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Food

Flavorful, Traditional Gigantes to Prepare and Enjoy

The healthy Greek diet is mostly plant-based and there are countless vegetable recipes to prepare and enjoy. Some of the most popular traditional meals in Greek cuisine feature beans as the main source of protein. Make sure to plan ahead when using dry beans since most varieties of beans, such as the gigantes or giant beans in the recipe which follows, require soaking for 6-8 hours or overnight before cooking.

 

Gigantes

 

1 pound package gigantes (giant beans)

2-4 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil, plus 1-2 tablespoons for drizzling

1 large onion, chopped

1 can (28 oz.) San Marzano tomatoes, chopped

1-2 fresh tomatoes, chopped

2-3 celery stalks, chopped

2 carrots, chopped (optional)

3-4 large garlic cloves, sliced

4-5 tablespoons fresh chopped dill or parsley

1/2 teaspoon Greek sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Water

Gigantes. (Photo by P.O.sitive Negative via unplash)
Gigantes. (Photo by P.O.sitive Negative, via unplash)

 

Rinse and sort the beans. Place them in a large deep pot and fill with enough water to cover them by at least two inches. Soak overnight, 6-8 hours. Drain the water, add fresh cold water and bring the beans to a boil. Once they boil, add a half teaspoon of salt and lower the heat to simmer the beans for about an hour.

Add the olive oil to a large sauce pan and sauté the chopped onion. If smaller pieces of onion are preferred, the onion can be grated, or pulsed in the food processor to save time, though a rustic chop with various size pieces of onion adds interest to the dish. Once the onion is translucent, add the chopped celery and carrots, if using, and continue sautéing about 5 minutes until the vegetables sweat down a bit. Add the chopped tomatoes, 2 cups water, salt and pepper to taste, and simmer over medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes until reduced slightly. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning, as needed. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Check the doneness of the beans, they should be at least half cooked when transferred to a 13 by 9-inch baking pan. Add the sauce to the beans and mix until the sauce and vegetables are evenly distributed. Stir in the sliced garlic and the chopped fresh dill, as much or as little as preferred, and drizzle the gigantes with additional olive oil. A sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley may also be added or used as a substitute for the dill, if desired. If preferred, reserve some of the fresh herbs to sprinkle on top after the gigantes are cooked through.

Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven at 375 until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the strength of your oven and how gigantic the beans are, as they may require additional cooking time. Remove the foil from the baking pan and stir the gigantes about 30 minutes into baking. If the pan is drying out too quickly and the gigantes are not quite done, add some water to the pan and continue baking. Remove the foil for the last 10-15 minutes or so in the oven. Serve the gigantes with fresh bread for dipping in the sauce. Gigantes are sometimes served as an appetizer or a side dish, but are also hearty enough to enjoy on their own as a tasty vegan meal, especially during times of fasting when oil is allowed.

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CRETE – The Cretan Olive Oil Competition (COOC) celebrated its 10th anniversary and the accomplishments of Cretan olive oil producers with an awards ceremony and informative seminars in Heraklion, Crete, Greece, on March 31.

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