Snails With Gigantes Beans and Artichokes

Nov 9th, 2009 | By | Category: Beans, Cretan, Greek, Greek Wine, How To, Legume, Lemon, Main, Olive Oil, Onions, Recipes, Snails, Vegetables

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This dish features snails. I’m very much aware that this dish will not get a million hits or dozens of comments but it’s a necessary post. If I am to accurately showcase Greek cuisine, I must feature all the traditional ingredients, including snails. My friend Deeba has yet to try snails but I think this dish will make even the most skeptical to want a taste.

Greek cuisine is about fresh, seasonal ingredients where nothing gets wasted. The consumption of snails fits into this equation. Drinking water in Greece is cherished as this land is arid. When I visit Greece in the summer, I’ll see one or two rainfalls and usually the weather clears-up in time to still squeeze in a swim or two.

Rainfall is a gift and welcome by Greeks, a gift. Part of that gift comes the awakening of snails from their dormancy. Worms and snails will crawl out of the ground during a rainfall and although worms are NOT part of our diet, snails certainly are.IMG_1967-1

Last year I picked some snails during Spring and I was the recipient of some sage snail advice from Maria of Organically Cooked. Maria is an ex-pat New Zealander that now lives in Hania, Crete with husband and two children.

This year, I waited until the fall to harvest my snails with the strategy of having meatier snails (and easier to pick out of their shells). Another blogger’s advice I remembered was to place the snails in room-temperature water and then bring them to a boil. This step would not cause the snails to suddenly retract into their shells when they hit boiling water.

Nuria of Spanish Recipes was right…place your snails in room-temperature water and then bring to a boil. I was able to easily pick the snail meat out of their shells!

Eating snails and snail recipes can be found all over Greece but they are enjoyed/consumed alot by Cretans. The only other ethnicity that I’m aware of that eats snails as much as Greeks are the French!

During my vacation in Greece, I met some old friends and made some new ones. One such new friend was  Maryline of En Direct d’Athenes. Maryline has lived & worked in Athens for 10 years, she loves Greece, the Greek people and of course our cuisine. J’adore Maryline’s cooking!IMG_8327

Although in French, Maryline also offers recipes in Greek – her second language (speaks it better than me) and her dishes are true to their Greek nature with a French dame’s touch added. I dedicate this snails (escargots dish to Maryline).IMG_1965-1

This dish comes courtesy of one of Greece’s current wave of chefs/TV personas. Myrsini Lambraki hails from Irakleio, Crete, as does this snails dish. Her recipe comes from the book “365 Places, 365 Recipes” and seeing how this dish is from her region of birth, I assume it to be authentic.

Mirsini’s original dish calls for the use of fresh fava beans but I could not find any in the market at the time of making this dish. I opted for “gigantes” or giant butter beans…a favourite of most Greek households.

The Cretans love fennel (both the fronds and bulb) and I’ve been inserting fennel into more and more of my dishes. I do love it’s mild anise flavour. You may use dill if fennel or anise flavours aren’t your thing.

This dish was made possible in the fall with the appearance of artichokes in the market from lands with opposite growing cycles (below the equator).

Snails are delicious, they are healthy for you. They become a cholesterol-bomb when slathered in butter but not here. It’s good, extra-virgin Greek olive oil. Heart-healthy and delicious.IMG_1972-1

Snails With Gigantes Beans and Artichokes

(serves 4)

500 gr. of Gigantes (dry butter beans)

8 small artichokes (halved), trimmed/cleaned

approx. 1 1/2  cups of snails, washed & cleaned thoroughly

1/2 cup of olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

1 bay leaf

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 cup of fennel bulb, diced

1 carrot, diced

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 heaping Tbsp. of tomato paste

2 Tbsp. of chopped fresh fennel fronds

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place the beans in a pot with enough water to just cover the beans. Bring to a boil and simmer for two minutes and drain (this step will stop you from getting gas).
  2. Put the beans back in pot along with the carrot, fennel, bay leaf and garlic and fill the pot with enough water to cover the contents. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for approx. 45 minutes or until the beans are soft (taste one). Take off the heat and reserve (including the liquid).
  3. Wash the snails and clean them very thoroughly. Place them in a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Strain and repeat two-three times. Reserve.
  4. In a large pot, add your olive oil, onions and saute for 5-7 minutes over medium heat. Add the scallions, artichokes and tomato paste, wine, snails and fennel fronds, boiled vegetables and beans. Add the reserved liquid to just cover everything. Top-up with hot water if needed.
  5. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for about 30-40 minutes or until the artichokes are fork-tender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Divide and plate and serve warm or at room temperature with a garnish of fennel fronds and a lemon wedge.

