Last Wednesday evening, as temperatures dropped and the cold January wind picked up, I ventured out to the Fromaggio Kitchen’s annex just north of Fresh Pond for a class on Turkish Meze. I slipped into a chair at one of the three long banquet tables, and turned my attention to the leaders of the course, Selma and Ihsan. Selma passed out platters of fresh feta and fragrant melon, and Ihsan described the proper way to approach the dish: first the sour, delicate feta, followed by the tempering, sweet melon, chased by a sip of Turkey’s anise-flavored apéritif, Raki (also fondly referred to as “Turkish fire” or “Lion’s milk”). As Ihsan recalled the streets of Istanbul in vibrant detail, I realized my intention to learn cut and dry technique was misguided. First and foremost, this course was about flavor and memory, scents and stories. All else would follow.
Founded in 1978, the Formaggio Kitchen began as a speciality European-style grocers on Huron Avenue in Cambridge, MA, offering imported items from France, Italy, and Spain. Today, under the ownership of Ihsan and Valerie Gurdal, Formaggio offers catering, fresh baked goods, and tasting classes, in addition to specialty groceries. While many of their products are not local to the Boston area, all of their offerings come from artisan producers who utilize environmentally sustainable methods of production and produce their goods in small batches to ensure quality. To this end, the store supports artisan and sustainable food production both in the U.S. and internationally. What’s more, Formaggio staff travel the world each year to hand-pick the store’s offerings and learn about the communities their products come from.
Among Formaggio’s course listings, Turkish Meze stood out as a chance to learn about the intertwined nature of culinary technique and cultural tradition, and to hear Formaggio’s owner speak about the food he grew up with. In general, meze refers to small, appetizer-like dishes packed with intense flavor and enjoyed over drinks (preferably with friends). Following the introductory feta, melon, and Raki, I enjoyed eight small dishes, including Green Olive, Walnut, and Pomegranate Salad, Kofte (Turkish Meat Balls), and Cerkez Tavugu, a chicken based salad. While each dish varied greatly, olives, olive oil, walnuts, and parsley all played prominent roles throughout the evening, and the subtle play between sweet and sour surfaced time and time again. The lingering heat of Maras pepper and the smokey flavor of Urfa pepper graced dishes with spice and introduced me to the many subtleties between peppers.
Want to try out some of these dishes for yourself? Bring a taste of Turkey to your table with Formaggio’s recipes, and be sure to use our local foods directory to find ingredients at vendors near you!