Years ago, I can’t recall exactly when, there was a good Greek restaurant called Plaka near my home. The owner of said restaurant was part of a large Greek family who all worked at the place, making authentic Greek food. One of the items on their menu, Greek Lima Beans, turned out to be one of my favorites and I vowed that someday I would try my hand at recreating this dish.
Fast forward to June of 2021. For the past year and a half, I have cooked more than ever, more than I would care to admit. And during one of my cooking sprees, I picked up some Butter Beans, another name for Large or Gigante Lima Beans. I read the directions for Greek Baked Lima Beans on the back of the package, pulled up a couple of recipes I saved on my computer and started in. I combined recipes of course, following the package but adding some warming spices and extra tomato and lemon and a dab of honey as suggested on various other sites.
Version 1.0 ended with beans too soft because I made the beans in my pressure cooker to save time, and they overcooked so the entire dish was mushy but with good flavors. Version 2.0 ? I followed the cooking instructions but changed the flavor profile a little and added a bit more juice. Verdict? It is good! My husband/chief food critic said I hit the mark and not to change a thing.
If you are a bean aficionado like me and like Mediterranean flavors, add this to your repertoire. It is rich enough to count as a main dish, especially if you serve it with some good crumbled feta cheese and a drizzle of fruity olive oil at the end. It is more of a thickened bean/vegetable stew! If you do not like beans, forget it. Move on to something else!
Baked Greek Gigante Beans
- 8 ounces dried, large lima beans
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ of a large brown skinned onion diced ¼ inch
- 1 large peeled carrot diced ¼ inch
- 4 Campari tomatoes diced ½ inch (no need to seed or skin the tomatoes)
- About 1 ½ tsp sea salt and ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp honey
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch of ground cloves
- Crumbled feta
- High quality olive oil
Soak the beans overnight – covered by about three inches of water – in a large enough pot to hold the final dish, hopefully one that is stovetop and oven safe. Mine was 3-4 quarts. The next morning discard any of the papery membrany outsides that float to the top then drain and rinse the beans with cold water. Cover the drained beans with cold water two inches above the surface of the beans. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat so it is barely simmering, uncovered. Continue to cook without covering the pot for 30-40 minutes until the beans are soft but not overcooked. Reserve ¾ of a cup of liquid in which you cooked the beans. Drain the beans and set aside while you continue in this same pot. Wash and dry the pot.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with the rack in the center of the oven.
Heat the same (now clean) 3-quart pot (as long as it’s oven safe) and then add the olive oil. Add the onion and carrot and slowly sauté for five minutes. Add the diced tomato and cook slowly for another five minutes. Add in the drained beans along with the reserved bean liquid. Add the lemon juice, parsley, oregano, honey, cinnamon and ground cloves.
Stir to mix everything together. Place the pot without a lid into the preheated oven for 75 minutes. The top will form a “skin” and you will notice some bubbling as it thickens. Remove from the oven and stir after 15 minutes, correct the salt and pepper if needed. Serve warm in a sauce dish topped with feta cheese and good olive oil.