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Gigantes Beans with Bacon and Graviera Cheese

Now, I have long enjoyed southern Greek versions of baked Gigantes, but when I was first introduced to the spicy northern variation I was immediately hooked. I have a thing for spicy dishes and I thought it might be fitting to share my own seasonal spicy and savoury variation on the classic baked Gigantes theme. In addition to the boukovo, I added two unconventional ingredients to my recipe: thick-cut bacon and mild-flavoured Cretan Graviera cheese. The result was simply mouth-watering and I hope you will give this Greek comfort food recipe a try.

500 gr dried Gigantes beans
250 gr Graviera cheese
2 - 3 slices extra-thick cut bacon
1 medium sized onion
1 red bell pepper (diced)
1 cup strained tomato pulp/sauce
½ cup Olive oil
3 garlic cloves
A small bunch of Parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Boukovo or red pepper (chilli) flakes
1 tbsp. dried Greek oregano

Salt & pepper

1. Soak the dried Gigantes beans overnight (use at least a 3:1 ratio of water to beans).
2. Rinse and add rehydrated beans to a generous pot of boiling water and cook for 45 minutes over a medium heat, until the beans are soft. Using a large spoon, periodically skim away any surface foam that may develop.
3. In a large sized skillet/pan, fry off the bacon until cooked but not completely crisped, then remove the bacon from pan but retain the fat. Cut the bacon into thin strips and set aside.
4. Add the diced onion to the pan with the bacon fat and sauté until soft.
5. Press and add garlic to the pan along with two tablespoonfuls of olive oil; stir for a few turns and then add the diced red pepper for several turns/tosses. Season with oregano, salt and pepper to taste.
6. Stir in the tomato sauce along with 1 cup of water and half the bacon strips along with the chopped parsley and boukovo, bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low and let simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.
7. Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C and place an earthenware/stoneware/clay baking vessel in the oven to warm. (I prefer to use a Pampered Chef ® square stoneware baking dish).
8. When the beans are cooked (i.e. soft), drain them and add them to the pan with the sauce to combine.
9. Take the heated vessel out of the oven, add the beans to it, pour the remaining olive oil over top and return to oven. Bake for 35 minutes.
10. Remove baking vessel from oven; add cubed cheese and bacon strips over top of the beans and bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese has melted.

Serve immediately along with some chewy sourdough village-style bread.

Makes 4 servings.

Pànta Kalà (Always Be Well)

Author: Sam Sotiropoulos
Tuesday, May 15, 2012