I don’t watch much TV, but when I do it’s almost always one of the following:
1. CNN with my tea and breakfast on the weekdays, no exceptions
2. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Cobert Report hour
3. Project Runway
4. Competitive cooking shows (ie. The Iron Chef, Top Chef, etc.)
One recent show that pulled me in was The Next Food Network Star. Strange, I know, given that the Food Network is wont to showcase all things meat and cheese, but I enjoy watching people get creative with their ingredients. I find that it inspires me to get into my kitchen or onto our grill and try something new.
Such was the case with this recipe. I have to expose my non-Foodie ways and admit that I had never even heard of cassoulet before the Throwdown episode of The Next Food Network Star, wherein the final four contestants got paired off and had to make not only their signature dish but attempt to outdo their competitor’s signature dish, as well – all in 45 minutes.
Lisa Garza, the prim and proper reincarnation of Martha Stewart, declared her signature dish to be cassoulet. To me it seemed a given that she would choose something French for her dish. She described cassoulet as being “beans and sausage” and a comfort food. Interesting. By the time she was done (and Bobby Flay declared her cassoulet to be the best he’s ever had) I was hooked. This was a dish that would be mine.
Veganizing Lisa’s cassoulet recipe was surprisingly easy. Her original recipe can be found here. I cut back on the amount of oil and garlic, I exchanged her sausage and chicken stock for their vegan counterparts, and I replaced her spinach pesto with my basil pesto. I was happy to be able to use herbs straight from my garden for this dish. (On a complete aside: if you do not grow your own herbs, I highly recommend that you change that right now. If you don’t have a garden plot, herbs grow just as well in pots on a windowsill. Fresh herbs snipped from the plant moments before use in a recipe adds a freshness to food that con not be replicated by store bought herbs.)
In the end, I must say that this dish is pretty amazing. It looks fancy and like it took a lot of work, while at the same time it is very comforting and flavorful – and it only took about an hour. I made this for us after work one day – while it simmered I was able to take care of other things around the house (I love recipes that allow me to multi task!) It also makes fantastic leftovers for lunch the next day.
(I must apologize for the subpar photos for this post – they most definitely do not portray the loveliness of this dish!)
White Bean Cassoulet
Recipe adapted from Lisa Garza from The Next Food Network Star
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 herb bouquet tied with string: 4 stems fresh rosemary, 8 stems fresh oregano, 10 stems fresh thyme
1 dry bay leaf
2 cans white beans
2 quarts Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base
4 links Field Grain Co. Spicy Italian Sausages
1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook until lightly browned at the edges. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds
2. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the sausages. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes.
3. While the beans and vegetables are simmering, heat a small amount of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Brown the sausages on each side, remove from heat, and slice into ¼ inch slices.
4. Stir in the sausage and cook for 10 more minutes.
5. To serve: ladle into bowls, top with a dollop of pesto, and serve with a crostini.
1 French baguette, cut into ½ inch slices
A few tablespoons olive oil
A few teaspoons nutritional yeast
1-2 cloves garlic
1. Heat the oven to 400F.
2. Lightly brush each slice of bread with olive oil. Sprinkle each slice with nutritional yeast.
3. Place the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes on middle rack.
4. Remove bread from oven, and rub each slice with the cloves of garlic. Serve warm.