Yigante (Giant) Beans

A long, long, long time ago a few friends and I vacationed in Greece. In fact, it was so long ago that this picture was taken with film and I had hair.  Do you remember film boys and girls?  I don’t remember having hair!

It was on this trip that I picked up a love for Greek flavors and I still have a soft spot for simple Greek salads.  Feta all the way baby.

One fine evening in Corfu we found a restaurant off the beaten path and away from all the pesky tourists. So, we hunkered down in this rustic space and filled ourselves up on some local down home food, wine and ouzo all night.  I think the bill wound up being something insanely cheap, like 15 bucks a person (and we probably got ripped off!)  No one was in a condition to drive so we stumbled home and I can’t recall much else from that night, except for the beans. Oh, the beans. They still make me drool on command.  The best way for me to describe it is a lima bean casserole with tomato sauce and feta.

It only took me 15 years to try and make this dish.   I had just purchased a pressure cooker, and this seemed like a good way to take it for a spin.

So, as my good friend Val reminded me — how did it taste? Pretty damn good, but I think the one in Greece was better. Maybe if I add a little fresh dill or ouzo? Or maybe I just need to add more Corfu!

Ingredients:

Makes a large side dish, enough to feed 4-6 people. I just ate it alone and there was a mess left over.
  • 1 lb. dried lima beans (I don’t know if Greek yigantes are the same as our limas, but it was the best I could do)
  • 4 tbl. olive oil
  • 1 tbl. dried oregano (I actually used Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset blend by accident, but it’s mostly oregano. If you have it, use it.)
  • A few sprigs + 1 tbl. fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon
  • small block of feta, crumbled. I would guess about a cup, but don’t let me stop you from adding more.
  • 1 can of tomatoes, diced and drained
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tbl. honey
  • 3 tbl. tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  • Soak dried beans in water overnight
  • Rinse beans and place into pressure cooker with fresh water, garlic, a few thyme sprigs and a little olive oil.  Cook under pressure for 5 minutes.  Read your pressure cooker directions for more details.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker, no worries, just simmer until the beans are nice and tender (probably 1/2 hour or 45 minutes)
  • Preheat oven to 325
  • Drain the beans reserving 1 cup of bean juice. Pull out any stray bean skins floating around.
  • Dice onion and simmer in olive oil until translucent
  • Mix reserved water, honey, tomato paste, tomatoes, herbs and spices
  • Place beans, onions and liquid into covered casserole dish
  • Mix in feta, and about a tablespoon of kosher salt (taste it and adjust, I didn’t really measure the salt and it really depends on how salty your feta is).
  • Bake for an hour covered, add 1/4 lemon juice and bake for an additional 1/2 hour uncovered
  • Serve with a lemon wedge, red wine and chase the whole meal with some ouzo.  Opa!

“Hey, what am I going to do with all my old Drachma?”