Gigantes Plaki: Greek Baked Beans

Gigantes Plaki:  Greek Baked Beans

“Yeah, man.  These are my Mom’s baked beans.  They’re awesome because you can eat a whole bowl full without turning into a stink-ass and polluting your neighbors.  Which is maybe not such a great thing after all….I f’ing hate my neighbors….”

That touching excerpt was from a man (I’d say ‘gentleman’, but who are we kidding?) that I used to work with.  He was….a character.  His Mom made him lunch every day and would call him at work to remind him to bring the tupperware back home.  So she could wash it for him.  He didn’t seem to mind.  He was in his early thirties.  Not to criticize, of course.  I’m far too busy judging to criticize.  However, to each their own.

He was right about one thing, though.  His mom made the best gigantes.  I mean, THE BEST. Despite my tacit loathing for the man-child, after one taste of mama’s Greek baked beans I decided that we needed to be friends.  Good friends.  The kind of friends that bring each other leftovers that their mom made.

These are not the molasses laden Texas baked beans that you might be thinking of, but they’re just as comforting.  I love peasant food in all it’s many forms, and this is no exception.  Gigantes Plaki is ridiculously cheap to make, as most meals centered around dried beans tend to be, but so full of flavor and balance that you’d never know this was food for the po’ folks who can’t afford meat (or are suffering through Lent one dish at a time).  The creamy beans play off of the sweet carrots and acidic tomatoes and vinegar, all wrapped up with the grassy green swathe of dill.  I’m telling you, peasants may be poor but they certainly aren’t stupid.  I love dishes that make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (or a delicious crostini out of a shriveled bag of discount dry beans), and if I can do it all for less than $5, well, that’s just fine by me.

Gigantes Plaki:  Greek Baked Beans

  • 1 lb (450g) dried gigantes or lima beans *
  • 2 lb (1 kg) tomato, or about 3-4 juicy ones
  • 1 large or 2 medium carrots
  • 4 fat celery stalks
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2.5 tbsp red wine vinegar **
  • small bunch dill (about 1/3 cup chopped)
  • medium bunch parsley (about 1/2 cup chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste

* Gigantes, also known as elephant beans, or giant beans, are a large flat fleshy legume native to Greece.  You can usually buy gigantes at a Greek food store, but in a pinch feel free to use large dried lima beans.

** If you have a highly acidic vinegar you might want to cut back to 1.5 – 2 tbsp.

Gigantes Plaki:  Greek Baked Beans

Put the beans in a large bowl and pour cold water over them to cover by at least 3-4 inches.  Let them soak overnight for at least 12 hours.

Drain the soaked beans and discard the water.  Put the beans in a large pot, cover them with at least 2 inches of water and add the bay leaves.  Bring the beans to a simmer and let them cook away on the stove pot for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the beans are tender but not falling apart.

Gigantes Plaki:  Greek Baked Beans

In the mean time, finely chop up the carrot, celery and onion into a small dice (between 1/8″ – 1/4″).  There should be about 1.5 cups of carrot and celery and a cup of onions.  Mince the garlic cloves while you’re at it.

Gigantes Plaki:  Greek Baked Beans

In a very large heavy bottomed sauce pan or skillet heat up the quarter cup of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and sweat them out until the onion is semi-translucent, and then follow with the carrots and celery.  Continue cooking until the carrots are tender and soft.

While that cooks, chop the tomatoes up into a relatively small (1/4″ – 1/3″) dice.  When the carrots are soft add the tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine vinegar and hot red pepper flakes.

Gigantes Plaki:  Greek Baked Beans

Put a lid on the pan and let it simmer, lifting the lid to stir it every once in a while, for about 30 minutes or until the tomatoes have broken down into a chunky red gravy.

Oh, and this is a good time to pre-heat your oven to 350ºF.  I mustn’t forget that!

Discard the parsley and dill stems and finely chop the herbs.

Gigantes Plaki:  Greek Baked Beans

Add the parsley and dill to the stewing tomatoes et al, and season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

Gigantes Plaki:  Greek Baked Beans

Discard the bay leaves after the beans are cooked, and drain the beans but reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.  Pour the tomato stew over the beans and add the 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.  The mixture should be somewhat thin and saucy, but not really….um….soupy.

Use the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to lightly grease the inside of a 9×13″ casserole dish.  Pour the beans into the baking dish and smooth them out with the back of your spoon.  Cover the pan with tin foil and tuck it into the center of your oven for 30 minutes.

Turn the heat up to 425ºF, uncover the dish and let the beans continue to cook for another 10 – 15 minutes, or until the center of the top is starting to look a little bit dry and the liquid has thickened up a bit.

You can garnish the beans with just a touch more chopped parsley or dill if you like, and they’re ready to be eaten with some nice crusty bread to sop up all those juices.

Gigantes Plaki:  Greek Baked Beans

I actually like to gently toast some crostini and pile the beans on top to eat as a meze or light meal with salad, but that’s just me.

Gigantes Plaki:  Greek Baked Beans

Traditionally Gigantes Plaki is served only slightly warm or at room temperature, but I’m far too greedy to wait until its cooled down.  I happily scarf down enormous spoonfuls when its piping hot and fresh out of the oven….but room temperature is good too.  And I ate some leftovers for lunch today, straight from the fridge.  I wasn’t complaining.

