Eat Well: Gigandes Plaki (insert pun here)

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
Since no discussion about gigandes could be complete without mentioning the traditional Greek dish, gigandes plaki (baked giant beans), I hope you don’t mind my posting one more recipe using these amazing beans. There are many different ways to prepare gigandes plaki so you can have fun coming up with your own version but basically, you soak the beans overnight (you can use giant lima beans in a pinch but they’re not as good as the real deal), cook them the next day for an hour with or without vegetables in the pot, drain them and combine with tomatoes, onions, garlic, spices, herbs and sometimes carrots and celery. Then they are baked in the oven until crispy on top and are served with feta cheese and more herbs. This is definitely comfort food at its finest. You can serve gigandes plaki as a side dish, a meze (appetizer), or as a main dish. It is naturally gluten-free and extremely nutritious. Omit the feta cheese and this is a vegan entrée. Serve on toast for a yummy lunch or snack.

This is one of those recipes that’s better than it sounds (or looks, for that matter). In fact, the ingredients are rather ordinary, but the results are extraordinary. I think what makes it so amazing is that the gigandes beans, which are in my opinion the best dried beans bar none, are cooked in the tomatoes and vegetables for an hour so they soak up the flavors. Whatever the reason, gigandes plaki is amazing and has quickly jumped to the top of my list of staple meals. It actually is easy to make, too. You just need to remember to pre-soak the beans the night before. Or, you can always do the quick-soak method (boil beans for 3 minutes and turn off the stove letting them sit for an hour in the hot water). Serve with a big salad and some crusty bread and you have a complete meal (babies love munching on these beans, too!) I went a little bean crazy the night I made it and served gigandes plaki with a side of favas. Mmmmmm!

Here is my version of this classic Greek dish:

Gigandes Plaki 

1 lb gigandes beans
4 cloves garlic
2 onions, chopped (sweet onions are best)
2 T tomato paste
1 28oz can chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup vegetable broth
1 T chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried Greek oregano)
2 T chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley
3 T olive oil and ¼ cup more for later
2 pinches good quality cinnamon (I like Vietnamese)
2 T chopped fresh dill
about 4 oz of feta cheese (optional)


Soak beans overnight (or do the quick-soak method). Drain beans and simmer for an hour, or until tender but not soft (test at 50 minutes to see if they are ready). Drain beans. Meanwhile, heat oil in pan and sauté onions and garlic until soft but not brown. Add tomato paste and stir well, cooking for another couple of minutes. 
Add tomatoes, broth, herbs, and cinnamon and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add beans and turn into an oven-proof casserole (or if you are using a cast-iron pan, simply put it in the oven as is).
Bake in 350 degree oven for one hour (or until all the liquid is absorbed and they start to get crispy on top.
Don’t stir it while it cooks. Drizzle the rest of the oil over the top (about ¼ cup), sprinkle with feta and chopped dill and put under the broil until crispy on top.
 Serve hot or at room temperature. You can drizzle with a little more olive oil if you want when serving.