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).

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