Friday, February 24, 2012

Cooking on Steinway Street - Gigantes

Mid-Winter recess allows a vacationing principal some freedom, just as his faculty and students.  Usually, I take to the air and fly away from NYC.  This year, I decided to stay in my hometown and enjoy the city.  I spent more time with my family as well and visited my aunt, uncle and cousin in Astoria.  Over lunch on Monday, featuring spinach pie and stuffed cabbage leaves, we got to talking about food, this new blog and that I would appreciate learning her interpretations of some classic Greek dishes.  I had the pleasure of enjoying Greek cuisine as a child, spending two years living in Athens and over several long summers (how I treasure and miss those days).  She agreed and yesterday we had our first Greek culinary class in her small (but potent) kitchen.  She asked me what I wanted to learn and I replied that Gigantes (Greek Baked Lima beans) were always a favorite and now that my girlfriend has embraced a vegan diet would make sense as one option.  I added, Spanakopita (Spinach Pie - with and without dairy), Yiouvetsi (Beef Stew with Orzo) and Yemista (Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers) to the request list for day one of "Cooking on Steinway Street".  We're going to dedicate this post to the Gigantes dish.  Let me start by staying that usually the dish is prepared in the oven but due to our schedule we used the pressure cooker to speed up the process.  There are many good recipes for this dish online if you want to use the traditional method.


1 package dried large white beans - soaked overnight
2 tomatoes - diced
1 leek - sliced into small pieces
1 small onion  - sliced
3 garlic cloves - sliced 
5-6 stalks of parsley  - chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable bouillon powder (use a substitute for salt)
1 cup olive oil
1-2 cups of water (use amount as needed)
Pepper to taste 
Piece of Greek feta, for added flavor and some peasant bread to soak up the goodness

The ingredients assembled (sans olive oil and veggie broth)

Aunt Fofi cutting the onion "old school" style.  No cutting board needed, but be careful.

Dicing the tomato

The assembled vegetables.  This could be the vessel that is used from beginning to end.

Due to the fact that we were making several dishes, we used the pressure cooker.  Beans in water to a boil for 10 minutes.

The beans were in the pressure cooker for another 15 minutes.

Start by adding a little olive oil, sweat the onions, leek and the garlic, then add the tomatoes and parsley.

Add the vegetable bouillon and then the drained beans from the pressure cooker when soft.

Add a cup of water and then one cup of olive oil.  

Add pepper and then salt to taste.

The feta is traditionally added for the need for salt (and taste!) and enjoy.

Was an exciting beginning to "Cooking on Steinway Street".  Thanks Aunt Fofi!

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