Monday, March 5, 2012

Attack of the delicious Giant beans...

 This dish, my friends, is one of my most favorite Greek dishes. Evar. I simply love the flavor of the baked beans, "Gigantes" as they are called in Greece, (which translated to Giants because of their large size. Why thank you, Captain Obvious). Now I think every household in Greece will probably give you a somewhat altered recipe for this meal but I honestly don't think there is a standard recipe for it. And if there is, well screw recipes anyway...;-)

   Gigantes are basically beans cooked to perfection along with a variety of vegetables of choice (you don't even have to use these specific beans if you think about it...). I've had many Gigandes but my father's are by far my most favorite. The process and ingredients in making this are so straightforward and simple and the outcome is so flavorful...what's not to love!? (well, you might not love that case...don't even bother...). Now, this is a vegetarian meal. I eat meat but I definitely don't need to have it in EVERY meal because of reasons like the ones shown below. It's just not needed. HOWEVER, I must say that an even better version of these Gigantes is to add some good quality smoked sausage (spicy, if you're up for it) in this mix. It's also a perfect side dish to any roast or pork ribs...think of it as a healthier-but-tastier version of traditional baked beans (without the ton of added sugar and corn syrup).Well, that last bit only applies to Americans. They know what I'm talking about (holler.)

     So, like all beans, soak them over night in some water. The next day, place them in a pot and fill the pot with water until they are covered plus a few more fingers worth and place them to medium high head and let them simmer. Make sure to salt them and add a bay leaf or two. Once they are about 3/4 of the way done. take them off the heat. In the meantime, cut up your veggies in medium sized, uniform pieces. You can use a range of different veggies, what we personally like to use are red peppers, parsnips (yes parsnips, their flavor is divine), onions, tomatoes (fresh tomatoes. pulped...none of that canned business), carrots, celery (leaves and stems), and parsley. Oh, and if you can stand some heat, some crushed dried red chilies. A bit of spiciness makes this dish that much tastier.  Place them in a pan, salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil (and when I saw drizzle...I really mean generously pour). It should look something like this:

  Now, take your beans and add them to this lovely vegetable party. After you add all your beans, add some of the liquid you cooked your beans in. Now you could use water in this step but why the hell would you use something tasteless when you can use the actual liquid that the main ingredient of the meal was partially cooked in? Right? Right. If you have some vegetable stock laying around you could most certainly use a little bit of that as well. Add liquid until it is a little over half way filled. Now it should look something like this:

We ladled some liquid out. .

   Now, pop this in a preheated oven of about 175C/350F. It'll probably take about an hour to and hour and a half to finish cooking. No need to rush it, make sure to check from time to time on the status of the liquid (if you see the beans are looking a bit dry, you can add some liquid to moisten them back up).  This dish is ready when the beans and the vegetables are nice and soft and it's sauce is thick.

     I also want to add a little side note: this exact meal can also be made into a soup. A soup that we call "Fasolada" in Greece. Same ingredients can be used except that instead of put them in the oven, you basically add all the vegetables in the pot with the nearly cooked beans and let it all simmer. You'll just have to add a little bit more liquid to maintain a soup consistency but it is a fantastic meal for a rainy day.:D
Now, the only thing left to do is to devour this bitch. :)



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