Turkey has several defined geographical regions with the difference reflected in their climates, agriculture, cuisines and personalities of the people living there. Black Sea region is one of them.
The high mountains that lay parallel to Black Sea traps the moisture along the sea line, creating a lush green cover. Several rivers run through these mountains and provide access to inland with valleys. Where the rivers meet with Black Sea is nothing but fertile deltas for agriculture. This region boasts with high commercial production of hazelnut, tea and tobacco. Most of the world’s hazelnut come from Turkey, which might justify this household’s Nutella consumption. When it comes to the people from this region, they are hard working, quick witted, and business minded people. They also have a characteristic nose structure that relieve their origin immediately.
Fish, especially anchovy, corn, kale, different kinds of bread and cheese are some staples that I can think of in the Black Sea cuisine . This is mostly based on my experience of what was cooking my best friend’s’ home whose family is from this regions, while I was growing up. Especially my sleepovers at Selen’s house whom we have been friends since 1st grade, were always delight. Her mom was a great cook, the kind that pushed my “hot” levels. The whole family always added extra Aleppo pepper or black pepper to the dishes. She also used to make some mean tripe soup and rice with kale. If I was staying over the weekend, there was kuymak time to time on the breakfast table.
Kuymak, which is just a simple combination of cornmeal, butter, and cheese, is a great filling breakfast dish. I don’t know why I have not thought about it before to make in lieu of grits! Yeah, now you wait and see, grits! I have something to bring to the table that will claim your place!
I have found several versions of this dish in Tugrul Savkay’s cookbooks and The Turkish Cookbook by Sheila Kaufman and Nur Ilkin. I went with the latter because of the lesser amount of butter it called for. The recipe called for 1 cup mozzarella cheese but when I found stringy Oaxaca cheese in the cheese aisle, which said “melts like a dream” on the package, I could not resist. And I added more than a cup. This recipe yields 4 large servings or 6 small servings.
Next time, instead of cheesy grits, this one will be showing up at the table!
Cheesy Cornmeal (Kuymak)
- 2 cups of water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese or Oaxaca cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika to garnish
1. Boil water, salt, black pepper and butter in a deep skillet.
2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add cornmeal and stir frequently to break up all the clumps until it reaches a thick consistency.
3. Add cheese and stir until all melts.
4. Sprinkle paprika on top and serve hot.