Lenten Greek Bean Salad – Fassolia Salata
“But unless humility, simplicity, and goodness adorn our lives, and are associated with prayer, the mere formality of prayer will avail us nothing. And this I say, not of prayer only, but of every other outward exercise or labor undertaken with a notion of virtue.” —Saint Macarius
Lenten menus tend to feature beans…. lots and lots of beans.
We have two favorite local Greek restaurants, The Plaka and Nostos. For any locals, this dish is inspired by our local Greek Restaurant in Tyson’s…. Nostos which has a wonderful menu with some very traditional dishes, way beyond gyros and souvlaki. The recipe below is modified from the one found in Foods of the Greek Islands, by Aglaia Kremezi, which is more of a salad with a dijon mayonnaise base than this version.
In every recipe in which you use dried beans, take the time to soak them- either in plain water or even better, with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar added to the the beans and water. That this is similar to the traditional methods your grandmother or great-grandmother might have done. They knew a thing or two about cooking and those traditions, well…they lend to maximum digestibility and nutrition.
Traditional peoples whose cuisines were based on legumes prepared them with great care. Beans are soaked for long periods before they are cooked – some varieties in acidic water and some in neutral or slightly alkaline water. The soaking water is poured off, the beans are rinsed. As the beans cook, all foam that rises to the top of the water is skimmed off. Such care and preparation in cooking ensures that the beans will be thoroughly digestible and all the nutrients they provide well assimilated, because such careful preparation neutralizes phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors and breaks down complex-sugars. (Nourishing Traditions)
How did they know this without nutrition fact panels? One reason might be that at that time their food supply had not become so laden with toxic and artificial chemical ingredients and sugars – so our ancestors actually knew how foods made them feel on a more subtle level than do we. They had a cleaner more pure food supply, so their bodies – not having the daily nutritional noise and non or even anti-nutrition -coursing through them -knew when something didn’t sit right. We, on the other hand, are fairly used to not feeling nourished, so it just goes unnoticed.
Soaking also allows the beans to be more agreeable in other ways (if you get my drift!) because it helps break down some of the more complex sugars which are gas causing.
Especially for those larger kidney, northern whites, chickpeas and black eyed peas, a good soak is in order. Soaking your beans does the beans and yourself a favor. First of all, dried beans are a fraction of the price of those canned, so in big families this is a budgetary boon. Further – the soaking neutralizes phytates and enzyme inhibitors that bind the nutrition of the bean, such that we can not absorb it… in some cases, large amounts of phytates can bind to the minerals in the rest of our meal and making them unavailable.
One other note- canned beans do not offer the same benefits as soaking. Canned beans are high in sodium are canned under very high pressures. This does not neutralize phytates and the danger is that such processing denatures proteins and other nutrients at the same time. We do use canned beans in a pinch, but sparingly.
2 cups dried white beans (great northern work well), soaked over night and drained
1/2 cup finely diced shallots, red onion or spring onions
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsely
1 garlic clove minced
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 cup olive oil
Place beans in large pot with cold water covering them by 2-3 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about one hour or until tender.
Combine the beans and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well and let sit for the flavors to combine (about 1 hour).
Serve as a side dish to your favorite meal.