Baked Greek Giant Beans (Gigantes Plaki)

My mom pretty much hates beans.  My dad loves them.  It’s a mixed marriage.

20180227_160755(All links open a new page, so you won’t lose your spot when you look around!  Get information on gardening and cultural traditions, recipes, stories, and more!)

My mother’s dislike of beans goes back to childhood.  As does my father’s love of them.  His mom could make a killer pot of Boston Baked Beans (something I have yet to do myself) and he’s been hooked on beans ever since.  To keep the peace, my mom will make this dish once or twice a year.  It kind of works.

20180227_161002I take after my dad on this issue, and thankfully the Old Man likes them, too.  However the name has become a bit of an, ahem, “issue”.  These beans are not named after my favorite baseball team (go Giants!), though I really think they should be.  The Old Man would disagree on that, seeing as how he’s a Dodger’s fan.  We, too, have a mixed marriage.

20180227_161047The name describes the beans, themselves.  Look at these things, they are huge!  The word gigantes (YEE-gahn-tes) means giant in Greek.  These beans are similar in appearance to Giant Lima beans, but there is a slight difference in flavor and the texture is more smooth.  Not to mention they are much bigger.

20180227_162412By now you have to have been living under a rock to not know about all the health benefits associated with eating beans.  All the farting aside, beans are a great source of fiber, protein, and other key nutrients.  However, the way you prepare them can undo all that beany goodness.  Make them the Greek way and you’ll just about live for forever.  Oh, but you actually need to eat them, not just make them.  Don’t worry, you’ll want to eat them.20180918_202601

 

Baked Gigantes Recipe

Since Gigantes beans are not always common in grocery stores, you can use dried large lima beans instead.  Don’t use the baby lima beans, dried or frozen, as they aren’t the right size or texture for this recipe.

  • 1 lb. dried Gigantes beans or dried large lima beans
  • 2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes with liquid, or 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes with juices, or do 1/2 diced tomatoes and 1/2 tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine (cheap jug-o-wine burgundy works great)
  • 3 Tbsp. dried parsley, or 1/2 cup packed chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3-1/2 lb. onion, sliced
  • 1/3-1/2 lb. carrots, finely sliced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (some recipes call for up to a cup, it’s up to you!)

**There is a lot of debate on the proper methods for preparing dried beans.  Some say to add salt to the soaking water, some say not to.  Using salt has been shown to reduce splitting in the beans, which means it does toughen up the skins some, but not as much as previously thought.  Using salt in the soaking water will increase the cooking time, too.  I don’t use it, and instead use salt in the final cooking for flavor.  One thing is certain, adding ingredients that are acidic will toughen the skins and you will get no more softening of the inside of the beans, no matter how long you cook it.  Many recipes for these beans claim that your beans will soften more in the oven after adding the tomatoes.  They will not, so make sure you cook your beans to the desired tenderness because that is where they will stay.**

Soak beans in cold water for at least 12 hours (the proverbial “overnight”).  They should be covered with at least a couple of inches of water and be covered with a lid.  Drain the liquid and rinse the beans with fresh water (the drained liquid makes great water for your plants as the starches that leached out will be a food boost for beneficial microorganisms in your soil, so don’t just dump it down the drain!).

Place the beans back in the pot and cover with fresh water again.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a high simmer, about medium-low heat.  Cook uncovered until beans are at your desired tenderness.  This could take 45 minutes or more, depending on your beans.  Check occasionally and be sure to add water as needed.  You want to have tender beans, not mush, so don’t forget about them!

While the beans are cooking, prepare all the remaining ingredients and mix together in a large nonreactive mixing bowl (glass, plastic, or stainless steel).  The amounts of the last three ingredients are flexible.  I really like having a lot of olive oil, but there is a point where it can be a bit much.

Once the beans are cooked, preheat the oven to 350 F, and carefully drain the liquid (again, great compost or plant water, just wait until its cooled!).  Add a little olive oil to the beans and gently mix to coat them.  Put the beans in an oven proof casserole dish and pour the tomato mixture over them.  You want the beans to be mostly submerged.

Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until the tomato mix is bubbling in the middle of the dish and the liquid has cooked down a little.  Allow the beans to cool a little before serving.  This can be left as is and be a vegan dish, or you can top with a little crumbled feta cheese.  This is a great winter dish and tastes amazing with a chunk of hearty bread!

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