June 30, 2014

Turkish cooking class with Sureyya Gokeri

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.

23 comments:

  1. What a fun class! That's really good information to know about buying eggplants. I'll make sure to feel for just the right one next time.

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    1. It was fun and delicious. I can't wait to try the recipes when i get home in August.

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  2. Yum! Thanks for including some of the tips - I had no idea black eyed peas didn't need to be soaked before cooking, no wonder mine are always mushy. Good to know about the harder eggplants too.
    my sister spent a semester abroad in Turkey and when she came back we went to a Turkish restuarant but I don't recall having had so many options. Sounds great.

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    1. You're welcome. I wish I could have included some of the recipes. I posted a recipe from another of Sureyya's classes (with permission) in another post but I can't remember what it was — maybe an olive salad. Black-eyed peas cook in about the same time as lentils.

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  3. What a wonderful class! I would love to learn more about middle eastern cuisine, I always enjoy eating it. I love that everything is simple to cook but tastes complex - that's what you want! :)

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    1. It's fun to impress people with your cooking and not have to spend all day doing it. I think you could cook the entire meal in less than two hours.

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  4. that sounds so fun. I've never taken a cooking class! I agree about salads that have cooked stuff and raw stuff - they are really great. I've noticed that warm foods like beans or potatoes soak up the dressing more... for more yumminess!

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    1. Warm foods soaking up the flavors better was one of the class tips that I forgot to mention. Thanks for bring it up! It's fun to watch someone cook and talk about what they are doing, then feed you the results!

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  5. What a great class! Awesome looking food! It looks like a full meal too. I've only been to one cooking class long ago and we only got small samples.

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    1. It was definitely a full meal. I was stuffed and happy.

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  6. Oh my, it all looks fantastic. I was one happy veg years ago when I visited Turkey. Wonderful food and wonderful people.

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    1. And indeed it was fantastic! Lucky you to have visited Turkey.

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  7. I'm not surprised she's your favourite teacher - she'd be mine after all that lot. I'm rather partial to beans in a salad, and Turkish food of all stripes. If you ever adapt the bonbon recipe, you have to share it - I've love to make a batch at home, they look delicious!

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    1. I love beans in a salad, too, especially when they are warm in contrast to the raw salad ingredients. As Amey pointed out in a comment and Sureyya pointed out in class, warm beans soak up more flavors than cold ones.

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  8. I love Sureyya!! I have assisted in her classes at PCC. She is so funny and her food is delicious! I am so glad you discovered her! - teresa@sweetveg.org

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    1. This was our fourth class with Sureyya, I think. We love her food and her stories.

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  9. What an interesting cooking class, I would love to learn how to make middle eastern dishes. I didn’t know that the teacher Sureyya owns a cafe in Seattle, I would love to check it out. Most of the dishes you’ve made look utterly tasty, I like the ones that are drenched in sauces. I would love to try the ful akhdor since I’m a huge fan of artichokes. Last week in Sun River, we made some dill rice with fava beans (it was my first time to see them in person) and they were pretty delicate and brown looking. I remember going to Turkey in 2008 and it wasn’t vegan friendly (I imagine it is right now) and I had lots of hummus, falafel, tabouli, and Turkish delights at that time.

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    1. I've never made fava beans at home because I thought it would be so much work peeling all the beans.

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  10. Very fun. How does one form the rice like that on the plate?

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    1. Press the rice into a small bowl then invert the bowl onto the plate. I'm the only one who had the rice like that because the teacher knew I was taking photos.

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  11. Boy, does that food look delicious! I always cook my black-eyed peas much longer than 20 minutes. I'm really surprised they can cook that quickly!

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