I wanted to make something for dinner that was warm and comforting to go with the distinctly not warm or comforting weather...but I didn't want a heavy stew or something too wintery. Something satisfying but springy! What to do, what to do...
As usual, Epicurious came to the rescue with a recipe I stumbled upon for Vegetarian Cassoulet. It was everything I wanted in a meal for this time of year - a nice French Country dinner.
This is definitely a recipe where you don't miss the meat, and with the protein from the white beans it is something even the biggest lover of meat would enjoy. Adam sure did!.
Gourmet Magazine's Vegetarian French Cassoulet
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1 California bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Salt and Pepper
3 (19-ounce) cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 quart water
For garlic crumbs
4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/ 4 cup chopped parsley
Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and then chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Rinse thoroughly (leeks can be quite sandy/dirty) and dry.
Assemble the rest of your ingredients - leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, herbs and salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp of each).
Doesn't it just look springy?
Heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot and add your ingredients.
Cook until soft and golden, about fifteen minutes. Then add the beans, and a quart of water, more salt and pepper if desired and simmer partially covered, for about 30 minutes.
After thirty minutes use a potato masher to mash some of the beans and thicken the soup. I cooked it for about 10 minutes more uncovered because I wanted it to be really thick. I would also let the cassoulet sit for about ten minutes off the heat to settle and cool down a bit.
While you are cooking the cassoulet, Get your garlic crumbs going. I ended up tearing up my baguette and throwing them in the food processor to get hearty bread crumbs but you could easily just slice the baguette and then chop the slices roughly if you don't have one (that is the joy of a rustic dish like this).
Toss the crumbs with the oil, garlic, salt and pepper and bake in the oven for about 12 minutes, tossing them about half way through so they cook evenly.
Then ladle some of the cassoulet into a bowl, pour a handful of the crumbs on top and voila - a perfect, rustic, springy delicious meal!