Tomato-Braised Gigante Bean Gratin (Pizza Beans)

This dish could or should be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen called the dish “pizza beans” to make it more appealing to her kids- so I did the same. 😉 She also had the genius suggestion of serving it with garlic bread, giving it even more appeal. Perelman described it as “a mash-up of a giant-beans-in-tomato-sauce dish from Greece and American-style baked ziti, with beans instead of noodles.” Heaven!

My husband and I enjoyed this dish very much. We are already big fans of Greek Gigante beans, by the way. 🙂 With the name “pizza beans,” my kids were expecting pizza, but the flavors in the dish were more like minestrone soup. It may have been more well-received if I had simply called it by the original title, Tomato & Gigante Bean Bake. 😉

This dish would also be wonderful as a cold-weather comfort food casserole. The recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites by Deb Perelman, via smitten kitchen.com. I used a pressure cooker to cook the dried beans, incorporated the pressure cooker bean liquid as well as beet greens, and increased the amount of garlic. I plan to make it again in the winter and give it a different title. I’m sure it will be more well-received. It will be served with garlic bread, of course.

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large or 2 regular carrots, diced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white or red wine, optional
  • 4 ounces (115 grams) curly kale leaves, beet greens, and/or mixed baby greens, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups (550 grams) crushed tomatoes (28-ounce or 800-gram can minus 1 cup; reserve the rest for another use)
  • 1 pound (455 grams) giant white beans such as Italian fagioli corona, Greek gigante/gigandes, Royal Corona, or large lima beans
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) vegetable broth or pressure cooker bean liquid, as needed
  • 1/2 pound (225 grams) mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 1/3 cup (35 grams) grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons (5 grams) roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish, optional
  • garlic bread, for serving, optional
  1. To use a Pressure Cooker to “Soak” the Beans: Place 12 cups of water, 3 tsp of coarse salt and the dried beans in a pressure cooker. Raise to high pressure (2nd ring) for 2 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans.
  2. Cook the Beans in a Pressure Cooker: Place the drained beans with 9 cups of fresh water in the pressure cooker. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Cook on low (1st ring) for 3 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans reserving the bean liquid.
  3. Heat the oven to 475 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. In a 2 1/2-to-3-quart (ideally oven-safe) deep sauté pan, braiser, or shallow Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Season well with salt and black or red pepper. Cook, sautéing, until the vegetables brown lightly, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more.
  6. Add the wine, if using, to scrape up any stuck bits, then simmer until it disappears, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Add the kale/greens, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until collapsed, then add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
  8. Add the beans, and, if the mixture looks too dry or thick (canned tomatoes range quite a bit in juiciness), add up to 3/4 cup broth/bean liquid, 1/4 cup at a time.
  9. Simmer the mixture together over medium for about 10 minutes, adjusting the seasonings as needed.
  10. If your pan isn’t ovenproof, transfer the mixture to a 3-quart baking dish.
  11. Sprinkle the beans first with the mozzarella, then the Parmesan, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on top. If you’re impatient and want a deeper color, you can run it under the broiler.
  12. Finish with parsley, if desired. Serve with garlic bread.
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Shortcut Avgolemeno (Greek Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce)

This soup is truly season-less, but especially perfect on a cool and rainy autumn day. That’s today for me. 😦

A soup like this is the exact reason to have homemade stock in the freezer! This recipe is from Food Network.com, contributed by Cat Cora. I modified the recipe to use a rotisserie chicken (such a shortcut!) and homemade stock. Loved it. Delicious.

Yield: about 8 servings

  • 1 (approximately 3 pound) rotisserie chicken
  • 12 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups finely diced onion (I used 1 large yellow onion)
  • 2/3 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon coarse salt
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. To Prepare the Chicken: Pull the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Coarsely shred or dice the meat into large cubes; refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Warm the stock over high heat, add the rice and onion and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is almost cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken and reduce the broth to a low simmer.
  6. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the lemon juice and eggs.
  7. Ladle 2 cups of hot broth into a measuring cup with a pourable spout. While whisking, slowly pour the 2 cups of broth into the egg mixture.
  8. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot, add 1/2 tablespoon salt (less if using store-bought stock) and 1 teaspoon ground pepper. Stir well to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary.
  9. Divide among bowls and serve immediately.

