Gigantes Greek Beans
Gigantes Greek Beans

I’m trying to get through my pandemic beans. You know, that initial panic purchase of 18 bags of dried beans I made back in April 2020 because the world was going to run out of food in my mind. I know I’m not the only one because they were basically all sold out. I’ve always loved dried beans, but never used them for anything more than Cholent (or as my family calls it Hamin). To make it, the beans soak for 12+ hours and then cooked overnight which makes the creamiest, nuttiest, most amazing textured bean. I love beans for their simplicity and their versatility.

In the past few years I’ve really been enjoying cooking a pot of beans and then using them, and their magic liquid, for recipes throughout the week. I’ll use them for breakfast with eggs, mixed into rice, marinated in an acidic dressing of lemon juice and mustard, eaten with their bean liquid straight out of the pot with a crusty piece of bread, and this way: as stewed Gigantes.

Gigantes are large white beans and can be substituted with large white lima beans if you can’t find them. They literally translate to “giants”. This version of Gigantes Plaki is one that I’ve made many times. Generally they are baked but I really like quickly stewing them in an onion, tomato and dill sauce. I love this dish as an appetizer or side but can easily be eaten with crusty bread or pita for lunch or a meat-less dinner.

Gigantes Greek Beans

THE THINGS (INGREDIENTS)

Beans: I used dried Large White Lima Beans. You can use any large white bean. If you don’t want to spend the time using dried beans, canned beans are fine too. The nice thing about using dried beans is that you get to infuse them with flavor when you cook them. You then use that tasty bean liquid when you sauté the beans too. But seriously, this will be just as delicious with canned beans.

Onion: The onion is used in both the cooking stock for the beans and also chopped finely for when they are sautéed. I used a yellow onion but white onions are good to.

Tomato paste: It is so important to let your tomato paste cook out and caramelize. It changes the whole flavor profile and loses that tinny metallic taste.

Bean Cooking Liquid: The magic happens when you cook your own beans. I add an onion, garlic, dill and lots of olive oil to flavor the beans and their glorious nectar (bean cooking liquid). Treat their liquid as a stock and use in all things from soups to cooking pasta!

Olive oil: Yes, I know this recipe calls for a lot of olive oil. But it is necessary to have a nice thick (at least 1″) fat cap over the liquid the beans cook in. Something magical happens. I’m not a scientist so I can’t tell you what it is exactly but what I do know is that FAT = FLAVOR. The beans will plump nicely and become more flavorful because of that fat cap. You can use a mixture of fats. I normally go with a mixture of schmaltz and olive oil. You can easily use lard or duckfat too!

Gigantes Greek Beans
Gigantes Greek Beans

THE WAY

First you cook your soaked beans in a large pot with water, onion, garlic, dill, salt, and a healthy olive oil fat cap. This can take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. CHECK THOSE BEANS OFTEN! At first it may not seem like they’re cooking but then very quickly that magic moment happens when the beans turn from being tough and al-dente to soft and creamy. You want them to still hold their shape!

You then sauté onions until translucent and add tomato paste. You want to cook that paste until its caramelized and darkened because that is what will give that sauce a deeper flavor.

I add the beans to the pan and some of the liquid they’ve been cooking in, dill, oregano and a bit more salt and then let it simmer until the sauce has thickened and the beans are super creamy.

I find that serving this with crumbled feta cheese is an absolute must! The salty, briny hit you get from the feta cheese livens the dish. Crusty bread or pita doesn’t hurt here either.

Gigantes Greek Beans

Gigantes Greek Beans

Big, creamy and tender beans stewed in a rich tomato and dill sauce is the perfect healthy meal! Topped with salty feta cheese, it's great for a side or even a main dish!
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Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: beans, vegan, vegetarian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Soaking Time (optional): 12 hours
Total Time: 13 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Danielle Oron

Ingredients

FOR COOKING THE BEANS

  • 2 cups dried large white beans, Lima, or Gigante , soaked in water for 12-18 hours
  • 1 yellow onion , peeled and cut in half through core
  • 4 cloves whole peeled garlic , smashed
  • 2 sprigs fresh dill
  • kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil , may need more

FOR QUICK STEWING THE BEANS & FINISHING

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion , chopped
  • 3 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • kosher salt
  • feta cheese , as much or as little as you like
  • fresh dill , to garnish

Instructions

FOR COOKING THE BEANS

  • Drain the beans and place them in a large pot. Fill with enough water to cover the beans by about 3".
  • Bring the pot of beans to a gently boil and skim off any foam that rises to the top.
  • Turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer and add the onion halves, garlic cloves, dill sprigs, and lots of salt (I added 5 very generous pinches of Diamond Crystal Salt).
  • Add the olive oil to the pot. It should cover the bean liquid with 1" or so of olive oil. Add more if it doesn't.
  • Simmer gently for 30 minutes to 1 hour until the beans are cooked through and creamy but still hold their shape. Start checking the beans at about 25 minutes.
  • Turn the heat off. Fish out the onions, garlic, and dill sprigs and discard.

FOR QUICK STEWING THE BEANS & FINISHING

  • In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the onions and cook until translucent, 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and cook, mixing occasionally, until caramelized and darkened in color, about 3 minutes.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans from their liquid into the pan.
  • Add 2 cups of the bean cooking liquid to the pan and swirl to mix. (If using canned beans, just add 2 cups of water, vegetable or chicken stock).
  • Add the chopped dill, oregano, and salt to taste. Mix very gently.
  • Turn heat down to low and simmer or 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened and beans are creamy.
  • Plate the beans. Crumble lots and lots of good feta cheese on top and garnish with dill. Serve as is or with crusty bread.

Notes

Every bag of beans is different so make sure to test the doneness of the bean as it cooks. 
If you have fresh oregano, throw it in to cook with the beans too and then substitute fresh oregano for dried with stewing the beans.
That thick layer of oil on top of the cooking liquid is essential, do not skimp on it!
You can use canned beans! Just substitute the bean cooking liquid with either water or stock.