210 - Feast Like a Sultan

By Mary Luz Mejia

Imagine taking the fresh flavours of the Mediterranean and combining them with the exoticism of the Far- East and you’ve got a perfect pairing in Turkish cuisine. The Turkish kitchen reflects the intermingling of numerous cultures, following migratory paths which extended from Central Asia all the way to Western European cities such as Vienna. Apart from the various geographical influences, Turkey’s love affair with food runs deep. The Ottoman Dynasty’s reign lasted 600 years, with specialized cooks preparing every kind of dish for discerning royal tastes. To this day, Turks take great pride in preparing sumptuous feasts and wonderful dishes sure to please almost any palate.

Anatolia Restaurant owner Ayse Aydemir is no exception. A former stage actress from Istanbul, Ayse learned to cook at an early age, and even though her culinary education was informal, she is an obvious natural who does fantastically well. Her Imam Bayildi- or vegetable- stuffed baby eggplants are, quite simply, divine. Translated, the name of the dish means “the Imam fainted,” presumably because it was either so delectable or because said Imam (a Muslim prayer leader) saw how much cost-prohibitive olive oil was used to prepare the dish. Even my hard-core carnivore family and friends enjoy this eggplant stuffed with tomato, onion and green pepper. Served with a side of bulgur wheat pilaf, nuanced with tomato broth and mild herbs, this is the perfect way appetizer to start any Turkish meal.

Ayse also makes a marvellous Beyti, which is equally enjoyable for lovers of lamb as well as those who have their reservations about this meat. Ground lamb and beef are wrapped in a paper - thin Turkish pastry called yufka (a bit like filo only more buttery) and then drizzled with a savoury tomato sauce, warmed butter and pistachios. A very satisfying new flavour sensation if you’ve never tried traditional Turkish fare. At Anatolia, you can top off your meal by sampling one of several sweet selections, including the kunefe - a shredded pastry with warm fresh cheese in the middle that’s drenched in light syrup. Perfectly partnered with a cup of Turkish coffee and perhaps a qahveh fali or a Turkish coffee ground reading -; because you never know what can be divined from the bottom of your coffee cup!

Anatolia Restaurant
5112 Dundas Avenue East
Etobicoke, Ontario
(416) 207-0596