Mercan Bey, the Arabian spice trader puppet, woke me up today with a simple request.
“M’lady,” he said earnestly but softly, “you have not let us out to play in the world in a few months, but I really need to cook. I can’t go this long without cooking. I would like to make you and M. some proper Zeytinyağlı Kereviz today.”
“Well,” I said sleepily, “no problem, Mercan Bey, we can hop on over to Whole Paycheck (Whole Foods Supermarket) and find you some kereviz (celeriac) before you can say…”
And he was gone, out the door, to market. I guess these Karagöz shadow puppets are getting a little stir crazy cooped up in the backyard of my brain.
Since I stored the puppets away in mothballs, so much has gone on – from Turkish women publicly decrying the amount of leg room men take up on the subway (bravo) and the resulting argument we had in our Turkish-American household on that topic – to the what feels like the inevitable deployment of Turkish troops to Kobane or elsewhere given the horrific actions of the so-called Islamic State.
But it is the simple, not even plain, just plain ugly kereviz that has gotten me to blog again.
I think it all started last week as M. and I began our “shared cooking duty” plan – now that I am well enough to go back to work some 2 years later…always the gourmand but rarely the cook, M. has taken up the task of cooking his mother and grandmother’s dishes for me as of late. Last week, he made his own version of Zeytinyağlı Kereviz – which Karagöz the imp reminds me was made “with GARLIC instead of ONIONS!” I did see Mercan Bey shaking his head sadly at this break with tradition. Of course, would we expect anything less from M., the man who is known to feast on bulbs of raw garlic as if they were apples – when living as far away from people as possible on Bozcaada in the summertime?
While the use of garlic in this classic Ottoman-style dish was a break from tradition, it still tasted good. But Mercan Bey is here to set the record straight vis-a-vis how to cook Zeytinyağlı Kereviz the PROPER way.
And here is what he bought to do what he had to do (amounts vary:
Bunch of dill weed
Bunch of parsley
A few – maybe three – organic carrots
One head of celeriac/kereviz/celery root
A few lemons
Some high-quality olive oil
Some sea salt
A small bag of frozen peas
Half of a mesh bag of small red potatoes
3 sugar cubes
And here is what he dragged out of the bottom drawer of the kitchen cabinet:
The biggest Le Creuset enamelled steel pan
And here is what he did with these items:
1. Thought hard about what it was that his mother and grandmother (Babane not Anane) had done in the kitchen when they were making this dish.
2. Cruised around the Internet for a few instructional videos – nixing about five of them before there was one that helped to refresh his memory.
3. Washed and carved out the good parts of the kereviz/celeriac.
4. Cut up the kereviz/celeriac into 1.5 inch or so chunks, immediately placing them in lemon water so that they would not discolor.
5. Peeled and chopped carrots into 1 inch or so chunks.
6. Peeled and chopped potatoes into 1 inch or so chunks.
7. Cut the onions into a small chop and lightly brown them in olive oil with salt.
8. Place potato, carrots and peas into the pan, mixed up and cook for 5 minutes.
9. Drain the kereviz/celeriac, put in the pot along with the juice of one lemon and three sugar cubes and another pinch of salt.
10. Add one drinking glass of water to the pot – and add enough olive oil (this is subjective).
11. Cook it low and slow until the knife goes in the kereviz/celeriac.
12. Let it all cook down – must be eaten cold, not hot – with parsley and dill as garnish.
And it was indeed delicious (although I would put the peas in at the end so that they don’t get mushy and lose their color so fast, but I am an American after all, what do I know?)
Perhaps you will enjoy kereviz as well – and if you do, we wish you “Afiyet Olsun!”