This is my attempt to reproduce the butter bean casserole they used to make at Mike's Deli around the corner from my grandparents old house near 95th St. & 4th Ave. in Brooklyn. They also had great custard, rice pudding, fish cakes and other stuff. I understand that the recipe may be Greek in origin. It's fairly simple and well worth a try if you can get a supply of butter beans.
1 lb. - Dried Giant Butter Beans (Gigantes)
(you can find them here at Kalustyan's)
26 oz. - Tomato Puree (I use Pomi Strained Tomatoes)
1-1/4 cup - Fresh Dill, chopped fine-medium
2 med. cloves - Garlic, crushed and chopped fine (or use a Zyliss press)
2 Tbsp. - Olive Oil
1-1/2 tsp. - Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp. - Sugar
2 tsp. - Salt
1/2 tsp. - Black Pepper
Soak the beans overnight in a large pot in plenty of salted water. Rinse, refill, re-salt and boil until tender, about 2 hours (they're BIG!). When done, drain and rinse in cold water.
Abut twenty minutes before the beans are done, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the garlic in the oil for a few minutes, then add the tomato puree, then the salt, pepper, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a low boil and simmer for about fifteen minutes. Add all the chopped dill and continue to cook for five more minutes.
Add the tomato-dill sauce to the drained beans and mix well. Transfer everything to large baking dish and place it in the oven. Cook at 375 degrees for about an hour. Remove from oven and let cool.
This dish can be eaten hot, but it's better at room temperature. It refrigerates well for a few days. I haven't tried freezing it, but I suspect it wouldn't work too well. Remove what you're going to serve from the fridge for a couple of hours beforehand to let it warm up.
It makes a great side dish for vegetarian meals, lamb or chicken, and just about any barbecue or picnic situation.