Occupy the Grocery Store: Not-So-Giant Gigantes

24 Apr

Let’s play Family Feud. Except in this version, Steve Harvey won’t survey 100 people; he’ll survey just two people. Chef Kefi, RN and her brother, JetSet Kef.

Reasons for a Late-Night International Phone Call

5. Major holiday spent apart and What’sApp not working
4. Conference-call-style advice for a friend trying to recreate scenes from Love Actually to win over his one true love
3. Cooking advice
2. TIE: To find out an easily-googled phone number for drunk pizza delivery/ An update on FARAH’S life

And the number one reason to make a late-night international phone call for the SiblingsKef is:
1. TO INFORM THE OTHER THAT WE HAVE A NEW GREEK FRIEND AND THAT HE IS FROM THE SAME SMALL VILLAGE AS o παππούς μας (translation: our grandfather. And sorry — I don’t know how to use caps in the Greek alphabet yet).

So picture this. Good ol’ Chef Kef is having the time of her little life at the Zaytinya agorá, talking about this delicious Greek honey and rubbing shoulders (literally) with Chef Jose Andres. The Greek Table stand is right next to the Manoli Canoli stand, and I overhear that the oil comes from Sparti, birthplace of the FamilyKef.  This is the classic Greek-American Choose Your Own Adventure scenario: I could FREAK OUT AND DEMAND TO KNOW EXACTLY WHERE IN THE

IMG_0274SPARTA AREA THIS OIL IS FROM (obnoxiously classic Greek-American reaction), or I could play it cool and try to strike up conversation naturally with my new countryman (favored by the nouveau-cool caste of dual citizens everywhere). Bet you won’t need three guesses to figure out which I did.

For once, it turns out that choosing the former worked out–turns out that Manoli Canoli’s owner has a dear friend from the exact same teeeeeeeeeensy village that my family is from. Naturally, I took this as a reason to wake up my very hard-working brother from a dead sleep  half-way across the world and tell him that I know someone who knows someone who is from Potomiá. And there you have it, sports fans. The global village of Greeks strikes again.

In honor of all the excitement, I thought I’d whip up a version of Gigantes, a salad of giant beans and tomatoes that is popular in mezzeria and delis everywhere. I was very sad to find that gigantes are extremely hard to find in the Mid-Atlantic region (seriously–if neither Trader Joe’s nor Whole Foods has them, we’re talking about a rare find), so I subbed the traditional fasiola bean for something called the Great Northern bean, which comes in a can and cost a whopping $0.89. I also switched out the usual flat-leaf parsley for fresh dill, as I find parsley to be a complete and utter waste of an herb. All in all, a delish dish that doesn’t require much of you–just the way we like it.




  • 1 can of Great Northern beans (available at Trader Joe’s) or 14 oz fasiola gigantes beans–if you find them, please tell me where
  • 6 TBS olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 14 oz (1 can) diced tomatoes (fire-roasted is the best)
  • 2 TBS tomato paste, dilute in 1 c hot water
  • fresh dill, to taste (I used about 1/5 a large bunch)
  • black pepper, to taste


1. If you are lucky enough to have gigantes proper, soak the beans in cold water overnight. Then drain them, rinse them again with cold water, and drain again. Cover the beans with cold water in a big pot. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook for about 30 minutes, until they are almost tender.

2. For the rest of us: Preheat oven to 350F. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan, add the onion and cook until the onions become soft, a little golden, and fragrant–probably about 4 minutes. Add the carrots, garlic, and thyme. Stir with a wooden spoon until a delicious garlic smell is wafting from the pan (2-3 min).

3. Stir in the diced tomatoes, cover the pan and let cook on medium for 10 minutes. Add the diluted tomato paste, then add the beans. Add black pepper and dill to taste.

4. Transfer the bean/tomato mixture from the pan and into a glass baking dish. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until beans are tender and moisture has reduced (but mixture is not dry). The tomato sauce will look slightly burnt–this means it’s done!

3 Responses to “Occupy the Grocery Store: Not-So-Giant Gigantes”

  1. musicfairie May 31, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Hey Chrissy, just reading your blog and wanted to let you know that the greek deli on 19th st sells dried gigante beans. i love that place, and i love gigante beans. xoxo Erin

  2. musicfairie May 31, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    Hey Chrissy, just reading your blog and saw this post, i tried to comment before and i’m not sure it worked BUT you can find gigante beans at the greek deli downtown on 19th street. looove them. xoxo


  1. Grapeleaf Pie + A Few of My Favorite Photos | Cooking Up Kefi - April 26, 2013

    […] pie last night and it took all the willpower in me (which is, admittedly, not much) not to place a late-night international phone call to JetSet Kef for the third time this week. HOW HAVE I NOT THOUGHT OF GRAPELEAVES AS A SUBSTITUTE […]

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