Sunday, March 11, 2012

This Week in Turkey: Wrapping up week of 3-5-12

I think it's fair to say that the biggest news in Turkey this week -- as it relates to the outside world -- involved the WikiLeaks release of the first Stratfor emails. WikiLeaks has apparently acquired 5 million emails dated between July 2004 and December from the Austin-based company that's been called a "shadow CIA." At least one of the emails deals with the health of Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan, saying he has terminal cancer and two years left to live (though I have yet to see a news story that gives the date of this email, it's obviously from no later than December). As I've mentioned before, there were already rumors here that he had cancer, following from two surgeries he's had (in November and last month) on his lower intestine. Previously, everyone has denied that he has cancer, but interestingly, in response to the Stratfor emails, Erdogan issued this week the most undenying denial. On Wednesday, he was quoted as saying: "We are [members of] a party that believes in fate. We are a party that took risks to serve our people. This soul belongs to God. God is the only one who can take it back. We did not and do not surrender to threats. Only God can determine the length of our life. … Those who believe in rumors and speculate on the lifespan of others, for us, are not only daring but insolent as well ." He never says he doesn't have cancer -- it seems to me he just took issue with the idea that a doctor (or an intelligence officer) could accurately predict a date of death. Considering that Turkey is at a crossroads right now and so much rests on Erdogan's shoulders (and charisma), it will be interesting to see what ends up being true.

There was another bomb blast this week, this time near the prime ministry building in Ankara on Monday, and like last week's explosion in Istanbul, little has been said. All that I've really heard about it was that it was a percussion bomb, one person was injured and no group has taken credit for the attack.

As I've already mentioned in another post, it was International Women's Day on Thursday, and Turkey celebrated with gusto!

In our own personal news, our resident garden cat and her kittens seem to be doing well. They're still under the ivy, but I've gone out and taken a peek at them a couple of times. From what I can see (momma mostly sits on top of them), there are just two of them, and they are still sooooo tiny, looking more like mice than kittens. Pin It

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Adventures in Cooking: Risotto

One day a couple of months ago, it occurred to me that I should try my hand at risotto. For the life of me, I can't remember what sparked the initial impulse, but I loved it so much (which is funny because I never used to like risotto) that since then, I have experimented with a couple of versions.

I started out with a basic version from Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals 2, an adapted version of which is below. I was kind of amazed at how simple this recipe was -- you need chicken broth, olive oil, arborio rice, white wine and cheese (her recipe calls for Parmigiano Reggiano, but I just used provolone). Although Rachael's recipe also includes an onion, I found it to be optional -- when I didn't have one, I used two garlic cloves instead. In total, risotto only takes about 20 minutes or so to cook, and basically all you have to do is stir (and rock out to iTunes -- that's usually what I do to amuse myself at the stove).

Having tackled that recipe successfully, I moved on to a Red Wine Risotto with Peas, courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis and her book, Giada's Family Dinners. This recipe is more or less the same, except you use red wine to give the rice a gorgeous lilac tint and of course, you add peas. While I liked the recipe overall, I found that I hated the peas -- to me, they taste a bit like dirt, and I found that didn't go well with my risotto, so in subsequent versions, I left them out.

Lastly, I've tried a tomato mozzarella version, which is probably my favorite, though Cagatay likes the plain version best. For this one, I looked around on the Internet to see generally how it was done, and then modified the Rachael Ray recipe accordingly. Which means, I'm excited to present my first, somewhat-mine recipe:

Tomato Mozzarella Risotto:
(Adapted from Best Basic Risotto, Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals 2)

4 cups chicken broth
28.3 g (2 tbsp) butter
15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
1 onion or 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1.5 cups arborio rice
.5 cup white wine
4 decent-sized tomatoes, blanched, peeled and roughly chopped
1 ball mozzarella cheese, sliced

After getting your tomatoes ready, prepare the chicken broth and put it in a saucepan and simmer. Then, in a large saucepan or pot, combine the olive oil and butter on medium to medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add your onions and/or garlic -- if you're using onion, cook for 3 minutes, and if you're using garli, cook for about 1 minute, until it smells fragrant. Then add the arborio rice and saute, 2 minutes more, getting the rice coated with the oil. Add the wine and let it cook away, 1 or 2 minutes. Then, over the next 18 minutes, you add the broth a few ladles at a time -- I add the tomatoes right after I add the first spoonful of broth. Stir the broth into the rice each time the liquid has been absorbed; I stir almost constantly so that nothing burns at the bottom of the pan. After 18 minutes, all the broth should be gone and the rice should be soft (taste test!). At this point, add in the mozzarella and stir it in until it's totally melted. Take it off the heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes -- it needs to cool down, but it also seems to come together a little more.

Enjoy! Just writing out this recipe makes me want to cook risotto for dinner tonight!

