Like many meat-based dishes, cassoulet (a traditional French stew containing meat and beans) never entered my head, until I saw Gourmet’s Vegetarian Cassoulet recipe in 2008. It caught my eye in part because it used a lot of celery, and I often have half a head that languishes around. I made it several times within the next couple of years, and enjoyed it, but it never became a regular dish for me, and I forgot all about it.
Fast forward to this spring, and my first trip to the farmer’s market in months. Here in DFW we had a very mild winter, and spring came early. The market, the last weekend of February, already had the first asparagus of the season, along with a mix of winter and spring veggies. I tried not to overbuy, but inevitably I ended up at home trying to decide what to do with everything.
I had two bunches of small celery plants, spring onions, and carrots, and as I looked at them the recipe for the cassoulet came back to me, and I decided that it was the perfect way to use and enjoy my bounty. I chopped the vegetables while cooking other dishes, storing them in a container until a day or two later when I was ready to make the dish.
Pre-chopping the vegetables definitely made this a quick dinner, cooking start to finish in under and hour, and mostly hands-off. I also used crushed garlic bread that I’d frozen (part of the leftover garlic bread I used in this casserole) instead of making my own breadcrumbs, although usually I do make my own.
It is an interesting dish, hearty without being heavy and definitely satisfying, although without any strong flavors. I suspect this is why I have been ambivalent in the past – it definitely needs the flavors punched up a bit, which I didn’t do this time around. The breadcrumbs, with their strong garlicky flavor, definitely help make the dish, but the stew itself needs to be a little more vibrant. That being said, it is still strangely addictive, and I was really bummed when I finished the pot. It’s definitely on the list to make again, if the weather will drop under 75.
Recipe adapted from Gourmet
- 5 spring onions (about 1-2 cups chopped)
- 3 small celery plants (about 2 cups chopped)
- 20 small carrots (about 2 cups chopped)
- 9 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 to 5 sprigs thyme, or a small handful
- 2-4 parsley sprigs
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 cans cannellini beans, rinsed
- 4 cups vegetable stock or broth, or water
- 4 cups coarse breadcrumbs from a fresh baguette
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley