Oxi! (or is it Nai! ?) I could never keep yes and no straight in Greek. (Could be a dangerous confusion in any language. I know.)
These Greek Baked Beans are delicious.
I just made another big (for me) Rancho Gordo bean buy and used their beautiful white cassoulet beans in this recipe. They are a kind of runner bean and are about the size of a small lima bean. They are a pretty bean, creamy in texture and, unless you really overcook them, they stay intact in your dish.
What makes these beans Greek? They are baked with a generous amount of olive oil, for one, and this slow-cooked tomato and bean dish is nothing if not reminiscent of Fassolia Yiachni, a traditional bean and tomato dish often served in Greek tavernas.
And what fun those tavernas can be! Rather than ordering from a boring old menu, you boldly walk into the kitchen and point to the dishes you want to order from the display of steaming pots. I’ve pointed to many a dish that looks like this bean and tomato combination in my day, particularly at Tria Adelphia Taverna in Victoria Square in Athens–our favorite place when we used to travel there. We spent many late nights dining there amid the glorious bouzouki-tinged tumult that was a constant at the restaurant. It is a very good memory of happy and adventurous times. Here are a couple of old photographs. Yes. That is me in the Jackie O glasses.
This recipe is adapted from one that appears in Joyce Stubbs’ 1963 cookbook The Home Book of Greek Cookery. I’ve been nostalgic for Greek cooking lately and found that I have several Greek cookbooks on my shelves. Apparently, I’ve had this book for around fifty years. The sticker on the back of the book says I paid 425 drachmas for the book–about $1.50, I think.
It was nai (pronounced nee), by the way (in that first sentence of this piece). These Greek Baked Beans are a yes in any language.
Here is my adaptation of Stubbs’ recipe. Traditionally, this bean dish is a stove top dish. I took the liberty of transforming it into a baked version. I have yet to meet a baked bean that I don’t enjoy and this dish was no exception.
- 1/2 pound dry white beans (I used Rancho Gordo cassoulet beans)
- 1/8 to 1/4 C. olive oil
- 1-2 large onions (chopped)
- 2-3 T. honey (or sugar) or to taste
- 1 15 oz. can chopped tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Crumbled feta to garnish (optional)
- Chopped red onion to garnish (optional)
- Drizzle of high quality olive oil to finish the dish before serving
- Soak dry beans overnight in water to cover.
- On the next day, drain beans and cook either in a large pan with a couple of inches of water to cover the beans (30 minutes on simmer) or in an Instant Pot. (I used my Instant Pot and the process took about 40 minutes.) Drain beans and set beans aside. Your beans may not be totally cooked at this point but they will absorb water and juices during the baking process and will soften a bit more.
- Chop onions into a fine dice. In a large pot (I used my Le Creuset Dutch oven.), heat 2 T. olive oil and sauté chopped onions for about 10-15 minutes until the onions are tender and are beginning to caramelize. Watch your onions carefully during the sauté. It is easy to burn them rather than caramelize them.
- Add your sautéed onions to the cooked beans. Add remaining olive oil, tomatoes, bay leaf, honey and enough water to cover the beans by an inch or two. Heat the bean mixture to a simmer on your stove top, cover it with a heavy lid and then transfer it to a (preheated) 375 degree F. oven where it should cook for about an hour. Check on the beans several times during the hour of cooking to be sure that the water in the pot has not cooked away (mine did) and to stir the beans. If the water has cooked away, add more water.
- After the hour of cooking, take the beans from the oven and add a bit more water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and simmer on your stove until the beans are thick and soft. You can also add more honey (or sugar) at this point. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
- Garnish with crumbled feta if you like. Some finely-chopped red onion would be good, too. Drizzle with high quality olive oil and enjoy.