Our lives are contingent on how-tos. How to wash your face, how to cook pasta, how to treat your colleagues, how to decorate your apartment. You name it, there is an how-to book or article for it. But I’ve rarely come across the question: How do you travel? Maybe because it is a very personal one and there is no right or wrong answer. But I have to admit that I never asked that question myself until very recently. Keeping in mind that I do travel quite a lot, it should have been something to think about a long time ago. How do I travel? I travel with my backpack but also my suitcase. I travel by car but also train. To cities but also to the mountains. With an itinerary or wherever the road takes me. But how do I really travel? It was only when I went on a trip with my mum a few weeks ago that I started to realise one thing. I travel through food.
I haven’t been on a longer vacation with my mum for many years. A few days into our holiday while having yet another mind-blowing lunch in Tallinn my mum and I got talking about our experiences on the trip so far. She told me: “Most people read up on the history of the country they travel to, they visit all churches and museums and they sprint from one sight to another. You eat and wander.” And it’s true. The minute I know of an upcoming vacation, I search the internet and guide books for food recommendations. I read up on food culture, find trendy spots, check out the entrepreneurial landscape and also read a little about the history and current affairs. But I have long stopped making a list of sights I want to visit. I love wandering. I love getting lost and discovering these sights myself. And on the way I love to stop and have delicious food.
For me, food tells its own story about a country and its people. And it tells the story of today, quite contrary to historical sights that rather show aspects of the past. Now, I also visit churches because the past is always a big part of the present. However I also noticed that many tourists only focus on the history of a country and somehow forget to pay attention to the here and now.
Turkish food culture has a long and deep-rooted past. Turkish people love their food and you only find a few foreign choices in Istanbul. However as in every big city convenient and fast options become more and more popular. It sometimes feels like there are way too many of the same kebab stands. And there are definitely way too many restaurants that serve the same kind of mezze. But Turkish food culture is more more complex than kebab and boring mezze. You do get a better glimpse of its diversity when you leave Istanbul and head to the countryside or sea.
On my last trip to Alacati a few week ago, I fell in love with Turkish food. Until then I liked it but still preferred Vietnamese or Italian cuisine. But for some reason, Alacati offered what I was always looking for in Istanbul – creative Turkish food, prepared and cooked with seasonal and local ingredients. One of my favorite mezze was a green salad with shaved zucchini, stuffed figs with homemade sweet cheese and lemon dressing.
I recreated and veganized this delicious salad at home. The crispy green and fresh cucumber with a pleasant lemon dressing go perfectly with the sweet stuffed figs and slightly hearty cashew cream. The cashew cream is a great substitute for the sweet-ish cheese which I only know from Turkey. It has a soft texture, almost like tofu but is more like a thick grainy cream cheese. Cashews are sweet in taste too but if you add mustard and nutritional cheese, you give it a little bit more of flavor volume. This salad is great for a dinner outside in the summer. Have a glas of white wine with it and you might feel like you’re at Turkey’s beautiful seaside.
Roasted Stuffed Figs with Cheezy Cashew Cream
- 6 big figs
- cheezy cashew cream
- 2-3 handfuls of green lettuce
- 1 small cucumber
- 1 tbsp olive oil*
- 2 tsp lemon*
- * Double the amount if you like lots of dressing
- ½ cup / 75 grams soaked cashews
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp mustard (djion mustard works best)
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- salt & peper to taste
- Add all ingredients to blender and mix until smooth. If you like a grainy texture, don't blend it for too long.
- Combine lemon juice and olive oil and set it aside
- Preheat oven to 200°C/ 390°F and set it to broil
- Wash figs and place on baking sheet
- Cut an X into the tops, ⅓ way through
- Spoon about 1-2 tsp of mixture into each fig
- Broil the figs for about 4-5 min or until golden brown on top
- In the meantime, shave the cucumber, using a vegetable peeler. You can also cut it lengthwise in very thin slices
- In a bowl mix green lettuce, cucumber and dressing
- Share the salad among two plates and serve the figs with it