Monday, September 16, 2013

Meatless Monday: Baked Beans, Greek Style

Gigantes plaki is the Greek name for this elegant dish. Yes, elegant baked beans! Take a look.

This beautiful, delicate dish has little in common with traditional Boston Baked Beans, other than beans as a base and the requirement to plan ahead when making. You won’t find any molasses or salt pork in these beans.

This is not a last-minute dish. You have to soak the beans overnight and then bake them in the oven the next day. 

My friend Karen brought this dish as a side to a Labor Day cookout. The gigantic beans were fragrant and delicious! She promised me the recipe, told me that I would enjoy making the dish, and said that if I served the gigantes with feta and kalamata olives, I would have a complete meal.

Karen sent me to a Greek deli to buy the gigantes. There I found a 1-lb. bag of large limas in the Goya section (rather than the bin brimming with beans I had imagined), along with the feta and olives I needed to make my Meatless Monday meal. The storeowner assured me the limas were perfect, and that I would love them.

She and Karen were both correct.

I never dreamed that beans could become such a feast!

Gigantes plaki (Baked Beans Greek Style)
8 generous servings (as a meal with a salad)
12-16 servings as a side

1 pound gigantes (or large lima beans)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (more if you area a garlic lover)
1 can (14 oz) tomato purée  [I used my favorite Muir Glen Chopped Fire Roasted tomatoes instead]
1/2 cup water
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dry oregano
Salt and pepper to taste [Be careful with the salt, particularly if you plan to serve with feta and olives]
2 fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced
Feta cheese and chopped kalamata olives (optional)

  • Soak beans overnight in at least 6 cups of water.
  • Drain and discard water.
  • Add 5 cups of fresh, cold water, bring to boil, and cook beans for 5 minutes.
  • Drain and replace with 5 cups of hot water. 
  • Cover and bring to boil. 
  • Then lower heat and simmer for 60-90 minutes, until beans are soft.

In a large skillet, heat one quarter of the oil and sauté onions and garlic, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add tomatoes, water, bay leaves, sugar, parsley, and oregano. Mix well, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

  • When beans are cooked, drain. 
  • Combine with sauce, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper, stirring gently. 
  • Carefully pour into a 13 x 9 x 2 pyrex dish. 
  • Arrange sliced tomatoes on top.
  • Cover with foil.
  • Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.
  • Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until there is little liquid left. The beans will be bubbling.
  • Serve hot or cold.
  • Top with feta cheese and chopped kalamata olives and serve with a salad for a complete meal.

You must plan ahead.
You must have some time on your hands.
There will be lots of dishes.
The expense is small.
The rewards are great.

Have a great week. Eat well. 

I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

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