Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Vegetarian Tonight

Oh the Holidays have come and gone. Some of us are feeling nostalgic, some worn out and some a little fatter then when we started. If the thought of another cookie, cake or drink makes you queasy; jump on the bandwagon. Joe and I, in our travels this holiday season, visited a few states, and ate and drank a lot. In the car ride back up to Maine, we decided we needed a little digestive break from all the food we had eaten in the last week; pounds (yes pounds) of bacon, heaps of cookies and piles of junk that we do not regularly consume.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every minute of it. And to balance things out, Joe and I did manage to take some cold and icy walks around neighborhoods and orchards when possible. The addition of a blizzard on the East Coast allowed us to spend one morning shoveling, and one evening digging out a parking space in Astoria. So in my mind things almost worked out evenly. Or at least that’s what I am telling myself.

In order to get ourselves back on track we both agreed to a week of vegetarian meals. Well, I thought we had agreed to an entire week’s worth of meat free-whole grain-veggie loaded entrees to fill us up and clean us out. But I may have been one-sided in that conversation. I had visions of winter greens, tempeh, spelt and more floating through my head, while I’m pretty sure Joe had one meal of pasta without meat sauce floating through his.
Sunday night began our foray into meatless dining; fusilli from the Fairway Grocery in New York and an organic jarred pasta sauce that we tossed together quickly after six-plus hours in the car. Monday night we delved even deeper with mustard crusted tofu and gingered kale and sweet potatoes. Yes, this may have been too much for Joe. But I have made it before and I really love this dish. I may even share it with you here at some point. I did accidentally utter the word ‘vegan’ when preparing this meal and that, I think, was the tipping point for Joe.
So when I walked in last night with three giant leeks and a brocco-flower, Joe had a horrified look on his face. I told him I was going to make the Vegetarian Cassoulet he had enjoyed in the past. That look on his face softened a little, but returned full force when I told him I thought I would do a veggie-only stir fry the next night.
‘Vegetables only?!’
‘Well, yeah. We agreed to eat vegetarian all week.’
‘I thought we meant only a couple of nights.’
Apparently 4 nights in a row was too much for Joe. So I told him we could add in the Maine shrimp I just bought and he reluctantly agreed. This conversation, I believe, dulled his enthusiasm for last night’s perfectly respectable meal. The vegetarian cassoulet is very good, hearty, filling and flavorful, but never-the-less; meat-free. Had I made this in an ordinary week, free of vegetarian ideals, Joe would have loved it. And in fact, I have added in chopped ham if I am feeling sorry for Joe. But not last night. When I asked Joe if he liked it and said that I didn’t even notice there was no meat in it. Joe replied, ‘It’s good, but I still know there’s no meat in it.’ I’ll let you make up your own mind.

Vegetarian Cassoulet
As adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2008

This is an easy meal that stretches a long way with cheap ingredients (also handy after Holiday spending). I like to use a mixture of beans, but you can use all cannellini if you prefer. Plus, you get to put garlic breadcrumbs on the top of each serving, which may be the best part. I might start putting garlic breadcrumbs on my cereal.

¼ c. olive oil
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, chopped into ½” pieces
3 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and then cut into ½” pieces
2 large celery stalks, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1/2 “ pieces (see a pattern here?)
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves, garlic, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried parsley
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
3 cans beans (Cannellini, pinto and butterbeans is what I used), drained and rinsed
1 quart vegetable stock or water

Garlic Breadcrumbs
½ c. breadcrumbs from day old bread, or toasted bread that you make into crumbs
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 Tb. olive oil
Dried Parsley

For the Cassoulet:
Heat olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat. Add in all of the vegetables and cook about 5 minutes, until they are all heated through. Then add the thyme, parsley, cloves, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and continue cooking until some of the onions start to turn golden, about 15 minutes.

Next, add in the beans. Stir to combine, then pour in vegetable stock or water. Bring cassoulet to a simmer and cook, slightly uncovered for about 30 minutes, until the carrots are tender.

While the cassoulet simmers, prepare the garlic breadcrumbs. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine the crumbs with the olive oil and salt (to taste) and parsley (for looks) in a bowl. Spread the crumb mixture onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden brown and crunchy.

Just before serving, mash some of the beans with a fork on the back of your stirring spoon, to help thicken the stew. To serve, place cassoulet in individual bowls and top with garlic breadcrumbs.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion or question.