Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vegetarian Cassoulet

One of the most rewarding perks of living in California is the amazing produce we can get pretty much all year round. Many Californians are fortunate enough to have year-long farmers markets that are fully stocked with fresh and local fruits and vegetables. So it's not surprising that one of my main goals for this blog was to post recipes for foods prepared with these seasonal ingredients. Sounds simple right? Maybe for some, but for me? Not so much. Things come up. Interviews, presentations, deadlines. A certain advisor sends a certain angry email regarding a certain thesis that should have been finished some three weeks ago. See, things come up, and although I made this cassoulet a while back, when it was more probable to find fresh local leeks, here I am weeks later finally posting about it, and guess what? thesis is still not done (ssh...don't tell the advisor!)

I have been fascinated by cassoulets ever since I saw a Julia Child recipe in her Menu Cookbook. Julia's recipe is definitely not for the faint of heart. It requires 3 types of meat- pork, sausage, and goose (I'm not even sure I know where to buy goose from). The recipe also states that it requires more than 4 hours of cooking time (plus more for preparation). That's the required time for normal people, so for someone like me, this recipe would take oh, roughly...4 days. Yup, that sounds about right.

One of these days (I'm thinking maybe sometime around retirement?) I'll try Julia's recipe, but until then I will definitely be making this simpler vegetarian version often. It takes about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish - including preparation (and yes, even for me!) and is so delicious and hearty that even my carnivorous BF didn't miss the meat. Although I'm sure a few chunks of chicken or sausage wouldn't hurt a thing, and would certainly bring you one tiny step closer to Julia's version.

Vegetarian Cassoulet (adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Gourmet)
For cassoulet:
2 medium leeks (spring leeks work well, white and pale green parts only)
1/2 large onion, diced
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 (I used home-dried thyme sprigs)
4 parsley sprigs
2 Turkish or 1 California bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 (19-ounce) cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained or 4 1/2 cups cooked dried beans
1 19-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juice
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart vegetable broth

For garlic crumbs
4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley

To make cassoulet:
Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, then wash well and pat dry.

1. Cook leeks, onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaves, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes.
2. Stir in beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, then stock, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.

To make garlic crumbs while cassoulet simmers:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.

To finish cassoulet:
Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.


  1. Hey Ms. Meanie, this cassoulet sounds wonderful. Oh, and I still see plenty of pretty leeks around here-probably all from California though, which is not local for us.
    I hope you get your thesis done soon-you need to get that off of your plate, so you can worry about other things! Ooh, I'm not trying to be a bossy witch though (smile)...

  2. deve essere buonissima! complimenti! ciao!

  3. Love the colors of veggies in the bowl...vibrant!

  4. Have I mentioned how jealous of you I am about this whole California business? Leeks are still kind of in season here since NY is quite a bit behind you guys! Which means I am lucky enough to still be able to make this fabulous dish!

  5. Yes, I have California Envy - it's true! I am totally making this in the next week, since my Husband is on the healthy foods kick that he gets on every so often (which is happy, happy news for me, since I can get him to eat all sorts of things!!!), and I think if I add a lone chopped up sausage (I am in Wisconsin, after all...) we will all be very satisfied with this!

  6. Wow! This looks AWESOME! Usually casseroles come out look ugly, but yours look amazing.

  7. the time-intensive, meat-happy version doesn't particularly appeal to me, but your batch most definitely does! it's the type of comfort food that's not completely sinful, which is quite a bonus. :)

  8. My oh my am I going to love making this. I've never made a cassoulet without meat, but this looks divine. It may be summer here, but I would love a bowl of that tonight!

  9. The cassoulet looks wonderfully deep. The leeks appeal to the Welsh girl in me.

  10. Wow - this looks amazing! I might be stealing this - lol.

  11. Your cassoulet looks amazing, especially with those crisp crumbs on top! I find the original version quite heavy, and fatty, so this one is more appealing to me. Maybe in a couple of months leeks will actually be in season here!

  12. I have everything to make this soup except leeks and thyme. This soup looks so yummy! I've never heard of Turkish bay leaf. Will be keeping an eye for this one!

  13. I'm a meat lover but your cassoulet appeals to me, it looks so hearty and delicious! I have never made cassoulet before, I'll try your version of this dish and the Swedish cake too :)

  14. Je découvre ton blog.
    Intéressant. Je reviendrai.
    See soon.

  15. Interesting...I've never heard of 'cassoulet' before. Do u eat it as is or with bread?
    I love the 2nd and 3rd photos - very nice colours!

  16. Mmmm, that looks yummy. I was a vegetarian once and I still enjoy this kind of meals. Have a wonderful day. :) Petra

  17. Looks wholesome and Perrrfect for winter!! thanks xxx

  18. This looks absolutely delicious and because of you I was inspired to look up Cassoulet. The other day, I was in the produce market near me and wondered, "what could I use leeks for?" This is my answer.