In Greece, the name for these dried beans is gigantes; they’re available here in Greek special markets. Diane Kochilas writes in “The Country Cooking of Greece” that the recipe comes from Epirus in the northwest.
1/2 pound dried Greek giant or elephant beans, picked over, soaked overnight in water to cover, and drained
2 pounds fresh spinach, stemmed, washed, spun dry, and chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 leek (white and tender green parts only), chopped and well rinsed
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups crumbled Greek feta (preferably goat’s milk)
2 cups canned plum tomatoes, drained and seeded
1/3 cup coarse dry white bread crumbs
1. In a large pot, combine the beans and enough water to cover them by several inches. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 1 hour or until they are tender but still have some bite.
2. Meanwhile, in a colander, combine the spinach, dill, parsley, and leek. Sprinkle with salt. Set the colander in a large bowl. With the palm of one hand, rub the mixture against the colander holes, almost in a kneading motion, for 10 minutes so the greens exude excess liquid. Set a plate over the greens and a weight on top. Set aside for 1 hour.
3. Set the oven at 350 degrees.
4. In a large flameproof casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the greens, 1 cup of the feta, 1 cup of the tomatoes, and 4 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil.
5. Set a strainer over a bowl. Drain the beans into the strainer. Measure 4 cups of the cooking liquid. Add 2 cups to the greens mixture with the beans. Toss well.
6. Spread the remaining 1 cup tomatoes on the beans and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup feta and the bread crumbs. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil on top.
7. Cover and bake for 1 to 2 1/2 hours or until the beans are very soft and creamy, but not disintegrating. Add more liquid to the beans during cooking if they seem dry. Serve hot or at room temperature. Adapted from “The Country Cooking of Greece”