This post features two staples in Turkish cuisine: kuru fasulye & pilav (white bean stew and rice pilaf). In my opinion, there is nothing better than taking a big scoop of the beans and their broth and laying it on top of rice to soak up the flavors.
Whenever I look over the list of ingredients needed for kuru fasulye, I always pause and think I must be missing something. Dried beans, an onion, butter, some tomatoes, salt, red pepper; this dish may be one of the greatest examples of food synergy- the final result is greater than the sum of its parts.
For me, kuru fasulye is in constant competition with mercimek corbasi (Turkish lentil soup) to be my favorite Turkish food (of course, that is only if we are not counting the desserts into the competition). The reason it has taken me so long to post a recipe for kuru fasulye it is because, although I have made it countless times, I have also tasted it countless times in restaurants all over Turkey. Every time I make it, I remember back to all the ones I have tasted (particularly at Erzincanlı Ali Baba near Suleymaniye mosque in Istanbul) and tell myself it is not quite there yet. It has taken me a long time to come up with a recipe that I am happy enough with to post here, though I am sure I will continue to make slight modifications as I continue to experiment with this dish.
The reason it has taken me a long time to post a recipe for Turkish pilav is different. It has taken me a long time to "surrender" to the amount of butter required to make it taste just like it does in Turkey. As a nutrition student, I tried many times to remove much of the butter from the recipe with hopes of making it healthier. Whenever I did that, I always ended up with sticky, bland rice that resembled something more from a Chinese take-out restaurant than from a Turkish restaurant. So as someone who loves Turkish food, I opted to share a recipe that aims more to be authentic than it does to be the healthiest thing you've ever eaten.
Feel free to make your own modifications to both recipes too, and then comment to let me know what you think it takes to make the best kuru fasulye and pilav! No matter how you make them, once you pair them with a bowl of creamy yogurt and some pickles, you’ll feel transported to Turkey.
Do you have a favorite Turkish food that you've been trying to perfect in your home? Comment and let me know!
Serves ~ 6-8 people
1 pound dry cannellini beans (450 grams)
1-2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons butter (42 grams)
1 medium white onion, grated
2-3 cloves garlic, minced almost to a paste
1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes (make sure there is nothing except tomatoes in the can!)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes + more for serving
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste) (~5 grams)
Optional: 1 cup no salt added chicken or vegetable stock; only add this if your beans need more liquid (240 ml)
*Note: If you have access to a whole dried red chili pepper, definitely try adding it into your stew (same time as red pepper flakes) to replicate Erzincanlı Ali Baba!
- Rinse the dry beans then soak them in a large pot of water for 4-5 hours, or use a quick-soak method.
- Transfer beans (and soaking water) to a large soup pot. Add bay leaves. Ensure that there is at least 1 inch of water over the top of the beans. Bring the beans to a simmer, then cover and continue to cook over low heat until soft, about 1 hour. You should check on your beans often because they can quickly go from being somewhat hard to mushy if left unattended for too long.
- In a separate pot, saute the grated white onion and minced garlic in butter for ~8 minutes, stirring often. Add can of crushed tomatoes and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and continue to cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Take off heat and set aside until beans are done softening in the other pot. Now would be a good time to start making some pilav!
- Once the beans are fully softened, remove the bay leaves then add the tomato/garlic/onion mixture into the pot of beans and water (do not strain the water out!). Bring to a low simmer again and add 1 teaspoon of salt and some vegetable stock (~1 cup, or as needed to achieve slightly soupy consistency). Serve hot with rice, yogurt, and pickles!
Rice with Toasted Orzo or Vermicelli
Serves ~ 6-8
2 cups enriched long grain rice (400 grams)
3 cups no-salt added chicken stock, hot (720 ml)
6 tablespoons butter (85 grams)
½ teaspoon + 1 ½ teaspoons salt (~10 grams)
¾ cups orzo pasta (132 grams)
- Soak the rice in a bowl with ~2 cups of very warm water and ½ tsp of salt for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, melt 6 tablespoons butter in a large pot and add the orzo. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the orzo becomes a uniform caramel-brown color.
- Drain and rinse the rice until the water runs clear, then add it to the pot with the orzo and butter. Saute the rice and orzo together for about 2 minutes.
- Add 3 cups of hot chicken stock and 1 ½ tsp salt.
- Cover and allow to cook over medium-low heat until dimples form on the top of the rice.
- Turn down the flame to the lowest setting, and place a paper towel between the pot and the lid. Cook for another 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Let rice rest with the lid on for at least 10 minutes before serving.