Cranberry Bean Stew with Cumin, Grape Molasses and Whole Onions
This dish, called handres stifado, is from the island of Lefkada. Stifado refers to specific stews in Greece, which are studded with sweet, small whole caramelized onions—stifado onions. For a lovingly curated array of Greek ingredients to pair with this recipe, check out my online store here.
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns
- 2/3 cup/160 ml extra-virgin Greek olive oil
- 1 medium red onion very finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 cups dried cranberry or borlotti beans soaked overnight and drained
- 1 cup/240 ml chopped plum tomatoes with their juices or grated fresh tomato
- 2 cups/480 ml water or vegetable stock or more as needed
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon/15 ml Greek red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon/8 ml grape must syrup petimezi
- 10 small onions about 1 1/2 inches/4 cm in diameter, peeled and whole
- Salt and pepper
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Using a small mortar and pestle, grind the cumin, rosemary, and pink peppercorns together. Heat 1/3 cup of olive oil in a medium pot over medium flame and cook the onion until wilted, about 7 minutes, stirring. Add the garlic and stir once or twice. Add the beans and stir to coat in the oil. Add the spices and stir to bring out their flavor. Pour in the tomatoes and 2 cups of water or light vegetable stock. Add the bay leaf, vinegar, and petimezi. Cover the pot and let the beans cook over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours, or until very tender.
While the beans cook, heat 1/3 cup of olive oil in a medium non-stick, preferably cast-iron, skillet. Place the whole onions in the skillet and let them cook over low heat for about 45 minutes, until deep golden and caramelized. Add them to the beans and continue cooking until the beans are done. Check the liquid content every now and then and add water or stock if necessary. The beans should be stewlike and thick, not too soupy. Season to taste with salt and pepper and adjust the flavor with additional spices, if necessary. Right before removing from heat, add the parsley.