I’m telling you, man.  Rustic peasant food is where it’s at.

Gigantes Plaki:  Greek Baked Beans

Gigantes Plaki:  Greek Baked Beans
  • http://www.kalofagas.ca Peter

    Tina, this is pretty much how my mom makes them…I long for them, I can smell them, almost taste them…well done!

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    Those crostini look like the perfect appetizer, really. Texas baked beans can’t do anything cool like that. And I’m coming around to dill, even though I had a somewhat tenuous relationship with it up until recently…which reminds me of a post I need to do…later. Anyway, I’ll just add this to the pile of “awesome stuff Tina has made that I need to get around to making but am fearful of inadequacy.”

    And we are blogging twinsies, but not in the Arnie/Danny way so much as two of the Dahm triplets who offed the third in a fit of pique. Trust me, it works. Because while they all look like blondes, I can almost guarantee at least one of them is not. You and I don’t sleep with old people, though, unless you count Chris and Mike (which I think we sometimes should).

  • http://kopiaste.org Ivy

    Very similar to the way I make them. Will you believe that I’ve never posted gigantes yet, although I’ve made them during winter a couple of times. They are perfect as a meze on crostinis.

  • jen

    This looks yummy. I am not a fan of beans but trying to be. Have you seen the 90-minute no-soak oven beans on Paupered Chef? I haven’t tried them yet but wonder if that method would work for this recipe. I think this is my first time commenting but I love the site. Your photos are beautiful and recipes always look delicious!

  • Tara

    I can’t even describe how good these look to me. I actually stopped on the way home and picked up the ingrediants to make them tomorrow night.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Peter & Ivy – Woot! We have the Greek Momma seal of approval!!!!!

    Kristie – ooh, I want to hear the dill story, I do I do! And I like the Dahm triplet analogy…it explains a lot about those whispering voices which make me do bad things (like eat Cheeze Whiz as a dinner replacement two days in a row).

    Jen – Thank you so much for visiting our site!! We’re so glad that you like it here :) I haven’t tried to no soak oven beans, but I AM a fan of Paupered Chef….definitely something to check out! If you try before we do, let us know how it went!

    Tara – Wow, now that’s enthusiasm!! Love it. If you did decide to make these, what did you think? Any tweaks that you made to the recipe? I’m such a nosy-parker…..

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com Kevin

    Those beans look tasty! I have been wanting to try using the gigantes in a dish like this.

  • Luana

    I must have had the only Greek momma who never made these, but I’m sure glad that I make them. I got hungry reading this. I love these beans, and about the only thing I do differently is that I don’t use dill (may have to try that next time), and I usually finish them on top of the stove, but it’s fine to put them in the oven, too.

    Though I’ve seen lots of recipes that say lima beans can be substituted, I’d have to say no to that. These beans have a unique creamy, almost buttery taste, that lima beans don’t have. If you don’t have a Greek or ethnic market in your area that carries gigantes, it’s worth it to buy them online.

  • Chanel

    just made these, super yummy

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Chanel – that’s so great that you enjoyed this recipe! I’m a sucker for beans in any form. Thanks for checking us out, and we’re so glad that you were happy with your gigantes!

  • Lisa

    I love these beans!! However, I strongly encourage you to add feta cheese to the recipe :-)

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Lisa – like I would ever turn down an offer of cheese!

  • Nina

    My husband misses his Momma’s Beans. So I decided to make yours, and they are in the oven right now.

  • Greg

    I’m fortunate enough to have gigantes growing in my my backyard. Can I use the beans fresh ie not dried? I take it I would omit the soak but would I reduce the 45 min simmer time as well? I’m really looking forward to trying this dish and hope that I don’t have to wait for the beans to dry on the vine before I can.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Greg – you lucky thing, you! You can absolutely use the beans fresh. The texture will be different and more tender, but that’s not a bad thing at all. Yes, omit the soak and simmer time but increase your baking time in the oven to about 45-50 minutes (covered) rather than 30. We’d love to hear your feedback on the dish, good or bad!

  • Evie

    Texans really don’t do sweet molasses heavy baked beans. That little trend is as yankee as it gets. Boston by way of England.

    What we do call our own are plain pinto or black beans, and tons of variations none of which are dominated for sugar. If you ask a Texan, especially a Texan living outside our state, what we miss it is probably the beans you get with bar b que. A little bit spicy, rich, cooked with tons of onions and the bar b que brisket ends.

  • Kim

    I am slowly eliminating meat from my diet. Rather than use my old recipes minus the meat or substituting TVP, I am collecting international recipes that use natural ingredients in delicious, satisfying combinations! This one was so good! It is definitely a keeper. I may increase the tomato mixture to bean ratio next time though maybe I just miscalculated the first time. Thanks!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Kim – thank you so much for your comment and we’re so pleased that you enjoyed this recipe!! We’re trying to eat less meat as well, but after spending my teenage-hood as a vegetarian, frankly I don’t think I could do it again. Best of luck to you and that’s a wonderfully healthy lifestyle choice!

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