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Gigantes Plaki sto Fourno

Gigantes Plaki (Greek baked white beans in tomato sauce)

(Greek baked white beans in tomato sauce)

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Healthy, full of fiber and filling, gigantes plaki (γίγαντες πλακί), is a common mezze all over Greece. Gigantes, or giant white beans, are slow-baked in a tomatoey sauce until they are creamy and caramelized.

The beans — also called gigandes, yigandes, elephant beans or butter beans — can be substituted with lima beans. The Turkish version uses red beans.

6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • Gigantes or lima beans -- 1/2 pound
  • Olive oil -- 1/3 cup
  • Onion, finely chopped -- 1
  • Garlic, minced -- 4 to 6 cloves
  • Tomato sauce -- 2 cups
  • Honey or sugar -- 2 teaspoons
  • Parsley, finely chopped -- 1/2 bunch
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste

Method

  1. Soak the beans overnight in a large amount of water. Drain and rinse, add to a large saucepan and add water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the beans are cooked through, around 30 to 40 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. While the beans are cooking, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high flame. Add the onion and saute until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomato sauce, honey or sugar, parsley, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
  4. Drain the cooked beans, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Stir the beans into the simmering sauce, adding a little of the cooking liquid if necessary. Adjust seasoning, then turn the beans into a lightly oiled baking dish.
  5. Place the beans in the oven and bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the beans are well heated through and starting to dry out and brown on the top. Serve hot or at room temperature with crusty country-style bread.

Gigantes Plaki Variations

  • Gigantes me Spanaki (White beans with spinach): Substitute 1 bunch of chopped scallions for the onion. Trim, wash and chop 2 pounds of fresh spinach, or thaw 1 1/2 pounds of frozen spinach and squeeze out any extra water. Stir the spinach into the sauce and beans before baking.
  • Barbunya Pilaki (Turkish red beans in tomato sauce): Use red kidney beans in place of the giant beans. Simmer a grated carrot and a finely diced potato in the tomato sauce. After baking, serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the beans.
  • Try using cannelini beans instead of gigantes if you like.
  • Add 1/2 cup dry white wine to the sauteed onions and cook down to evaporate before stirring in the tomato sauce.
  • Some cooks saute finely chopped celery and carrots with the onions to add more flavor.
  • Substitute chopped dill or sorrel for half or all of the parsley. Other herbs sometimes added include thyme, mint, oregano and bay leaves. A pinch of cinnamon and cloves is also sometimes used to give it a twist.
  • Garnish the cooked beans with crumbled feta cheese if you like.

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