Vegan Bean & Sauerkraut Bake

I have a Greek friend who loves pickled cabbage so much that he's been known to use it when making stuffed cabbage rolls! Strange, right? Well, not so much. Greek people love pickled and fermented foods. Here's a short list:
  • Kalamata olives
  • Feta cheese
  • Anchovies (Actually, they're marinated, but it's close enough.)
  • Sea fennel (Kritamo)
  • Beets
  • Capers
  • Peppers
  • Mixed Vegetables (Toursi)
Garnished with chives and chive blossoms.

Back to my friend. His name is Dimitris Sidiropoulos! I know, that's quite a mouthful, but it rolls off the tongue once you practice a few times. In addition to learning about traditional Greek cookery from his grandmother, Yiayia Syrma, Dimitris is a schooled and experienced chef. He worked in various professional kitchens before joining Viking Cruises as a chef. Currently, he is a hotel manager with the river cruising giant, but he cooks when he is home in Thessaloniki.

Greek Easter is preceded by weeks of fasting, mostly vegan, as instructed by the Greek Orthodox Church. For "good" Greeks (like Dimitris) that means enjoying many vegan meals before the fabulous Easter feast. This year, as I perused Instagram, I noticed that Dimitris was cooking a delicious-looking casserole of beans, so I asked him if he'd share the recipe. He was generous enough to share and to allow me to post it here for you to try also.

Beans and sauerkraut? Yes, there's a beautiful balancing acidity from the fermented or pickled cabbage that pairs well with the creamy beans. A genius recipe. Dimitris says that the inspiration came to him from some of the traditional cooking of Thrace, which is a unique area divided between Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria. Can you imagine the mix of wonderful flavors in their traditional food?

Dimitri's recipe uses sauerkraut. The sauerkraut that Dimitris can source is in larger pieces than the ultra-thinly sliced sauerkraut that is available where I shop. We have suggestions for you in the recipe. You can find it here in printable format. Make it easy on yourself and use canned beans, or go the traditional route and cook the beans in your kitchen. Dimitris says the choice is yours.

The following photographs are of Dimitri's dish and then mine. They look similar, but Dimitri's looks juicier with the larger pieces of pickled cabbage. This recipe will yield enough to feed 6 to 8 people, so invite a few friends, break out the good beer and have a feast. Don't forget the Feta cheese and good bread. No meat required. 

I garnished my dish with chopped celery leaves, as Dimitris suggested.


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