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Greek Pie with Mixed Greens

I love all of the greens that I receive in my CSA share. Mixing different greens in the filling of this adaptation of Greek spinach pie, Spanakopita, made it incredibly flavorful.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Martha Rose Shulman. I used one-half pound of spinach in addition to approximately one pound of mixed CSA greens including red chard, beet greens, and kohlrabi greens in the filling. I sautéed the greens instead of boiling them as well. I doubled garlic and the onions, and used one yellow onion and one red onion.

Years ago, I made a “low-fat” savory pie with a phyllo pastry crust. The reduced-fat technique was using cooking oil spray between the layers of pastry instead of brushing them with butter or oil. I love it! I used this method when making this pie as well. Great.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds Swiss chard, or mixed greens, stemmed and washed thoroughly
  • coarse salt
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs, preferably a combination of dill and parsley
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 12 sheets phyllo pastry, thawed
  • cooking oil spray or 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or 2 tablespoons each melted butter and extra-virgin olive oil, combined, for brushing/spraying the phyllo pastry

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  1. Stem and slice the greens into ribbons, about 2-inches wide for more tender greens, and 1/2-inch wide for heartier greens. Wash them in 2 changes of water, lifting them from the water so that the dirt stays behind.
  2. Thinly slice the chard stems and soak in a bowl of water. Lift from the water like the greens.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375ºF, preferably on convection. Oil or butter a 10-inch tart or cake pan (I used cooking spray and a 9-inch ceramic deep pie dish).
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions and rinsed chard stems. Cook, stirring often, until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds to a minute, until the garlic is fragrant.
  6. Stir in the damp greens. Sauté until wilted, season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the herbs and adjust the seasoning. Remove from heat.
  8. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Crumble in the feta.
  9. Add egg-cheese mixture to the greens, mix to combine.
  10. Line the pie dish with 7 pieces of phyllo, spraying between each layer with cooking oil spray or lightly brushing each piece with butter or oil and turning the dish after each addition so that the edges of the phyllo drape evenly over the pan.
  11. Using a slotted spoon, fill with the greens mixture. IMG_4913
  12. Fold the draped edges in over the filling, lightly brushing the folded in sheets of phyllo, then layer the remaining 5 pieces on top, brushing each piece with cooking spray, butter or olive oil.
  13. Trim the edges and then stuff into the sides of the pan. Make a few slashes in the top crust so that steam can escape as the pie bakes. 
  14. Bake 40 to 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until the crust is golden. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature. 

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Pasta with Yogurt & Caramelized Onions

This wonderful meatless main dish tasted like a deconstructed version of my mother-in-law’s special homemade Christmas Eve pierogies. Apparently, it is actually an adapted Greek island dish! It was rich and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from Food 52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes that will change the way you cook by Kristen Miglore, contributed by Diane Kochilas. (This cookbook was a Christmas gift from my sweet brother. ) I used dried pappardelle noodles instead of fresh tagliatelle.

The author suggests ways to “fancy” up this dish by adding chard or spinach to the pasta just as it finishes boiling. Another suggestion was to blend the sauce with peas, mint, or tahini. All so yummy!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cups (1.4 L) coarsely chopped or sliced yellow onions
  • sea salt
  • 1 pound (450 g) tagliatelle or other fresh pasta or dried pappardelle
  • 2 cups (450 g) thick, strained Greek-style yogurt (I used 2 percent)
  • 1 cup (100 g) coarsely grated Pecorino Romano or kefalotyri cheese
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onions. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently and seasoning with sea salt to taste as you go, until the onions are soft and golden brown, 20 to 30+ minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. As the water heats, add enough salt so that you can taste it. Add the pasta and cook until soft, just past al dente.
  3. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot.
  4. Combine the yogurt with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the reserved cooking water and whisk to mix well. Add more of the reserved pasta water as needed to get the sauce to your desired thickness.
  5. Toss the pasta with the yogurt mixture.
  6. Serve the pasta immediately, sprinkled generously with cheese and topped with the caramelized onions and their juices.

