First of all, I apologize for the uber-cheesy rhyming title. Second, holy crap, work is busy!!! Wow-I know my job is not one of those “I never had anything to do” type of jobs and I’m always got lots on my plate. But I never knew my job could be as crazy as it has been lately!! Man-oh-man. And our email was down all today and might be down tomorrow. Yikes!! Hopefully all this will ease up soooooooon. Or I might melt. Probably not, but maybe. Ok-enough random shit!
I first had cassoulet when my mom made me a vegetarian version about 2 years ago (I think. My amazing memory is failing me. 😦 ) Cassoulet is a traditional French stew with lots of white beans and pork and duck and other stuff I don’t eat, and all topped with breadcrumbs. My mom’s version was really really good, but I remember standing in the kitchen scraping the breadcrumbs off the top while yelling at my mom that I hate breadcrumbs on things. Sorry Mom-I was going through a moody time (waaay-post adolescent moodiness-does that exist?), and should have appreciated all the time and energy you put into making something just for me! Cause you know no one else in the house was going to eat it. Sorry!! Anyway, it was really rich and tasty and warm and perfect. The beans were so good along with the bits of tomato and leeks. Yum…Mom-do you have that recipe?? However, close to when I ate all that deliciousness, I totally forgot all about cassoulet.
The next time I was it was when I was watching the Cleveland episode of No Reservations on the Travel Channel, Anthony Bourdain’s show. I know he’s not a popular guy around the vegetarian and vegan community (he once called Vegans the Hezbollah-like splinter of vegetarians…I disagree), but I enjoy his show! I’m going to go hide in a corner now and hang my head in shame. But, I can still watch while disagreeing with a lot he says…right? RIGHT??? Well, anyway…he did a show back in the Fall or Winter (really not sure…stupid memory) on Cleveland that I just loved. He painted Cleveland in a very true-to-self way and very honest. He showed that Cleveland is an industrial town that is not really thriving and has had better times, but it is still a charming city with lots of great people and great culture. If you ever catch it on TV-please watch it. I’ve never really seen a portrait of my city so real.
Anyway, part of the episode was Bourdain with his buddy Michael Ruhlman (a fellow Cleveland Heights-er and alum of my Dad’s school) making a cassoulet in Ruhlman’s kitchen. This cassoulet is a bit different than the one my mom made-it is FILLED with pork and sausage and duck and other stuff I don’t eat. I would not have taken a bite of that if you paid me, but I have to admit, it looked darn good. Crusty and full of healthy beans, it was a good-looking dish. And re-ignited my interest in cassoulet, without the animal products, of course.
And then…the good people over at Gourmet magazine smiled on me. Literally. They published a recipe for vegetarian cassoulet. It’s like the read my mind!!! I needed this recipe. I needed to make it. And although I could have just gotten the recipe online, I stole it. Shhhhh. I was at Grand Central last month and was looking through magazines at the magazine store waiting for my train as I often do, and picked up Gourmet. I stumbled upon the recipe and got so excited! It was beautiful and knew I had to make it asap. But, I also knew I was going to forget about it and didn’t want to buy the magazine. (I’m cheap-remember?) So, I very quietly tore out the recipe. Friends-don’t hate me! Don’t think I’m a horrible person!! I never ever do this…I don’t know what came over me! Moving on from my moral slip-up.
So, I had the recipe but didn’t get around to making the recipe till this past Sunday. I adjusted it a bit, made it a little smaller (I didn’t need 8 servings!) and got it underway. The different thing about this particular cassoulet recipe is that it isn’t baked, which makes it less time consuming. And it’s good. Darn good. Worth the moral slip-up good. The cloves gave it a really unique flavor and the entire thing thickened up really nicely. Warm and comforting on probably the last weekend I can make warming food (almost time for summer food!). It doesn’t take a long time and is quite a winner. Lots of beans and lots of leeks and lots of general good-ness. And don’t even think about leaving off the breadcrumbs!!! Mom-I was wrong. The breadcrumbs make the dish. Do you forgive me?
Vegetarian Cassoulet (adapted from Gourmet Mag.)
3 leeks-white and pale green parts, sliced in half into 1/2 inch pieces. WELL WASHED.
3 carrots, 1 inch pieces
2 celery stalks, 1 inch pieces
3 cloves of garlic, minced
lots of fresh thyme
3 sprigs of fresh parsley
1 bay leaf.
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
salt & pepper
1 LARGE can of cannolini beans, rinsed
a little less than a quart of water or veggie broth (I used broth)
1.5 cups breadcrumbs
more olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 chopped parsley
Saute the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, herbs, cloves and salt & pepper (to taste) in olive oil in a large dutch oven. Do this over medium-low heat so you don’t burn it or cook it too fast for about 15 minutes until leeks are totally cooked but carrots are still slightly crispy. Add the beans and water/broth and simmer for about 30 minutes or until it thickens. If it doesn’t thicken, mash some beans with a potato masher.
While the stew is cooking, combine the breadcrumbs, garlic and olive oil thoroughly, spread on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. But, watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn. I almost burned mine. Once removed from the oven, transfer breadcrumbs to a bowl and stir on chopped parsley.
When everything is done, top each individual serving with about 1-2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Consume and think about the guilt you have about stealing a recipe from a magazine at Grand Central Station.