Greek-Style Braised Beans


oatmeal_spoon

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.

Smokey Black Beans with Zucchini


Smokey Black Beans with Zucchini, Soy Glazed Acorn Squash, and rye toast.

Somewhere in your supermarket, usually adjacent the BBQ sauces, is a product called Wright’s Liquid Smoke. You need to own a bottle for nights when you want something hearty, meatless, and just a little trashy. It’s like having bacon without the pig. Plus it’s kosher, vegan, and gluten-free.

All of the veg you see in the photo below I had on hand and needed desperately to use before the creeping fuzz set in. The pressure cooker delivered tender beans from dry in 45-minutes. (They really are amazing, pressure cookers.) Freshly cooked beans are vastly superior in texture to their sad, canned sisters, and make what is otherwise an obvious attempt to use up aging produce into something just a little special.

Recipe yields enough for five as an entree.

Smokey Black Beans with Zucchini
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions
half a carrot
2 large bell peppers
2 medium zucchini
1/4 cup water
large handfull Brussels sprouts
4 cups cooked black beans
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ichimi togarashi (or ground red pepper)
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup dry Madiera
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp Wright’s Liquid Smoke
What to do with all of this random veg in the fridge?Clean and cut onions, carrot, peppers, and zucchini to 1/4-inch dice. Trim and clean Brussels sprouts then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Heat a large (≥ 4 quart) skillet over medium with olive oil. Add onions, carrots, and peppers along with half of the salt and stir to coat with oil.

Cook for two minutes, stir, lower heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook for five minutes, stir, and cook for another five minutes with the cover on. At this point, the onions should be clear and the carrots soft. If not cook, put the cover back on for another five minutes.

Uncover and raise heat to medium-high. Cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until veg pick up a little brown. Add togarashi and stir for a minute. Add Madiera and cook for a minute, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the salt and remaining ingredients, stirring to combine.

Cover the pan again and cook until it begins to boil. Taste for salt and add more if required. Stir, lower heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook with cover on for another fifteen minutes or until beans are super tender.

Soy Glazed Acorn Squash, a couple slices of toast, and some good hard cider make it all seem positively civilized.