Monday, November 19, 2012

War and Giant Beans

After World War II, there was wide spread destruction in Greece. Instead of the people getting together to reconstruct the country, a very ugly civil war took place.  Food was very scarce.  In the countryside things were much better because almost everyone had their own piece of land, a few livestock and farms and gardens. This wasn't the case in the city; not in Athens.  There was very little meat, and the little there was was very expensive.  Hunger and poverty sent the citizens to the small neighborhood grocery stores to buy cheap supplies  to feed their families.  The most popular of all? Beans!  I ate so many beans during that period; at least 3 or 4 times a week. Even though my Yiayia had an endless variety of  amazing ways to prepare the beans, I constantly dreamed of Easter...lambs, roasted lambs, lots of lambs, beautiful crunchy lamb chops, that no matter
what, we managed to have for Easter.  Well, Mrs. Rena, my elementary school teacher, was always asking me to participate in class.  One day, she asked me to share my opinion on  some particular matter. I stood up, my eyes opened real wide, sparklling with thoughts of my constant dream and 
I answered her very seriously. "War is very destructive, it kills people along with many other things, like the sheep around the country.  Greeks should stop this and think twice. Do we really want to eat beans all of our lives? Let's start lookin  forward to a beautiful Easter celebration!   I may have been little, but I had a big dream!  I also had a big stomach ache and had to runout of the room before everybody knew what I'd had for dinner last night!!

Gigantes Plaki
3 1/2 cups butter beans, dried
2 medium onions, sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped dill
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 ripe tomatoes
2 Tables. tomatoe paste
3/4 cup olive oil
4 whole cloves garlic
1/4 cup fine bread crumbs
salt and pepper

     Soak the beans in water overnight. Drain the water, cover with water again and boil the beans for about 20 minutes.Make the sauce by sauteeing the onions and garlic in a big skillet in 2 Tablespoons.of olive oil, add the grated and drained tomatoes and the tomatoe paste and a little water to dilute the tomatoe paste.  Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and 1/4 cup of water and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Put the cooked,drained beans in a baking dish, pour the sauce over and add remaining ingredients, sprinkling the bread crumbs on top .  Bake at 180C. or 350F. for 1 hour.  This can be served as an appetizer or a main dish. The sauce is so tasty-so again, serve with plenty of crusty bread for dipping, feta, olives and red wine.

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