The Recipe: Dried beans cooked Greek-style until creamy with tomatoes and warm spices, a fresh, healthy alternative to American-style sugar-heavy baked beans for parties, potlucks and okay sure, even for dinner. :-) They're real food, low-cal, Weight Watchers friendly, gluten free and not just vegan, Vegan Done Real.
The Conversation: How and why to cook dried beans in the oven instead of on the stove. It's super easy and there's no more boiling over a pot of beans!
So, people, dried beans. Who cooks them on the stovetop? Me, I did too!
But almost every time, yikes, I would get distracted and the stove would be too hot and the beans would spill over. WHAT A MESS! You turn the heat down and carry on, of course but oh that stove is a total mess, really hard to scrub clean!
Once, even, I didn't clean the stove for a couple of days. We had a condo on the Florida Gulf Coast for a few days and somehow, surprise-surprise, beach-walking and shrimp-cooking and key-lime-pie-tasting outranked cleaning a messy stove. Yikes. WHAT A STINKY MESS!
So I experimented with cooking dried beans in the oven instead of on top of the stove. What an easy, no-mess, no-fuss solution!
You still pre-soak the beans, this hydrates the beans, makes them sweet and tender. Then it's time to actually cook them. First, bring the beans to a boil on the stovetop. This gets the water and the beans and the pot hot-hot-hot and shortens the cooking time in the oven. Then the pot goes into the oven and the beans cook away, no spilling over!
For even cooking, I do find it's helpful to stir the beans on occasion while they're in the oven. Otherwise the beans on top cook less than the beans on the bottom.
So far, I've cooked dried chickpeas, dried black beans and dried giant lima beans (several times) in the oven. All worked perfectly! It's a good system, cooking dried beans in the oven!
GREEK BAKED BEANS, don't they just sound so good?! The ultra-creamy bean and tomato combination is magnificent. And even though there's no cheese in Greek Baked Beans (unless you sprinkle a little feta on top, like I love to, just to finish), you'll swear they're full of cheese. But they're not!
GREEK BAKED BEANS (GIGANTES PLAKI)
Time to table: 11 hours
Makes 8 cups, easily halved
- 1 pound (454g) dried large lima beans
- 1 tablespoon table salt (no skipping, no skimping!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced small
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced small
- 1 rib celery, diced small
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- Sprinkle cayenne
- 28 ounces (800g) canned diced tomatoes
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Feta cheese (about 1 ounce/30g), crumbled
- Fresh oregano, a few leaves
BEANS - SOAK OVERNIGHT Rinse the beans in a colander to remove any dust and grit, then place in a bowl that allows for the beans to almost double in size. Cover with water plus three or four inches more. Soak the beans overnight, at least 8 hours. In the morning, if any beans are sticking out of the water (and thus haven't soaked up liquid), discard them. Drain the beans, then rinse under running water.
BEANS - START ON STOVE, COOK IN OVEN Set oven to 250F/120C. In a large, heavy pot, cover the beans plus an inch or two of water. Stir in the salt, no forgetting! On the stovetop, bring the beans to a boil and boil hard for 2 minutes. Cover and transfer to the oven. As the beans cook in the oven, stir them occasionally. Cook until the beans are soft and fully cooked but not breaking apart into mush, that's 60 to 90 minutes. Be sure they're fully cooked, then drain the beans.
TOMATO MIXTURE In a large skillet, heat oil until shimmery. Add the onion, carrot and celery as they're prepped, sautée just until beginning to turn color. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste and spices, let cook for 1 - 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cook just until hot. Season with salt and pepper.
COMBINE & BAKE Set oven to 350F/175C. Stir the drained beans into the Tomato Mixture. Transfer to an oven-safe shallow casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 1 hour until the beans are bubbly, the mixture has thickened and the edges are beginning to caramelize.
TO FINISH Sprinkle with feta cheese, if you like, put back into the oven to melt a bit. Sprinkle with oregano.
SERVE Serve hot from the oven as a side dish. Greek Baked Beans are also excellent warm and at room temperature so are especially good for a buffet or a potluck. They also make an excellent appetizer, just supply slices of baguette for schmearing.
Cooking Beans In the Oven: What Do You Think?
So are you intrigued about the idea of cooking beans in the oven instead of on the stove? It's sure working for me!
More Bean Recipes for Summer
Imagining the Mediterranean: More Greek Inspiration!
~ Creamy Feta Mousse with Greek Salads ~
~ Greek Bread Salad with Toasted Pita Chips ~
~ Greek Lentil Soup ~
~ Greek Spinach-Asparagus-Potato Gratin (Spinaki me Sparaggia Orgraten) ~
from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
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