NOTE: To eat snails, a toothpick works very well. Stick the toothpick deep into the snail’s opening and twist and pull out the snail meat. Don’t forget to suck the juices out of the shell!

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis

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© 2009, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

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28 Comments to “Snails With Gigantes Beans and Artichokes”

  1. pam says:

    Well, it certainly looks good. I’ve never cooked with snails though.

  2. I have eaten garlic buttered snails presented in its shell but alone, never in a dish. So when I saw your snails popping up everywhere, it takes a bit used to the idea. I’m however game to try it if someone cooks me this dish. :)

  3. Cheryl says:

    This does look really, really good. Definitely worth a try!

  4. dawn says:

    hmmm, Peter will Deeba try these? I will if she will. LOL

  5. Maria says:

    I enjoy snails and this dish looks great. Loads of flavor and so many great components. Delicious!

  6. nina says:

    I have planted artichokes for the first time this year, so it will take a while before I can make this…..now I just have to learn to harvest my own snails……mmmm, I don’t know about that though!!!

  7. deeba says:

    The hits are ‘hitting’ your snail post Petaaaaaah my dahling, and with a dedication of the sort (or not), I will be here. No, I will not try the poor snails. Thank you Dawn. Your post is beautiful, though I blurred my eyes on the poor shells. I’m glad you enjoy them & made them look so gorgeous. Shall we meet over the spiced pear cake my friend? Maybe the snails won’t notice?
    EEEEKS Petah…just read the NOTE at the bottom! LOL!!

  8. noobcook says:

    learnt a new cooking tip today. U definitely make them look delicious :)

  9. Happy Cook says:

    If i ake this for my family they will gobble it up. Till now i have only made snails in farlic butter whcih they all love it here.
    Ha ha i love deeba’s comment.
    Don’t forget the belgians, here they love it too, but then the french way :-)

  10. Foodjunkie says:

    My mother and grandmother always used to bend the last tooth of the fork to eat their snails, but a toothpick would work well too (and will not damage anybody’s cutlery…). I have to give snails a second chance. One day…

  11. Foodycat says:

    This looks lovely, but I can’t bring myself to eat snails (except with loads of parsley and garlic). Maybe I could do it with mussels?

  12. grace says:

    i struggle to find the appeal in eating snails, but i’m all about the beans and broth here. the bigger the beans, the better. :)

  13. maria v says:

    good tasty snails in crete are sold all year round
    this dish is very typical of cretan countryside cuisine

  14. Maryann says:

    I love snails and these look wonderful. Would love to try them.

  15. great dish. this is as greek as it gets. I read Marylines blog as well.

  16. Doxasti says:

    Great dish! You should also try “hohlious me hontro” snails with ground wheat, the most traditional of all cretan snail dishes.

  17. I have a mental block against snails but I am totally taken by the flavors in this dish. Replace snails with…?

  18. Anna says:

    too scared to eat these snails. they look like the ones i used to stomp on as a child and im scared of reincarnation revenge. you’d have to take them out of them out of the shells and disguise them.

  19. A..mmm. well, I guess you were right about not everyone liking snails. I have given them a try (ok, only once) but for me it’s like oysters… not something I am likely to get used to. I do love the look of your dish though.

  20. Kat says:

    I’ve yet to try snails but this is a dish that would totally get me to do it!

  21. this is a winner, peter (and myrsini). really pretty, bold yet subtle flavors and snails. yes!! i love the use of the gigantes in this too. we just made a dish w/ gigantes and it’s amazing how much texture they give it.