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Greek Red Lentil Soup

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First of all, who doesn’t love something with a giant dollop of salty cheese on top? 🙂 This soup has it all- loads of fresh herbs, garlic, onion, and red lentils. I knew that I had to move it to the top of my must make list before my herb garden succumbed to the cold weather…. Mmmmm…

Well, I barely remember when my herb garden wasn’t buried under 3 feet of snow, but I do remember this delicious soup! I made it again but used dried oregano this time. Still delicious!! We ate it on a snow day with a homemade Pullman bread loaf, green salad, and cake pops for dessert. This recipe was adapted from Chef Juliana of Foodie on Board. I reduced the lemon juice to 1 lemon. Wonderful!!

For the Soup:

  • 2 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 cups store-bought or homemade turkey, or chicken or vegetable stock
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • juice of 1 to 2 lemons, to taste

For the Topping:

  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons minced rosemary
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat and sauté onions with 1 teaspoon salt until translucent. Add garlic, carrot, pepper, chiles, herbs, bay leaves and remaining salt. Stir well and sauté until the carrots are just tender.
  2. Add the lentils and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the lentils are soft and falling apart. If you like, the soup can be puréed or left as it is. If you choose to purée, remove the bay leaves first. (I puréed it.)
  3. Season the soup with lemon zest, lemon juice and more salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Before serving, stir together the feta cheese, rosemary and pepper. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the hot bowls of soup and enjoy.

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Roasted Vegetable Moussaka

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I was inspired to make a roasted vegetable moussaka after seeing a recipe on El Chino Latino Cocina. It sounded like such a wonderful vegetarian version and had Greek yogurt in the topping to lighten the dish. I had made a similar, but non-vegetarian, light version for mom in the past because she LOVES Greek food. 🙂 When my mom was visiting us recently, I planned to make her a special birthday dinner. I decided that birthdays deserve indulgence- and special, labor-intensive meals…. so I chose to make this “less light” vegetarian moussaka adapted from Tori Avey. 🙂

This dish was hearty and absolutely delicious. I loved the use of lentils instead of meat; I loved my choice of tiny black lentils too because they kept their shape. My mom really enjoyed it! We had carrot cake cupcakes (her favorite) for dessert as well. 🙂 Just when I thought that my mom couldn’t be more pleased, my kids outshined my efforts by buying my mom a birthday gift at our local historic General Store with their saved allowance money. So cute. Happy HAPPY Happy Birthday, Mama!! ❤

I’m bringing this dish to share with my blog friends at Fiesta Friday #42 this week at The Novice Gardener. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 1 1/2 lbs. zucchini (about 3 medium), sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes (about 3 large), peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 lbs. small eggplants
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • cooking oil spray
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup black lentils (about 1 1/2  to 2 cups cooked lentils)
  • 1 (12 oz) jar roasted red peppers or 1 large roasted red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 3 cups diced ripe red tomatoes or 1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 10 tbsp grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, divided
  • 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all purpose white flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg, or more to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

