Dried beans are a hidden treasure. Well, I guess they’re not really hidden, but you should know that they’re like gold. They’re cheap, healthy, easy to make and have the longest shelf life ever. You can find exotic varieties along with your basic beans — red kidney, beautiful borlotti aka cranberry beans, orca beans, chickpeas… The list goes on and on.

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Like with any dried bean, you would place them in a large bowl with tons of water and allow them to soak overnight to rehydrate. Then, a short boil to soften them and you’ve got perfectly cooked and deliciously nutritious beans. An impatient person’s tip: soak, boil, drain and then freeze the cooked beans in zip-lock bags to defrost and simply use when you need them. I’m telling you, dried beans are not only money saving, but extremely simple to make.

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For this recipe, I was able to find dried Greek gigante beans. Naturally, they were begging for an herby tomato sauce full of dill and oregano. If you can’t find dried gigante beans, large white lima beans work just as well here. The sauce is simmered and added to the boiled beans, then covered in feta cheese and baked into a bubbly gorgeous casserole, which can be served as a side dish or appetizer with crusty bread. If there are any left overs (which I would be surprised if there were), you can heat the beans up in a pan and serve with a fried egg for breakfast.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour (+ 12-hour soak time)
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:
2 cups dried gigante beans (or large white lima beans)
1 bay leaf

For the tomato sauce:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
26 oz can or box strained tomato sauce
1 cup chopped dill
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano OR 1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup water

2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Olive oil, to finish
Chopped parsley, to garnish

Crusty bread, to serve

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Directions:

For the beans:
1. Rinse the dried beans to remove any dirt or impurities, and then place them in a large bowl and cover with tons of water.
2. Leave on the countertop overnight, or at least 9 hours to rehydrate.
3. Drain the beans and transfer them to a large pot.
4. Cover the beans with at least 3-inches of water and add in the bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
5. Once the water is at a rolling boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remember: the time will depend on the kind of bean and how long you’ve soaked them for. Check the doneness of the beans after 10 minutes. They should be soft but not mushy.
6. Drain the beans and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

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For the herb tomato sauce:
1. In a medium sauce-pot with lid, heat olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add in the onions and sauté until softened and slightly browned, about 6 to 7 minutes.
3. Stir in the tomato sauce, dill, parsley, oregano, salt and water.
4. Once the sauce is simmering lightly, turn down the heat to low and cover the pot with the lid. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt.

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To bake the beans and serve:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
2. Transfer the cooked beans with bay leaf and herb tomato sauce into a casserole or baking dish and combine.
3. Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly.
4. Remove for the oven and add the crumbled feta cheese on top. Return the dish to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. The sauce will be bubbly and hot.
5. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.
6. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread on the side.

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