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Turkish cooking class with Sureyya Gokeri

Posted Jun 30 2014 2:00pm
My plate.

I've posted about taking cooking classes at PCC (our food co-op) before, and as in the past, we really enjoyed both the instruction and the food in our latest class. Over the course of the two hour class period, Sureyya made four dishes — all gluten-free and vegan — that would be spectacular served to guests, but were definitely easy enough for everyday fare. Because she was cooking for such a large group, some of the food prep for the class was done ahead of time, but all of the actual cooking was done in class. I haven't actually tried to prepare the dishes at home to see how the 30-minute claim holds up, but it seemed pretty doable to me.

The Middle Eastern classes taught by Sureyya Gokeri are probably our favorites, both because Sureyya is a great teacher and a great cook. Not only do we learn to make the recipes she has selected for the class, but she verbally throws in loads of other recipes and hints that add to the information already in our class booklets. And the food is always spectacular.

The first dish made and consumed was gavur dagi salatasi — salad with olives and black-eyed peas. Black-eyed peas don't require soaking before being cooked, and once the cooking water comes to a boil, they cook in about 20 minutes, making them ideal for a 30-minute dish. They were combined with wonderful flavors like pomegranate molasses, green olives, arugula and walnuts to make a fantastically delicious salad. I love salads where some of the components are cooked and warm, and some cold and raw. And, Sureyya told us that warm foods soak up the flavors better so it's better to add warm beans to salads.

Highlighted at the center of the plate is muceddere — brown lentil and rice pilaf with caramelized onions. Brown lentils are different from other lentils in that they stay firm after being cooked, rather than cooking down to a soft and creamy consistency. The ingredient list for the pilaf is rather short, and contains no exotic ingredients, unless you consider allspice and parsley exotic. Yet, the flavor was amazing.

At the left side of the plate you see ful akhdor — a dish of artichokes, fava beans, and almonds. Although the fava beans Sureyya used in class came from a can, she showed us how to choose and use fresh favas, if we found them at the farmers market. The pods that look all brown and weird are the ones to buy. This was another easy recipe that came together really quickly and tasted much more complicated than it was.

On the right is patlican mousakka — cumin-scented spicy eggplant in creamy tomato sauce. Although the other items on the menu were Turkish, the mousakka is from Afghanistan. Sureyya used regular large eggplants for the dish because that's what was available at the co-op, but she recommended using the small, thin Japanese or Italian eggplants for better flavor. She also advised us to buy the hardest eggplants we could find because she said they have the fewest seeds and the best texture. She also said that the only time she soaks eggplant is if she's cutting it ahead of time and doesn't want it to darken after being exposed to air. The eggplant was cooked with lots of spices like cumin, turmeric, coriander and cinnamon. It was delicious.

To finish off the meal we were served havuc koftesi — aromatic carrot and nut bonbons. The photo makes the bonbons look much bigger than they were — probably the size of a golf ball. Because the dessert was gluten-free and didn't contain flour, Sureyya used gluten-free graham crackers which she turned into crumbs. I was a little dismayed to find that the crackers contained honey, which I prefer not to eat. I was pretty full from the other foods so I didn't miss having dessert at all. I think I'd look for an alternative to graham crackers for these — maybe almond flour or coconut flour.

Sureyya and her family own a great little restaurant called Cafe Turko, located in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. I've never been to Turkey, but I've been told that eating at Cafe Turko is like walking into a cafe in Turkey. The decor, and the import store within the space makes it feel like you've entered an entirely out-of-the-ordinary place. We really love eating there, and if you're in the Seattle area, I recommend it. There are lots of vegan and gluten-free choices, and the Gokeri family will make you feel right at home.
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