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  1. Place lentils in a sauce pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, lightly salt, and then lower heat to a simmer; cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Place racks on the upper and lower thirds of your oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees on convection roast. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray. Spread out the zucchini in a single layer across the baking sheets. Brush the exposed tops of the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and black pepper.
  3. Place one baking sheet on the upper rack of the oven and the other on the lower half. Roast veggies for 10 minutes. Remove sheets from oven and place them back in the oven, switching racks. Roast for about 5 to 10 more minutes, until veggies are tender and starting to turn golden brown (check the bottoms of the veggies for browning).
  4. Repeat this process with two additional parchment-lined baking sheets of sliced potatoes; include the garlic cloves.
  5. While potatoes and zucchini are roasting, remove the stem ends from the eggplants. Peel strips from the eggplants so that they have thin stripes of peel remaining down the sides (they will be half-peeled). Cut the eggplants into 1/2 inch slices, crosswise.
  6. When potatoes and zucchini are done roasting, remove them from the oven and set aside. Take the 3 roasted garlic cloves and chop them, reserve.
  7. Line two additional baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking oil. Spread eggplant slices into a single layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place the baking sheets in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, switching the baking sheets on upper and lower thirds halfway through cooking, until the slices are tender and lightly golden (check the bottom edges of slices for browning).
  8. While eggplant is roasting, place a sauté pan or sauce pan (I used a 4 quart sauce pan) on the stovetop. Warm up 2 tbsp olive oil in the pan over medium high heat. Sauté diced onion until softened and translucent. Add roasted bell pepper slices and chopped roasted garlic, saute for another 2 minutes. Add cooked lentils, diced tomatoes, fresh dill, oregano, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and 3/4 tsp salt to the pan; stir well. Reduce heat to medium and let mixture cook for about 5 more minutes until warmed through. If using fresh tomatoes, let the mixture cook for 10 minutes until tomatoes are soft.
  9. When eggplant is done roasting, remove it from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F (convection). Lightly grease your baking dish with cooking oil spray. Place a single layer of half of the roasted eggplant slices on the bottom of your dish.
  10. On top of that, place a layer of half the potatoes and half the zucchini.
  11. Spread the lentil mixture evenly in a single layer across the surface.
  12. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of grated pecorino or parmesan and ½ cup crumbled feta across the top of the lentil mixture.
  13. Place the rest of the potatoes and zucchini in another layer on top of the cheese.
  14. Finish with a layer of the remaining roasted eggplant slices. Sprinkle top of the moussaka with 2 tbsp more of grated pecorino or parmesan cheese. (I refrigerated the pan at this point.)
  15. (Return the reserved pan to room temperature.) Place moussaka in the oven for 20 minutes to bake at 375 degrees F (convection).
  16. Meanwhile, while the moussaka is baking, make the béchamel sauce for the top of the moussaka. In a small pan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk flour into the melted butter till dissolved and thick. Continue to whisk for a few minutes until the flour/butter mixture turns a light sandy brown color.
  17. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium.
  18. Whisk in 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese. Continue whisking for a few minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from heat. Add ¾ tsp salt, nutmeg, and black pepper to taste. Whisk the beaten egg slowly into the sauce (drizzle the egg while whisking constantly).
  19. Remove the moussaka from the oven. Pour sauce evenly across the top of the moussaka. Sprinkle ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese on top of the sauce.
  20. Put moussaka back in the oven. Cook for another 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the moussaka is cooked through.
  21. Serve hot. Don’t expect it all to hold together neatly when served; it will slice more cleanly and pieces will hold together better after it has cooled.

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Baked Greek Shrimp with Tomatoes & Feta

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This dish is supposed to transport you to the Greek Isles- we needed an (quick & inexpensive!) escape- maybe that’s why my husband loved it so much! It has a different flavor profile from the dishes I am usually drawn to which made it unique and extra-delicious. It was also a wonderful late-summer dish to make with my beautiful, fresh CSA tomatoes. This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. We ate it over rice with green salad on the side. Sensational! 🙂

This is the perfect dish to share at Fiesta Friday #35 this week at The Novice Gardener. I am also flattered and honored to share that my contribution to Fiesta Friday #34- Almond-Crusted Pork Scallopini with Apples & Arugula– is featured this week as well!! Wow! Enjoy!! 🙂

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large shallots, diced, about 1 generous cup
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds large ripe tomatoes, about 4 large
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped mint
  1. Put 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Lower heat as necessary to keep mixture from browning. Remove from heat while preparing tomatoes.
  2. Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add whole tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes, until skins loosen. Immediately plunge tomatoes in a bowl of cold water to cool, then drain. With a paring knife, core tomatoes and slip off skins. Cut tomatoes into thick wedges.
  3. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Return skillet to stove over medium-high heat. Add tomato wedges and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until mixture is juicy and tomatoes have softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a shallow, 13 x 9 baking dish.
  4. Put shrimp in a mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, season shrimp with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Arrange shrimp over tomato mixture in one layer. Crumble cheese over surface and sprinkle with oregano.
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until tomatoes are bubbling and cheese has browned slightly.
  6. While the dish is baking, prepare the rice according to package directions.
  7. Remove the shrimp and tomatoes from the oven and let the dish rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with mint and serve over rice.

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