GIGANTES ME SELINO
Gigantes, giant beans, are similar to what Americans know as butter beans. This recipe comes from Ioanna Brotsi, who opened her Arcadian home to us, invited
ten of her neighbors, and served us up a feast of old recipes and handwritten cooks’ notebooks.
Makes about 4 to 6 servings
- 1⁄2 pound dried Greek giant beans (see Note),
- picked over and rinsed
- 1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil,
- or more to taste
- 5 cups chopped celery, with leaves
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste diluted with 11⁄4
- cups water
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- Juice of 1 to 2 lemons, to taste
1. Place the beans in a large pot with water to cover by several inches. Leave to soak for 8 hours or overnight, then drain the beans. Place the beans back in the pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to mediumlow, and simmer until the beans are tender but not thoroughly cooked, 1 to 11⁄2 hours.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the celery and garlic, stirring, for a few minutes, just to soften. Season lightly with salt. Remove from the heat.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Drain the beans and place in a large baking pan. Toss with the sautéed celery and garlic, the remaining 1⁄2 cup olive oil, and the diluted tomato paste. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake until the giant beans are soft and creamy, 1 to 11⁄2 hours. This is the whole secret to this dish—the beans have to soak properly and cook enough so that they are creamy, almost the texture of roasted garlic, without disintegrating. About 15 minutes before removing from the oven, season with salt and pepper and toss in the parsley. When they are ready, adjust the seasoning with the lemon juice and additional salt, pepper, and olive oil.
NOTE Gigantes can be found in Greek and Middle Eastern food shops or at some specialty retailers.