  22. Arty says:

    Peter, Hi!
    I have to say that I feel guilty I did not e-mail you sooner as I have enjoyed reading your blog for some time and appreciate it immensely. The blog is inspiring and not only to those of Greek origin, but I think, to anyone who is interested in the traditional Greek approach to life and food. Sort of a return to basics,to the simple and modest pleasures of life. Many people find these values in our country and culture. Greece with its authenticity and beauty that you so well describe, offers great pleasure to people who want to step off the beaten path and explore the local way of life. My husband and I took two unforgettable trips eating at seaside tavernas where the owner was the fisherman and farmer who caught the fish and raised the tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, vlita and other vegetables, his wife and daughters were the cooks who brought us the food to the table. We had memorable dinners that ended with Greek yogurt covered with honey and walnut cake courtesy of the owner!
    Regarding your cooking I would like to say that I love its emphasis on natural ingredients and simple but flavorful preparation. I also think that your writing and the way you share of yourself through your traveling and cooking adventures invites the reader along to share your experiences. I love the way the stories and recipes connect. Obviously you have the eye of an accomplished photographer. This site would not be the same without the vivid, enticing photographs of food. There is art in the way you select and arrange food for your presentations and you bring out the appeal of fresh produce and the artistic symmety of the displays of fruits, vegetables, legumes, olives and nuts offered in open containers or hanging to dry in the open air so different from the prepackaged frozen, plastic wrapped offerings of supermarkets. You make it seem simple and approachable but I am sure you put a lot of hard work, passion and dedication in everything you do and you do it with kefi. As one of your readers I am grateful because your site is a bridge to a philosophy of life that I think is Greek. The right to live and enjoy one’s life in the most simple and basic ways.
    I have been enjoying your photographs and travel stories but it was your current posting about Greek snails that really hit the memory button. Reminded me of the time when we harvested snails in Galaxidi, Greece. IIn early fall, when the wild cyclamens popped after one of the protovroxia or first rain we would be looking for snails in the thyme bushes that grew on the hills around the town where we lived. I remember the instructions: Look for female snails or tsoupres. The tsoupres had flat round tops while the male snails or bobolia had more of a dome shape.The thyme bushes had thorns and our hands would get scratched but we ignored the sting and filled our bags with snails and took them home. There we would place the snails in a large lekani pot along with thyme sprigs and a lid weighted down so the snails could not escape. This method gave the snails a chance to release their dirt. We used an old bronze handle of a havani to break the tops that made getting the snail meat out a lot easier. We cooked the snails with fresh tomatoes, sliced onions, a little garlic, white wine and more thyme sprigs. The aroma that came from that platter of cooked snails was the best! And of course, we dunked our bread in that delicious sauce and sucked on the snail shells to get the delicious snail meat out.

  23. Cee says:

    I love snails

  24. Joan Nova says:

    This dish is definitely something I’d order if I saw it on a menu…snails, artichokes, fennel and a white wine broth…my mouth waters. Also that pear cake is pretty awesome looking. Great job of execution and photography, Peter.

  25. Núria says:

    Dear Peter, I’m so sorry I noticed this post so late! As you see, I’m not blogging much lately (I have a brand new nephew whom I want to spoil a bit ;D) Thanks so much for the mention chico!!!! I’m glad my little advise helped in your recipe. I MUST say I love the combo with artichokes. A fantastic dish Pedro :D

  26. MaryAthenes says:

    Hi Peter !
    Εχω πολυ καιρο να περασω, το ειχα δει πριν παω Γαλλια αλλα δεν σου ειχα γραψει διοτι ημουν πολυ βιαστικη… Εκτιμω ιδιαιτερως την αφιερωση σου !
    Ξεφυλλιζω τα τελευταια σου αρθρα, αχ βρε Πιτερ μου, τι ωραια φαγητα μας φτιαχνεις παντα !
    Πεθαινω για τα ricotta dumplings, I have to try them !
    Κατι ειδα με χαλουμι, παω να το φτιαξω για αποψε (τρωμε πολυ αργα…)
    Πολλα φιλια Πιτερ !

  27. Lana says:

    The Chinese love snails, too! Simply boiled and dipped in a spicy soy sauce, or stir-fried with a salty black-bean sauce, are two popular ways to eat them. Sitting down, picking them out of their shells and eating them with slow enjoyment is part of the experience. And, as I explore Korean cuisine more, I realise that they enjoy eating snails as well. You are not alone!

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