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  • Jocette Lee

Cuma//joo mah: The Sesame Seed


Welcome to my new series posted on Fridays, called Cuma, which means 'Friday' in Turkish. It will be focused on recipes, happenings, and general life for us in Turkey.


This week I had tiny little sesame seeds in my hair, in my teeth, and all over the floor. Both of the recipes I was trying out involved a lot of tahini and sesame seeds which is evident by my messy and unvacuumed floor. Not only do these tiny seeds have the ability to travel throughout my kitchen but they also have a widespread presence in much of Central Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine. The sesame seed provides a savory flavor and a high-fat content believed to have medicinal properties - particularly for easing pain in both lactating and menstruating women. Sesame seeds are the main ingredient in our beloved tahini, a nutty and creamy sesame seed butter, that is incorporated into many dips, spreads, and desserts such as hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva.


I want to share the recipe for a delicious bread that I made this week which is a riff on the classic simit - a very traditional and important bread in Turkish culture covered in sesame seeds. However, instead of the classic circular shape, I formed the dough into a loaf with a braided design. Then, I stuffed the simit with salty cheese and za'atar spiced almonds. Once again, this recipe comes from Soframiz and this is just the beginning of the wonderful recipes in the book.





Stuffed Simit


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup room-temperature water

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon of salt

  • 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese

  • 1/2 Za'atar spiced almonds

  • 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds

  • Grape molasses (pekmez), for brushing the braid

Process:

To make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk by hand, 1/4 cup water, the yeast, and the sugar. Set aside until frothy (5 minutes).


Add the flour, salt, and remaining 3/4 water to the bowl. Using a dough hook, mix on medium-low speed until a smooth elastic dough forms, 8-10 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and use your hands to form a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest until doubled in size (about one hour).


Lightly flour a work surface. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.


Place dough on the prepared work surface. Roll the dough into a 6- by 12-inch rectangle. Carefully score the rectangle into thirds. Do not cut through the dough; the marks are a guide. Cut each outside third of the dough on a downward angle into six strips.


Spread the crumbled feta down the center of the rectangle. Sprinkle the spiced nuts evenly on top of the cheese. Beginning at the top, take each cut strip and slightly stretch it out, crossing them over the feta filling and alternating sides, creating a braided pattern across the top and sealing in the filling. Carefully lift and place the braid on a prepared baking sheet.


Preheat over to 375 F (190 C).


Brush the braided loaf lightly with the grape molasses and coat completely with sesame seeds. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.


Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Set aside to cool on the baking sheet. This is best served the day it is made. To see the process, check out the video below.





Three Things I am loving:

  1. Many people think Turkey is full of meat-heavy cuisine but this list of vegan and vegetarian foods serves as a great reminder that vegetables play a very large role in Turkish gastronomy, particularly in the Ege region on the western coast of Turkey.

  2. I am so excited to learn about chef and author, Anissa Helou. Of Syrian and Lebanese descent, Anissa travels the world and writes about the food of the Islamic world in her new book called Feast and I really cannot wait to explore it further. Food has the ability to reveal so much about worlds and cultures unknown to us and I still have so much to learn about gastronomy in the Muslim world.

  3. Salih and I try to save all compostable material produced in our kitchen to then dump into our compost bin outside in the garden. Right now, we are just using a bowl to collect scrap but I really want to get a better compost bin to sit on our kitchen countertop, like these. Do you compost at home? If so, what is your system?


Notice some recent changes around here?


We are in the process of rebranding the blog! For quite some time, I have known that Hasat Günü is a mouthful, especially for those not used to speaking Turkish. We shortened the name to 'Hasat,' meaning 'harvest' in Turkish. Our new website URL is www.hasatco.com and our Instagram handle is @hasatco. If you are already following or subscribed to the blog, you do not need to update or change anything about how you engage with this space. This is simply an update that changes are happening, new designs are coming and the creative energy is flowing! Stay tuned!