The Greek White Bean Soup, also known as Fasolada, is a traditional Greek dish that is hearty, healthy, and nutritious. This comforting pot of creamy soup is a combination of white beans, vegetables, spices, and generous amounts of olive oil and comes together to make this the perfect option for those cold winter nights.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to interview some restaurant owners in New Orleans about their usage of red beans in the kitchen – particularly the Camellia brand. One set of owners I spoke to were the father and daughter combination at Mena’s Palace Restuarant in the French Quarter. I had a great conversation with Leo and Ellie Christakis, who recently celebrated the 45th anniversary of the family owning Mena’s Palace – which is an amazing accomplishment. Leo Christakis bought the restaurant in the mid-1970s, but the restaurant has been serving New Orleans for close to 60 years.
It was amazing to listen to their stories about everything that they’ve gone through in those 45 years to keep the restaurant open and serving the close-knit neighborhood of the Quarter. 2020 was one of the hardest years for them but they’re getting through this uncertain time and they’re still doing what they do best – treating customers like family, serving large quantities of food, and keeping the menu costs down.
One of the biggest things I took from the interview was how much they love the community around them. The pandemic has certainly put a strain on everyone – especially New Orleans and the tourism and restaurant industries – and Mena’s relies on that foot traffic. They not only need the tourists that stop in but the locals that come for lunch day-in-and-day-out. With all these shelter-in-place orders and limited seating restrictions, plus with the low number of tourists visiting the city, it’s been a struggle. But through it all, Ellie and Leo are confident, positive that this will all turn around, and continue to treat their customers like family.
As of this date, the article hasn’t been published so I don’t want to give away too many details from it. But once the article is published, I’ll share that link to it right here.
All I can say is that if you’re in New Orleans, please stop by Mena’s Palace at 200 Chartres Street in the French Quarter. They currently have limited hours due to the pandemic. You can visit them online at www.menaspalace.com for their full menu and up-to-date hours. Make sure that you follow them on Facebook and Instagram, as well. The pictures they share of the food are amazing. If you’re there on a Monday, stop by Mena’s Palace and order the red beans and rice and sit back and relax. They’ll take care of you.
How can you turn these beans down? Don’t they look absolutely amazing?
During our conversation, Ellie Christakis mentioned that she uses Camellia beans at home while making some of her traditional Greek soups. She said that she uses Camellia brand lentils for Fakes (pronounced fah-kes), and Camellia white beans (like the navy beans) for her Fasolada recipe. I scribbled the names down as she talked about them and thought, with these cold, winter nights, a hearty bowl of soup sounds perfect right about now.
WHAT IS A FASOLADO?
The Fasolada, Greek White Bean Soup, is considered by many to be one of the national dishes of Greece and is a staple in many households. It’s a simple soup. Hearty and packed with flavor. For the most part, it’s white beans, a small variety of vegetables, and lots of olive oil – lots of olive oil. But techniques and ingredients can vary by the different regions across Greece.
The name Fasolada comes from the word, ‘Fasoli’, which means beans. It’s a popular soup that can be traced back to ancient times, and it’s very popular during Lent since it’s a meatless soup.
I’m not sure what part of Greece Leo Christakis and his family came from, and what type of Fasolada they prepare, but there are the red version and the white version (much like a red jambalaya and a brown jambalaya, I suppose). The white version of the soup relies on lemons to give it its unique taste, while the red version consists of tomatoes and carrots. Besides the beans, the common ground between the two seems to be the amounts of EVOO.
HOW DO YOU MAKE THE GREEK WHITE BEAN SOUP?
First, you start with sorting through your Camellia brand Navy Beans. Rinse them off then soak them overnight. The next day, discard that water.
STEP I: I took the same approach to make the Greek White Bean Soup as I do my red beans and rice. I started off by cooking the trinity. But in this case, it’s not a white onion, bell pepper, and celery along with da pope. For this soup, we’re using red onions, celery, and carrots for a classic mirepoix sauteed in heaping amounts of olive oil. Then, we’re adding the garlic, oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes.
STEP 2: Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste and continue to saute the contents of the pot and another 2 minutes. Carefully pour in 6 cups of water, add the Camellia brand Navy Beans and the bay leaves.
To serve, place the Greek White Bean soup in a large bowl and garnish it with chopped Kalamata olives, crumbled feta cheese, and fresh chopped parsley. If you’re feeling bold, add a few extra shakes of crushed red pepper flakes to finish it off – and trust me, you’ll love the added flavor. You can even add an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
What do you think?
This looks great, doesn’t it?
Thank you Ellie Christakis for mentioning this soup because I may never have come across it and really would have missed out on this great classic soup. I still have the Fakes written down and hope to make that one soon.
I love the flavors of the soup itself – the beans, the tender discs of carrots, the spices, the creaminess of the liquid, but what really puts this soup over for me is the inclusion of the chopped Kalamata olives, crushed feta cheese, the additional crushed red pepper flakes, and the fresh parsley. When you take a bite with the combination of everything on your spoon, there is nothing better.
So make sure that when you make this, add those garnishments – they’re just as important.
Have you made the Greek White Bean Soup before? Let me know in the comment section below. Did you make the white version or the tomato-based kind like mine?
Also, what’s your favorite food to order from Mena’s Restaurant? Are they one of your stops when you visit the French Quarter? Tell us about your experience there in the comments.
Greek White Bean Soup
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion diced
- 2 sticks of celery and leaves chopped
- 3 carrots chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 14- oz can diced tomatoes drained
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 lb Camellia brand White Beans navy (pea) beans
- 6 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- ground pepper
- garnish with crushed red pepper flakes chopped kalamata olives, and feta cheese
- serve with a good crusty bread
Sort and rinse the Camellia white beans. Soak the beans overnight or for at least 8 hours.
In a large pot over MEDIUM heat, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and ½ teaspoon of salt, and saute for 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and continue to cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and continue stirring the pot until the paste has browned about 2 minutes. Add the beans, 6 cups of water and bay leaves. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, partially covered, for 1-2 hours, or until the beans have become tender. Stir occasionally to prevent the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Remove about 1 cup of beans from the pot and mash until the beans become a paste. Return the mashed beans to the pot and stir in - this will help make the soup creamy. Continue to simmer the pot until the beans for an additional 30 minutes.
Before serving, remove the bay leaves and discard them. Stir in the vinegar and ½ cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
To serve, ladle the Greek White Bean Soup in a bowl and garnish each bowl with a pinch of crush red pepper flakes, feta cheese, and chopped kalamata olives. You can also serve with good crusty bread. Enjoy!
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KEEP THE RED BEANS COOKIN’!
Eric Olsson is the food blogger of RedBeansAndEric.com. He publishes new recipes and interviews weekly. He has developed recipes and written articles for the famous Camellia brand in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been mentioned in Louisiana Cookin‘ magazine and has had recipes featured in Taste of Home magazine – with his Creole Turkey recipe being runner up in their annual Thanksgiving recipe contest. He lives outside of Detroit, Michigan, with his wife and four children.