Anyone out there who might think that a “meatless” meal wouldn’t satisfy them, hasn’t had giant white beans for dinner. This meal is full of fiber, protein, and delicious sweetness from the roasted tomatoes.
Gigante beans, lima beans, large white beans, whatever you want to call them, these beans make a meal in a way that other legumes don’t always cut it for me.
I’ve only ever seen these beans in dry form, so while I’m averse to most extra work in the kitchen, I don’t see a way around cooking them yourself if you want to use these big guys.
Which leads us to the age old question: Do you really need to soak dried beans? Some will insist that you do. I say, LAZY COOKS UNITE! I have a preschooler and don’t always have that much foresight.
But here’s one caveat: Sans soaking, the simmering times vary WILDLY for these beans. One batch I made from Brand A were ready after about 90 minutes.. Brand B took almost twice as long. And while everyone advises “look for fresh beans,” if you could seriously show me a bag of beans with an expiration date on it, I would give you a million dollars.
So, here are some handy tutorials that you can peruse and decide if you’re team soak or team no soak:
If I was the meal prepping type I’d suggest making a whole bag of these beans one weekend and freezing them for easy weeknight meals. Because once you cook the beans, this meal could not be easier or faster.
Roasting makes the tomatoes syrupy sweet, the cheese just a little soft and gooey, and the bean skins crispy in a way that is completely satisfying.
A few notes:
I salt the bean cooking water and then don’t add any more salt until serving the beans. They soak up the sodium during cooking, so it’s very easy to over salt this dish. Also, feta is a salt bomb, so we’ve found that the end product needs no extra seasoning.
I’ve billed this as a meatless meal, but it could also serve as a side or appetizer just as easily.
Do NOT skip the lemon zest in the end. The citrus brightens up the beans and adds a layer of flavor without which, the beans could taste a bit flat.
I prefer to use a combo of both dried and fresh oregano, but use what you have on hand.
Baked feta with gigante beans and tomatoes
Active time: about 20 minutes, on and off
Total time: 90-150 for the beans, 25-30 for the main dish
Yield: 4 dinner servings,
For the beans:
1½ cups dried giant white beans, rinsed
4 cups vegetable stock
1-2 cups water (as needed)
½ tsp sea salt
1-2 bay leaves
4 medium cloves garlic, peeled, but left whole
Yield: 3 heaping cups of cooked beans
Combine the beans, stock, salt, bay leaf, and garlic cloves in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce flame to low and simmer, covered, for anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 2 1/2 hours (90-150 minutes), stirring occasionally, until the beans are creamy and soft, but not falling apart and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Check the beans after 60 minutes and then every 15-30 minutes after that (depending on how your beans are progressing) until the beans are tender throughout. Add more liquid if the water boils off before the beans are fully cooked.
Drain any remaining liquid from the beans and remove the bay leaves.
For the main dish:
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
½ tsp Aleppo pepper (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 Tbsp fresh oregano (or a combination of both dried for cooking and fresh for topping)
½ tsp smoked paprika
2-3 cups cherry tomatoes, whole (about 8-12 oz)
Small block Feta cheese (8 oz)
½ tsp lemon zest (zest of one small lemon)
Preheat oven to 400.
In a bowl or the pot you used to simmer the beans, add 1/4 cup of olive oil, Aleppo pepper, oregano, paprika, and tomatoes to the beans and mix well.
In a 9x13 baking pan (or whatever size you have), spread out the bean and tomato mixture. Clear a hole in the middle and add the feta.
Cook for 20-23 minutes, until the feta is soft and the tomatoes have released their juices AND those juices have become a little syrupy.
Remove from the heat and top with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, lemon zest, fresh oregano (if using), and sprinkling of flaky sea salt (if needed).