Greek-Style Braised Beans
There’s nothing Grandma Kay didn’t braise in this ubiquitous punchy, herbal Greek tomato sauce. If the technique is new to you, think of it as stewing – low heat and flavorful liquid. In my own kitchen, as in Greece, I find the ultimate marriage to be with creamy white beans. Garbanzos are the path to maximum bean bliss, but lima and great northern won’t ruin Christmas.
Regardless of your bean choice, for the love of all that is good and right in this world, please use freshly cooked beans. I employ a Fagor pressure cooker to fulfill my leguminous whims. Canned beans hurt my feelings. Cooking them the old fashioned way is an afternoon you’re not getting back. But the pressure cooker gets you from bean-shaped rocks to dinner in under an hour, usually more like 30 minutes. You know that’s something you want in on.
Depending on your willpower, you can serve these beans in a variety of ways. Straight up with rice or toast. Chilled as a hearty summer salad. Or reheated and lightly mashed into a cast iron skillet with a couple of eggs cracked on top and some Cholula. Whatever’s clever.
This recipe yields enough for four as an entree.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 small onions, halved and sliced
a heavy pinch of cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp dried Greek oregano, finely ground
2 tbsp tomato paste
a glug of dry red wine
2 1/2 cups dried garbanzos (about five cooked), cooked to al dente with plenty of salt
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper
Cook the onions over medium low with olive oil and a heavy pinch of salt until golden and lightly caramelized. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it turns brick red.
Add cinnamon and oregano and cook for a minute, continuing to stir. Add wine and stir to loosen tomato paste, then add beans, diced tomatoes (and their juice!), and garlic powder. Stir well to incorporate. With lid on pot, raise heat to medium-high and stir every five minutes until bubbling vigorously.
Reduce heat to low and taste for salt and pepper. Amend as needed. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes with lid off, stirring about every five minutes, until sauce thickens and beans become creamily tender. The beans will take up salt quite quickly at this point, so taste for seasoning every time you stir.