In recipes,the term “politika” describes Greek recipes originating in Constantinople (“polis” means city in Greek; “Constantinople” means Constantine’s city). Spicy Beans and Tomatoes Politiki with Soutzouki is one such dish; the red pepper paste clearly marks its Turkish origins. Soutzouki (aka sujuk) is a smoked beef sausage eaten throughout the Balkans and Middle East. Soutzouki is ready to eat as is (be sure to peel off sausage casing) or with cheese, and is also delicious in soups and stews. Using Soutzouki as a garnish, instead of cooking it with the beans, means the main recipe is suitable for vegans and fasters. In Anchorage, the Eastern European Store and Deli carries Soutzouki/Sujuk. Any dried bean may be used in this recipe, though I prefer using varieties, like mayacoba and cannellini beans, with firm skins and creamy interiors.
- 1 1/2 cups dried mayacoba (canary), cannellini, or Great Northern beans
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cups diced onion, 1/2” dice
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup Turkish pepper paste (see Note 1 below)
- 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 3-6 cups reserved bean cooking water
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4-6 jalapeño peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups (8 ounces) soutzouki/sujuk, casing removed, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
Make Beans: Soak beans overnight in 2 quarts (8 cups) water mixed with 1 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt, or use quick-soak method (see Note 2 below on quick-soaking).
Drain and rinse beans. Return to pot along with 8 cups water. Bring water to a boil, cover, and simmer beans for 30 minutes. Reserve 6 cups of cooking water, then drain beans.
Make Sauce: In separate pot, sauté onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, until they start to turn golden (about 10 minutes over medium heat). Thoroughly stir in Turkish pepper paste, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and 3 cups reserved bean cooking water. Bring liquid to a boil, cover pot, turn down heat, and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until sauce is thick and rich.
Make Garnish: Sauté jalapeños, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil for 1 minutes. Stir in soutzouki and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the meat is heated through. [May be made ahead and reheated just before assembling final dish.] Reserve until ready to serve.
Final Assembly: Stir in cooked beans and as much of the remaining bean cooking liquid needed to suit your preferences. For example, my husband likes a lot of thinner sauce while I prefer thicker sauce that clings to the beans. When he’s around, I add all 3 remaining cups of bean cooking water; when I’m cooking for myself, I use about 1/2 cup. Bring liquid to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer for 15 minutes to meld flavors.
Spoon into bowls, top with garnish (if using), and serve immediately.
NOTE 1: If you can’t get Turkish red pepper paste, make it at home. Here’s an interesting recipe made using roasted red bell peppers and dried red chiles: http://ozlemsturkishtable.com/2010/04/turkish-hot-pepper-paste-biber-salcasi/ Whether you buy pepper paste or make your own, store the paste in the refrigerator topped with olive oil to keep it fresh and prevent it from spoiling.
NOTE 2: How to Quick-Soak Beans: Put dried beans in large pot. Add 8 cups water and 2 Tbsp. salt; boil beans and water for 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let stand for at least one hour. Drain. Beans are ready to use in recipe.