If you visit one weekly neighborhood market in Istanbul, make it the one held on Mondays in Göztepe. The produce on offer is stunning, and the vendors are welcoming.
But mostly, the thing about the Göztepe market is ... there's gözleme.
We were introduced to Göztepe market -- and to its gözleme -- by Turkish food writer and blogger Tuba Şatana. Shortly after we arrived in Istanbul Tuba shot me an email offering, in a typical display of Turkish hospitality, to take us eating. So on our last Monday in town the three of us met at the Kadikoy pier and, after tossing back a bracing Turkish coffee and stopping into a historic sweets shop to buy some halva (delicious by the way, and highly recommended) we hopped into a taxi and headed to the market.
The Göztepe market is huge; a serious window shopper/foodie traveler/photographer could easily spend a couple of hours there working his or her way from one end to the other. There's a section devoted to clothing and household goods, but most of the stalls display fresh produce, dried fruits and nuts, cheeses and olives, and prepared foods. As Tuba and I surveyed pink-blushed peaches and apricots speckled with crimson wasp stings Dave wandered, letting his camera lead the way.
Then Tuba led the way to the gözleme stall.
Anyone who knows Turkey knows gözleme, thin wheat flour flatbreads cooked on a griddle and folded around a variety of fillings such as cheese, mashed potatoes, and meat. Gözleme are ubiquitous and immediately appealing. Hot chewy dough pockets hiding something tasty -- what's not to love? We ate dozens on our first trip.
But as with any food, extensive sampling leads to a level of discernment or snobbishness, even. So let me say this: there are a lot of gözleme in Istanbul. And probably 90% of them aren't worth the calories.
But the gözleme at Göztepe are several cuts above, worth not only the calories but the effort to get to this suburb a bit away from the tourist-trod streets of Beyoglu and Sulthanahmet.
They're made to order by a family of women from Amasya, a lovely riverside town in central Turkey about two hours from the Black Sea coast. The dough is rolled out super thin on a floured table, filled to the customer's specifications (cheese and greens for us), and folded like a calzone into a half moon.
Then the gözleme is carefully transferred to a huge concave griddle shiny and blackened from use,
where it's lightly slicked with butter
and then coddled to brown-bubbled crispness via a bit of downward pressure from the wooden spatula and a carefully timed flip or two.
There is much to celebrate about the finished product, a sizeable snack measuring about 15 inches / 37 centimeters across at its base. The filling, a combination of tangy-salty white cheese, made in Amasya and carried to Istanbul by this family of gözleme makers, and shredded spinach and chard, announces its presence but is not so heavy as to weigh the gözleme down. The pancake has been cooked just long enough to soften but not liquify the cheese and to just barely wilt the greens, which retain their freshness and a bit of texture.
The wrapper, chewy at its center and ever so slightly cripsy at the edges, boasts a strong wheat flavor, and though it's been rubbed with butter it's not greasy.
Like an expertly grilled cheese sandwich, this gözleme tastes like sin but doesn't leave its stain on your fingers.
As if gözleme weren't enough, these women also make içli köfte, finger-length bulgur torpedoes filled with a chopped lamb and parsley. Most of the housewives amassing in front of their stall purchased theirs uncooked to finished at home, but we asked the ladies to fry a few up for us.
We bit into layers of texture and flavor: the köfte's greaseless, crackly outer skin gives way to mild, nutty nubs of tender bulgur and then the moistness of the rich meat filling sharpened with a fiery kırmızı biber (dried red pepper) kick. Though already full to near bursting with gözleme when we tried these we couldn't resist ordering a couple more
And shall I tell you about these ladies' baklava, layers of handmade thickish rustic yufka brushed with butter, sandwiching chopped nuts and doused with just enough sugar syrup to moisten but not overwhelm? Or their three apple butter-textured fruit spreads ranging from sweet to super-sour, one made with cranberries and boasting an intriquing whiff of warm spice? Or their homemade tomato and red pepper pastes? Or their zirod/siron, dried pinwheels of wheaty dough meant to be moistened with broth (a bit like the lavash for our piti in Kars) and topped perhaps with crumbled lamb, garlicky salted yogurt, and a drizzle of kırmızı biber and dried mint-infused melted butter?
Never mind, words can't do it all justice. For the love of gözleme, get yourself to Göztepe.
Gözleme etc. stall, Göztepe Monday market from about 10ish to evening. The easiest way to get to the market is to take the ferry from Eminonu or Karakoy to Kadikoy and catch a taxi 'Göztepe Pazari' (Goes-teh-peh Pah-zar-uh). These ladies can also be found cooking at the weekly market in Erenkoy (Thursdays) and Kozyatagi (Saturdays).
Thanks to Tuba Satana for sharing with us this market and its fabulously talented trio of Amasya cooks.