Gigantes Plaki

A serving of gigantes plaki with feta cheese and a slice of bread.

Gigantes plaki (Greek γίγαντες πλακί pronounced [ˈʝiɣa(n)des plaˈci]) or Greek giant baked beans, is a Greek dish of large white beans baked in a tomato sauce. Gigantes plaki may be served as a main dish or as a meze. The beans are traditionally fasolia gigantes ‘giant beans’, a variety of the Phaseolus coccineus.

Yum! Gigantes plaki is a baked bean dish from Greece. After several variations on sweet American baked beans in a row I was definitely ready for a different flavor profile. The dish is similar to prebranac and tavče gravče.

A handful of gigantes beans.

Gigantes (or gigandes) beans a just what they sound like, giant beans. They are a variety of runner beans, so a different species from your standard navy, black or kidney beans. I purchased them from Amazon* . Actually, I purchased “Greek Giant Beans”, because apparently the brand I bought isn’t grown in the right part of Greece to use the gigantes DOP. I generally support the idea of DOPs, that you can’t market certain foods or beverages traditionally made in a particular region under that name unless they are actually produced in that region. However I think that sometimes they get a little ridiculous when it comes to protecting particular varieties of plants, like the gigantes bean. I get that climate and soil conditions can affect flavors etc, but surely if I take seeds from one place and grow them in another it’s still the same variety of bean, isn’t it?

Anyway, if you can’t get gigantes beans, large lima beans will do in a pinch. Just be careful boiling them as they will likely soften faster. Overcooked beans will detract from the experience with this dish.

Plaki is the cooking method. There is apparently a whole family of different Plaki dishes, consisting of different ingredients baked in a tomato sauce with generous amounts of olive oil. For example psari plaki is fish cooked in this style.

The most surprising element in this dish is the cinnamon. I don’t generally think of cinnamon in connection with Greek food, especially savory dishes, but it is commonly used in savory dishes throughout much of the Middle East, so it’s not too surprising that it shows up here.

While Gigantes plaki is delicious as a stand alone meal, it is often served as one dish in an assortment of meze. Try it spooned over a slice of crusty bread with few crumbles of feta and a drizzle of flavorful olive oil.

Gigantes Plaki

Serves; 8
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 2:35
Total: 2:45, plus overnight soaking

19 oz. dry gigantes beans
19 oz. large lima/butter beans

½ cup olive oil
2 large onions, diced
Heaping ½ cup celery, diced small
2 medium carrots, diced small
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
5 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced

2 14 oz. cans diced tomato
2 ½ lbs fresh tomato, grated
3 Tablespoons tomato puree
1 ⅜ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 bay leaves
⅔ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ¾ teaspoons sugar
¾ cup hot water

Rustic bread, to serve
3 oz. creamy feta cheese, to serve

1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
2 15 oz. cans butter beans, in place of dry beans
½ large red bell pepper, diced
2 ⅓ cups vegetable stock

Pick over your beans and remove any bad beans or foreign objects. Rinse, drain and cover with cool water by at least 2 inches. Leave to soak overnight. 

Drain the beans and place in a pot with fresh water to cover. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Boil for 5 minutes, drain and rinse. Put the beans back in the pot and cover with fresh water by about an inch. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour until the beans are tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or other oven proof pan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrots, and saute for about 10 minutes, until the onion is transluscent. Add the garlic and parsley and saute for a minute or so, until fragrant. 

Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, oregano, salt, pepper, cinnamon, bay leaves, pepper flakes, sugar and water. Mix well and bring to a boil, then stir in the beans. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, then cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. 

Bake for about 55 minutes, then remove the cover and bake a further 40 minutes, until the beans are soft and creamy and the top is a little crusty. 

Serve hot or at room temperature, topped with a drizzle of good olive oil, crumbled feta, and slices of crusty bread on the side.

*I receive no compensation for mentioning this product.

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