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Comfort food and books for comfort

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Christina Stock Photo Serving suggestion for Köfte, Turkish meatballs, with a tahini lemon yogurt sauce and tomato rice pilaf.

Turkey’s delicacies

and authors Paul Meyer and Carlos Meyer

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

Today, I want to take you on a trip to a country and a cuisine not as well-known in the U.S.: Turkey, which in modern times is known as the bridge between orient and occident. A country that was the first to open its doors to the idea of democracy in the Western sense of the word and the first in the Muslim world to separate religion and government. This change came to it painfully, just as difficult as turning away from monarchies in the West and colonialism.

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Anybody who has visited Germany will be surprised that one of the most dominant fast food specialties of Germany is Turkish. How did the Turks end up in Germany? The same way the Italians came to Germany: They were asked to join in the reparations and rebuilding of Germany after World War II when only women, old men and children remained in the rubble of the country that had devastated the world under the yoke of the extreme rightwing nationalistic Nazi Party.

Integrating the vastly different culture into the German society was difficult. I could write an entire book about the various culture clashes. It took two generations to adapt to each other. When I went to school in Germany, with few exceptions, my generation did not have prejudice anymore. Half of my classroom with 30 students were of Turkish descent, the grandchildren of this first generation whose parents decided to stay in Germany. We only were divided once a week for religion classes: Catholic, Lutheran and Islam. We would swap stories about each and in social-economics, we would learn about all the different religions in the world, including the ancient ones in Africa. This system might have been the reason that us children didn’t have any problem getting along and understanding each other.

The best part of growing up with such a diverse cultural melting pot was when we all came together to try each other’s food specialties. Turkish cuisine was exotic and full of spices and aromas that enriched the local restaurant scene.

Out of all these dishes I encountered, I want to share with you today the recipe for Köfte, Turkish spicy meatballs, which is served with a typical yogurt sauce. You will recognize most of the spices, they are available in our stores, as well. I only switched out the meat I am using because it is not easily available (veal and lamb), instead I am using ground beef.

Köfte

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1/2 lb ground beef

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced or ground

1 slice sourdough bread

1 egg

2 Tbsp cumin, ground

2 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsp pepper, ground

1 Tbsp hot red chile flakes

1 cup broadleaf parsley, chopped

2 Tbsp olive oil

Mix the ground beef, onions and garlic together in a large bowl. Soak the bread in just enough water to make it soft, press excess water out and add it to the ground beef mixture together with the egg, oil and spices, as well as the parsley. Mix well. Traditionally, you form the meat into oval meatballs, but if you prefer, you can make them round.

In a large pan, heat some oil and in small batches, fry the meatballs until they are brown on all sides. Keep warm in a warm stove at 250F until ready to serve.

Traditionally Köfte is served with Turkish yogurt sauce.

Köfte yogurt sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup plain full-fat yogurt (preferably Greek)

2 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

Mix the tahini well and add to the yogurt with the lemon juice and salt. Mix well. Serve as a dip with the meatballs or on top.

This dish is a favorite for buffets as well as finger food. Or you can serve as the main course with rice, couscous or a salad.

Books for comfort:

The children’s book authors Paul Meyer and Carlos Meyer are New Mexico Author Co-op members. In an email, Paul Meyer wrote that the two were set to attend the children’s bilingual book fair in Albuquerque when it was canceled due to the COVID-19 restrictions. “We are grateful for any opportunity to spread the word of our New Mexican children’s graphic novel,” Paul Meyer wrote.

He sent in a short biography, “Drawing on their upbringing in Alameda and hailing from a family of nine children, both Paul and Carlos Meyer hope to bring a sense of family and tradition to their writing. While Paul spent many years in Hollywood after high school, Carlos remained home earning a degree in journalism while working at his grandfather’s ranch.  With “Under the Cottonwood Tree — El Susto de la Curandera” the authors hope to shine a light on the culture and people of New Mexico.”

The story follows two New Mexican brothers: “It’s 1949, and the sleepy little village of Algodones, New Mexico is about to be awoken by a strange magic. An enchanted cookie transforms Carlos Lucero from a boy into a black and white calf, and it’s up to his older brother Amadeo to find a way to change him back. Join them on the adventure of a lifetime as they unravel the many secrets of the forest and discover the true meaning of El Susto de la Curandera.”

The book’s illustrations are unique and beautiful with the rich colors of the Southwest, masterfully created by award-winning artist Margaret Hardy, who was born in Missouri, studied in Ohio and China before heading out West, “to find my fortune,” her biography reads on her webpage. She graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts; Illustration major; summa cum laude. In China, she studied at Xi’an Academy of Fine Art with a focus on Western painting.

Hardy participated at the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Competition with two pieces selected to hang in New York in 2009; she won third place at CCAD’s Art of Illustration in 2008 and in 2011 two pieces were exhibited in a group showing at CCAD’s Art of Illustration. In 2006, she received the Marie Walsh Sharpe Summer Seminar scholarship.

“Under the Cottonwood Tree” is available as paperback, hardcover, pdf and digitally at all online shops. For more information, visit underthecottonwoodtree.com or like their Facebook page @UTCTbook.