Friday, October 30, 2009

Zeytinyagli Barbunya (Beans in Olive Oil)

Turkish food is difficult to describe because the Turkish people are so old and because Turkey is at the crossroads of both the Mediterranean and Asia. The ancient Turks were nomads and traveled all over, meeting Chinese, Mongols, Persians, Hittites and others. It is believed that when the Turks met the Chinese and the Mongolians, they learned how to make noodles and taught the Chinese and Mongolians about stuffing foods (which resulted in the hybrid Turkish "Manti" or Chinese "dumplings"). As a result, over thousands of years Turkish food has become multifaceted and adheres to no particular cultural norm.

That being said, there has been the development of various types of zeytinyagli foods - foods that are cooked with a large amount of olive oil and then served cold as mezze, or appetizers. This is one variety that uses pinto beans, but there are many others including recipes with green beans, leeks and artichokes.

Zeytinyagli Barbunya
This recipe is put together from a couple different recipes because in Turkey, if you ask for a recipe you get: put in some onions, and a lot of garlic, and about the same amount of carrot as celery, etc. Some recipes have celery and potatoes, other don't while calling for grated rather than chopped tomatoes. The recipes are not very precise but a huge part of Turkish culture is that every chef brings their own touch to the meal. This is really such a flexible dish, that I recommend you play around with it until you find a combination of elements that suits you.


1 onion (finely chopped or grated)
garlic (chopped)
1 tsp sugar
1 cup dried pinto beans (or two small cans of canned beans)
1 potato (peeled and chopped into cubes)
1 carrot (peeled and chopped)
1 celery stick (chopped)
1 cup olive oil
1 can chopped tomatoes (or 1-2 tomatoes peeled and chopped or grated)
1 tsp tomato paste
2 cups water  

1. Soak dried beans from 4 hours to overnight. Drain, add fresh water to cover and simmer 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In your pot, saute the onions in the olive oil until they are limp and translucent
3. Add rest of the ingredients. Cover, bring to a boil, then simmer until the beans are soft (usually two hours for pinto beans) and the water is mostly absorbed
4. Allow it to cool in the pan, and then store in the fridge. 
5. Garnish with chopped parsley and olive oil. Serve cold with bread.

--If you are using canned beans, ignore step 1. In step 3, cook the vegetables first for a few minutes, then add the beans. Step 3 will be reduced drastically (probably less than 20 minutes) since canned beans are already soft and edible. 
--Try to make the chopped vegetables all the same size 
--The recipe listed before is halved and it still created about half a huge pot full of food, which I will be packing in my lunch for the next two weeks! If you are having a party, I would recommend doubling the recipe to feed 4-8 people (as an appetizer).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review: Soussi Restaurant and Hookah Bar

Last weekend I dropped by Soussi Restaurant in Adams Morgan with a few friends. We arrived around 10pm and the place was packed - luckily some friends had already snagged a place on the patio and were busy smoking a hookah by the time we got there.

The bar inside and upstairs is dark, and set up to look like it's always full. There are low-lying sofas and cushions in dark shades with dim lighting and heavy curtains everywhere; chic individuals are draped on the furniture, lazily smoking their pipes. Outside the crowd is more active, but maybe that's because of all the lighting streaming in from the street. Tables and chairs are set up to accommodate large groups, and it does seem that everyone in the place is with ten other people.

I don't smoke, but the smokers seemed happy with their hookah experience. I ordered a blonde on tap, not unreasonably priced and quite tasty. The sheer noise of that many people makes it difficult to converse, but the set-up of tables allows for more intimate conversations, even with multiple people. The service was quick and came by to check in often. We didn't order food, but I saw some steaming plates of seafood bisque and tagine being delivered to a table. Considering that those dishes are appetizers, they did not skimp on size and it smelled and looked delicious.

All in all, I definitely recommend this for a group gathering or a pre-party meeting place (especially during happy hour!) but it may be too busy for a date and definitely not a good place for kids.

Soussi Restaurant
2228 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009-1813
(202) 299-9314

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review: HR-57

We went to a Jazz Club on Friday around 14th Street that completely fit my images of Jazz and Blues Clubs where Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie and Lena Horne would perform. All the audience lights are dimmed with candles on every table and people are sitting in tight circles or in couples listening to the music and talking. You have to be a fan of the music to go though, because it pervades everything. Apparently this club is also the Center for the Preservation of Jazz and Blues.

The musicians were talented but they should have stuck to their own compositions. They played some jazz from other composers but their skills were best expressed through the music they wrote themselves. The saxophonist was also obviously only a temporary member, and there was a lack of communication between him and the others. The performers change every night though, so this review isn't all that relevant.

The cover on a Friday night at 10pm was $12. The alcohol is over-priced, but they charge a $3/person corking fee if you bring your own bottle of wine. This is by far the best option and one that was being utilized by nearly everyone there.

If you love jazz and blues, I highly recommend HR-57. If you don't, you'll be bored and feel as if you're wasting time and money. It's not good for groups either because the volume of the music makes it very difficult to have a conversation with more than one other person. I recommend this as an excellent second or third date because you can snuggle with your date against a wall in the dark, enjoying an informal concert and sipping on wine.

1610 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009-4307
(202) 667-3700


I'm not sure I was explicit before, but I'm in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University getting my master's. This is view of the campus from the Key Bridge, one of the many links between Virginia and Washington, D.C.


I went to a Newseum-sponsored event with Charlie Gibson (journalist/news anchor) interviewing David Axelrod (Obama administration). The interview was interesting, but I did not come away with the feeling that I had received anything more than what I would have gotten from a television interview. In other words, I wasn't really sure the interview was the worth the set-up of Wolfgang Puck catering, all-you-can-drink booze and a performance by some American Idol contestant.

A few interesting comments:

Axelrod said that Obama had already been thinking about the race speech he gave after the Reverend Wright issue blew up before they faced any sort of racial conflicts. Obama had wanted to give the speech before and had already prepared ideas, knowing that race was going to be an issue in the race eventually. I thought that was interesting because the speech was so important to their race and it was so relevant to the Wright issue. The fact that Obama had the foresight to prepare the speech before any indication that there would be a race-based controversy highlights his willingness to address touchy issues without being pressure to.

Axelrod noted that the passing of Kennedy also signalled the end of an era where opposing parties debated but still held affection for each other personally. He sees personal relations today as much more contentious and influenced by the politics surrounding them. This was something I had noticed before in movies about older Washington DC politics and had wondered if there was anyone around who was still like that. I have hope for my generation, because I feel like each generation develops certain traits that are counter to the previous generation. I think the willingness to reach across party lines will be one of these traits, along with an increase in social, environmental and humanitarian activism.
And the highlight of the night:

I went up a shook hands with Charlie Gibson and said, "Thanks. That was great." I hope my handshake was impressively firm...I'm such a dork, I'm more into some news anchor than a pop culture singer.