The culinary culture of Izmir is like a colorful painting bearing the brushstrokes of many artists.
You will find in it Aegean and Greek elements as well as Sephardic and Orthodox contributions…
As much as the history of the city’s streets involves immigrants, Izmir’s cuisine too encompass the kitchens of these people. The only thing left to us, the Izmirians, is to enjoy this cultural festival risen of such an ethnical blending.
Jewish white bean stew, just like boyoz, is a gift given to us by our Sephardic brothers who were expelled from Spain and Portuguese in the late 15th century and took refuge in the Ottoman Empire. What is interesting about this dish is that it blends two different meals in one pot: white bean stew and stuffed grape leaves.
1.5 kg white beans
350 gr minced meat
6-7 dried hot peppers
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Throw the white beans in a bowl filled with water a night before. Boil them in a generous amount of water the next day, a process known in the Aegean region as eliminating the gas from the beans. Rinse and put them away. Sautee the onions with some olive oil. Add one tablespoon of tomato paste and cubed tomatoes and cook the mixture until the tomatoes lose their water.
Stuff lavishly the fresh (pickled if you can’t find fresh ones) grape leaves with a mixture prepared with minced meat, salt, black pepper and rice.
Grab a clay stew pot and spread its bottom with 1-2 tablespoons of onion-paste mixture. Throw 1/3 of the white beans into the pot to form a layer. Arrange the stuffed grape leaves on top of the white beans. Put the dried peppers on top of the grape leaves. Add the rest of the white beans. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Pour boiling water until above the white beans. Cover the pot with a heavy lid or put a heavy item on top of the lid so as not to allow the meal to spill over while cooking.
Although it is possible to cook the meal in 5 hours with a modern oven preheated in 200 degrees, I think the dish is best enjoyed after being cooked for 6-7 hours in a stone oven using wood. Of course, for both methods, the most important point is to lend an ear to the cooking meal while cooking and add some water in case it runs of water. In the end, enjoy the two meals featured in one dish at the same time…
Bon appétit and enjoy the taste of life!