a main meal as it is digested quicker than other foods. How I missed the glorious pomegranate, also a favorite of my kids’. Oh, and before I forget, this was the last week I ordered some grapes, because you can tell they’re starting to say goodbye, so I washed them up and froze them in a container after removing from the stems. Great snack. Not pictured, I have some pumpkin which I will be using to make a meal with slow-baked rosto & cloves.

What’s your favorite way of using Fall vegetables (and fruits?)

 

My ‘Spice’ Rack

I wanted to share with you a list of most (if not all) of the things that go onto the rack close to the stove as well as what I use them in. This is where I stack my most frequently used spices, herbs and other ingredients. It’s not really a spice rack, and it’s not a herb rack, nor a grain rack. It’s a combination of everything rack. I have 2-3 other locations where I store other herbs that aren’t as frequently used, other grains like rice, oats and barley, and tahini, molasses, honey and the like. You get the point. Also I entertained the idea of re-organizing and tidying up the shelves before snapping a picture but decided there’s nothing to hide. It is what it is.
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So here it goes:
Top Shelf
Turmeric: I use turmeric on a daily basis in most of my cooking, in frittatas, on red meat/fish/poultry, and in vegetarian stews. It’s super medicinal, anti-inflammatory and according to some opinions, the gold out of the three gifts presented to newly-born Jesus was actually turmeric.
Rock salt: Just basic, unrefined rock salt that I use in cooking. So unrefined it has small rock residue.
Holy Basil: A type of basil highly revered for its medicinal and adaptogenic properties in India. Hence the name. Also known as Krishna. I use this to make a simple herbal infusion to drink, usually in combination with other herbs.
Hibiscus (Roselle): Strong antioxidant. Wonderful tea. I like to combine with a bit of cinnamon and ginger. Recently I tried to infuse it cold and it worked pretty well. I put a couple of tablespoons into approx. 2 cups of water. I added 1/2 tsp powdered cinnamon and 1 tsp fresh grated ginger. Infused overnight, strain and refrigerate. It was very strong so I would have to dilute it as I drank it, either with plain water or sparkling water. Give it a shot.
Lemongrass: I like a simple, plain lemongrass tea after dinner. Soothing, helps aid digestion.
Peppermint: Again, goes into making herbal tea. Digestive, uplifting, gives tea a nice flavor especially if combined with other herbs. I don’t like adding too much though and I don’t consume it very frequently mainly because I am nursing and peppermint can dry breast milk if consumed in large amounts (as well as sage and parsley).
Mint: This mint is specifically for cooking. I add it to simple courgette stew, celery stalk stew (which I haven’t made ever since moving to Istanbul because they only sell celeriac root here), or in yogurt soup.
Thyme/Wild Thyme: Goes into frittata, onto fried eggs, roasted potatoes, roasted root vegetables etc.
Smoked paprika: I love this and I am running out (ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs to US while husband was visiting his family few weeks ago). I usually use it with roasted potatoes and chicken.
Finally, in case you’re wondering what it is, garlic infusing in olive oil: At some point I had way too much garlic at home, more than I’d ever use (I rarely use garlic in cooking), so I figured I should just peel them and add olive oil and some dried rosemary sprigs and leave it to infuse. I haven’t used it yet and I can’t think of how I’d use it other than for ear infections so I’ll have to do some research and brainstorming on that one.
Middle Shelf
Cardamom: I love cardamom. I throw a few into stock, brown rice (along with astragalus root which is another frequently used ingredient in my kitchen but not included in the rack), and into rooibos tea. I also break a pod and throw the seeds into the coffee filter when I am brewing coffee in the morning. I tend to drink coffee after breakfast. I prefer plain warm water first thing in the morning, sometimes with a few drops of vinegar.
Flax seed: Goes on top of oatmeal and salads.
Cinnamon: I use cinnamon in my oatmeal, and in Moroccan inspired stews. I add some to the coffee with the cardamom too.
Black seed (Nigella sativa): Usually on top of labnah along with some olive oil.
Black pepper: Most of my cooking includes some black pepper.
Herbamare: This is an A. Vogel product that is a combination of sea salt, dehydrated vegetables and herbs. I use sparingly on some vegetarian stews and on eggs, and sometimes with yogurt.
Himalayan salt: Again, used in some cooking. I alternate between rock salt and himalayan salt.
Black lava salt: This is a sea salt from Hawaii that is infused with activated charcoal, therefore has detoxifying effect. I use it on roast vegetables and roast meat. Bought from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Cumin: In red lentil soup, mujaddara (lentil & rice dish), Moroccan inspired stews.
Sumac: In frittata, omelette and meat balls.
Red lentil: I frequently make a quick & simple red lentil soup with a combination of  carrots and onions, as well as some turmeric, cinnamon and cumin.
Bottom Shelf
Coriander seeds: I actually don’t use this so much, but it happens to be there. I sometimes use it in Indian cooking or when I marinate chicken with a combination of other spices.
Sesame seeds: If we were still eating wheat at the moment, I would be using this on Turkish börek (along with nigella seeds and flax seed) but since we are not… I just use it to crust baked fish at times or toast and add to sautéed dark leafy greens or stir-fries.
Fenugreek seeds: Simmer to make tea or sprout and eat sparingly. In my experience it really does help stimulate milk production (galactagogue).
Aniseed: Aids in digestion. I like the sweet taste it imparts to tea. Also a galactagogue.
Elderflower: In combination with peppermint, it’s a good remedy for cold. I don’t use it just during colds though and it’s a common addition to my herbal tea.
Nutmeg: Grated and added to food like minced meat, Jerusalem artichoke soup, pumpkin soup.
Red chili flakes: Goes onto soups, frittata, stir-fry, stews. Whatever that needs a kick of flavor.
Chlorella: A single celled algae, in powder form. Very strong algae flavor. This has a cracked outer cell wall to ensure better assimilation by the body. I like to add some to my salad.
Marshmallow root: In powder form, I use marshmallow root to soothe sore throat. I usually add it to honey along with some ginger and/or cinnamon and take a teaspoon few times throughout the day.
Hot chocolate mix: Roasted cacao powder, astragalus root powder, shatavari root powder. I’ll usually mix this powder with a little bit of water and milk (either cow or coconut) as it heats and use grape molasses as sweetener. I would use maple syrup too but I don’t have frequent access to that in Istanbul. I do find it in stores in Cyprus so whenever I am visiting I stock up a bottle or two. (Or from the US when visiting).
Of course these are not my only most used ingredients. I don’t have to mention olive oil, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar… We use A LOT of honey. A lot of tahini. But I had to focus on one (rather messy) location and this was it.
What are your most frequently used pantry ingredients?