Pin It

Friday, March 9, 2012

International Women's Day in Istanbul

It was International Women's Day yesterday, something that I'd only vaguely heard about at home in the US but which is a BIG deal here. Which is surprising in some ways, as I don't think there's a lot of respect for women here (although perhaps it's the same as in other places, but just manifests itself in different ways).

Anyway, my first sign that International Women's Day was going to be a big deal was when we came home on Tuesday night to find two wrapped carnations in front of our door, a gift from the district we live in. (Unfortunately, though, since they hadn't been in water for who knows how long, they were pretty wilted and not worth bringing in.) Then, on Thursday, the actual day, I received another carnation from the Turkcell girls at the Metrobus station. At work, all of the women received presents from the HR department (I got a lovely set of six glasses), and we had all brought food, so we had a little party mid-morning.

That was pretty much the end of my Women's Day celebrations.There was a parade Thursday evening at Taksim, but since I always have to work late on Thursday nights, it wasn't an option. There were also various other events during the day.

But probably the most interesting thing I heard about was a protest -- called H2SO4 Asian Cocktail -- staged in front of Ayasofya by FEMEN, the Ukrainian women's rights group. According to their Live Journal page (translated by Google), they were protesting acid attacks on Muslim women and they symbolically (ie with makeup) mutilated their bodies to show acid burns and the after-effects of a beating. From what I saw in videos, they drove up to the area in a van and then jumped out of it half-naked, yelling and holding up signs. It looks like they were there for only about five minutes before the cops started dragging them away, though maybe the videos had been edited down. They were arrested, and the four women were deported today; according to a news report, they tried to undress at the airport in protest but were stopped by the police. Their Live Journal page says they're "persona non grata" in Russia, but I have no doubt their public nakedness was seen as particularly offensive here.  Pin It

Saturday, March 3, 2012

This Week in Turkey: Wrapping up week of 2-27-12

Well, I never did get around to last week's wrap-up. What can I say, work has kept me very, very busy...

There were some big things that happened in Turkey this week but oddly, I don't think they got all that much coverage, at least from what I saw (and keep in mind, I'm only looking at the English-language newspapers here). For example, on Thursday afternoon, a remote-controlled bomb mounted on a motorcycle went off near the headquarters of the ruling party as a police bus was passing, injuring 15 soldiers and a civilian. But I haven't heard anything about it since Thursday -- if some group has claimed responsibility, I haven't seen it.

Likewise, the highly controversial French law that Turkish journalists and politicians have ranted about endlessly was struck down by the French Constitutional Council on Tuesday. The law, passed last month, said that any French national in France denying any events deemed a genocide can be fined 45,000 euros and sentenced to up to a year in jail -- and France had already passed a law deeming the deaths of Armenians in 1915 in eastern Turkey genocide. You'd think Turkey would throw a parade over the striking down of this law but again, barely a peep. Is it because Nicolas Sarkozy says he's going to revise and submit a new bill? The French bill was a big deal here because what happened in 1915 is HIGHLY controversial. Supporters of the argument for genocide say the Ottoman Empire made a deliberate decision to kill the Armenian population and then send whoever remained on a death march to nowhere in a push for nationalism in its final days; most Turks fervently believe that the Turks and Armenians were fighting each other in the east as the Ottoman Empire collapsed, and the deaths (on both sides) were part of the "normal" course of war and battle. Most Turks saw the French bill as a direct accusation, an affront to Turkey and Turkishness.

Tuesday was also the 15th anniversary of the Feb. 28, 1997, "postmodern coup," in which the country's first Islamic prime minister and his partners were forced by the army to resign, which kept Islamists out of the government until the current ruling party came to power in 2001. On Tuesday, there were protests and people made speeches about how it should never happen again, but not much else really happened, from what I heard.

On Thursday, Turkey revealed a symbol (like $) for its currency, the lira, and the prime minster associated the reveal with Turkey's growing financial status. (The country hopes to be one of the world's top 10 economies by 2023.) The Central Bank released an app you can install on your computer so you can use the sign -- Cagatay took a closer look at it and apparently the designer didn't do a good job and the lines are wavy and one of the corners is funky. (I thought those of you who are design-minded might appreciate this.) A Financial Times blog says the new lira sign looks "a little like a pound symbol superimposed on a letter ‘t’." I've also heard people say it looks like the dollar sign, the Euro symbol, the Armenian dram symbol upside down and, best of all, like the letters T and E combined -- which also happen to be the initials of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. The new symbol is up at the top of this post -- what do you think?

Last but not least, it snowed again this week -- THREE times, including today. The worst part is, everyone thought spring had finally come because it had gotten damp and the feeling in the air had changed. But no... Our neighborhood cat didn't get the memo, apparently, as she's just given birth to her kittens. I'm guessing they're only a few days old, as I've just started to hear them squeaking, out in the garden under the ivy covering the wall -- I haven't seen them yet, as my suspicions were only confirmed this afternoon, but last time, in late spring, she had eight kittens. So hopefully there will be less this go around...  Pin It