Giant, Greek Baked Beans
On my second day here in Greece my host cooked me this dish. The day before he had pulled out a bag of huge, dry white beans and asked if I’d ever tried gigantes before. That’s the name of the bean, meaning giants. The beans have to be soaked for a day and even after this they take quite a while to cook due to their size. I think this type of bean is only produced in Greece, if that is the case, you can use giant or regular lima beans.
This is another Greek recipe using feta cheese; Greeks can’t seem to live without it, when they go abroad they complain that it is hard to find and expensive. That’s because feta is a protected designation of origin product, like Champagne and Roquefort cheese. Feta must be made in certain areas of Greece with sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk. It is brined in its own salted whey for weeks or months, which will determine whether the feta is soft, medium or hard, the hardest being the saltiest and spiciest. One last interesting fact about feta: feta means slice in Greek, Spanish and Italian!
Back to the beans! After a day of soaking the beans are boiled for at least an hour while a red sauce is prepared. Then both the sauce and the beans are combined and baked for 30 to 45 minutes. The feta is incorporated when the beans are almost done baking. Makes for an excellent vegetarian, fall or winter dish!
Giant, Greek Baked Beans
Gigantes Plaki, γίγαντες πλακί
- 500 gr. Gigantes beans or giant lima beans
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 500 gr tomato sauce or less if you decide to use more fresh tomatoes
- Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Hard feta, crumbled
- Olive oil
- Salt, pepper and sugar
- Dried oregano
- Soak the beans in water for 1 day or at least 12 hours
- Replace the water and cook until the beans are soft, about an hour or 90 minutes, adding more water to always keep the beans submerged.
- While the beans are cooking, sauté the onion in a large saucepan with olive oil and some salt. Once the onion is translucent add the garlic and fresh tomato, cook for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce, parsley, salt, pepper, oregano and a spoonful of sugar. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the sauce reduces a bit.
- Once the beans are cooked, scoop them into a large baking dish, pour the tomato sauce on top of them and then spoon on some of the bean boiling water, to keep the dish juicy in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes and add the crumbled feta on top, if the beans are dry add some more cooking water too and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Serve with fresh, crusty bread and a side of sautéed kale or bitter greens.