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Janine Aloisi: Our guest for the week is Catherine Isabella. She lives in New York City and as an Editor at ABC. She recently took a trip to Turkey and was quite impressed with the vast history, culture and fine foods. We had the chance to catch up with her and interview her in beautiful Central Park, New York. Let’s hear what she has to say.
Catherine Isabella: I’m Catherine Isabella. I live here in Manhattan. I work at ABC New York as an Editor and I absolutely love Turkish food. I go out to eat in a Turkish restaurant at least three or four times a month and I think that I can say this fairly that it’s one of my favorite cuisines in the world.
Many years ago when I was a student, I studied architecture of Europe and it included Istanbul. And one of the churches at the time that I studied was this Santa Sophia which since as you know has become a mosque. And recently, at the beginning of all these, a friend of mine who I studied with was going to Istanbul so she asked me to join her and I did. In the end, she changed her mind and I wound up going alone but meeting other friends that were going to be there at the same time. And I did get to see Hagia Sophia which was incredible. It was treat to see it after having studied it.
But the absolute thing that impressed me the most was the Sulimanye. Everyone talks about the blue mosque that one night it was coming back—it was from the __ and coming across the Galata Bridge, and I looked up on the hill and it was lit up and I have never seen anything so spectacular in my life. It was absolutely beautiful.
The reason I like Turkish cuisines so much is because it is simple. They don’t drown the ingredients in sauces. It really seems that they focus on the ingredient. Like you take a fish and you have a lovely filet of fish, they don’t need to doctor it up. The ingredient itself is so tasty, it’s so fresh. And they’ll just put a minimum of spice on it and grill it very simply and serve it like rice pilaf—usually with a rice pilaf. And that’s what I like. It’s very simple yet the combination of ingredients is so delicious. As I said, everything is so fresh and freshly prepared. Even the Manti which I keep going back to, it is my favorite dish, the stuffing is very simple. It’s a dumpling, but the sauce is not heavy. It’s a light yogurt sauce. And that’s what I think the trick is or the secret of Turkish cuisine. It is that it is simple. It doesn’t drown the food. It lets the food present itself. The food is the work of art itself.
I would describe Turkish food as very simple, as very fresh using ingredients that are always fresh, using very few spices, using them very carefully, sparingly and knowing what goes with what. For example, using dill with eggplant, using mint with lamb.
If I were in an island and I had to pick three Turkish dishes, I would pick Manti, I would pick the baked chicken stuffed with the currents and pistachios over a bed of spinach and I would probably choose the Turkish bread. When I went out to eat in the restaurants in Istanbul, I found that the waiters were particularly helpful and very, very friendly. Overall, I’d like to say that in Istanbul, I found the people to be so friendly and so helpful.