A New Classic: Vegetarian Cassoulet
We all know the class French dish, cassoulet, with pork, chicken, and sausage. It is perfect on a winter’s evening for dinner. But what if you aren’t eating meat? A vegetarian cassoulet is a delicious non-meat alternative to this rich traditional version. While is without meat, it doesn’t lack flavor and fills you up. And what makes this dish even better than the original? It is simple to make and can be on the table in under an hour. The dish is respectable enough to serve on Sunday and to company. Even my meat loving guys enjoy this dish not missing the meat.
Simple Ingredient for Big Flavor
Simple ingredients you may have in your fridge and pantry. It is leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, ground clove, and canned cannelloni beans. I like to use fresh herbs even in winter, but you can substitute dried herbs. I bring my herbs inside keeping them in my mud room so I have fresh thyme, parsley, rosemary, and oregano to use in my cooking. I was fortunate when I made this vegetarian cassoulet last I had fresh leeks from my garden. They were little ones, but so good. I took pride in using them in my dish. The cassoulet has a garlic breadcrumb topping. Depending if I have stale homemade bread, I will make my own or I use store bought bread crumbs.
This really is a meaty dish. You can serve it with a salad and a baguette.
- - 3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
- - 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
- - 2 parsley sprigs
- - 1 bay leaf
- -1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- - 3 cans cannellini rinsed and drained
- - 1 quart water
- For garlic crumbs
- - 4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
- - 1/3 cup olive oil
- - 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- - 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1. Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.
- 2. Wash well and pat dry. Salad spinner is helpful.
- 3. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes.
- 4. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
- 5. Make garlic crumbs while cassoulet simmers.
- 6. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
- 7. Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated.
- 8. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
- 9. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.
- 10. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf.
- 11. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth.
- 12. Season with salt and pepper.
- 13. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.
Dining at a Turkish restaurant, you are usually served a wonderful warm bread called Turkish Pide Bread. It is moist and chewy perfect for hummus and other fresh salads served. My husband grew up eating Turkish Pide Bread in the Netherlands straight from the market stalls. They would eat it with raclette or as they would call it gourmet. We make ours without cheese. It usually is a grilled meat feast where I insist on having a salad and fresh veg to dip in the various sauces. For the past 20 years, when we have gourmet, it would be with French bread. And in the most recent past, I have been making the baguettes with success. My husband mentioned how nice it would be to have the Turkish Pide Bread.
Overcoming Fear of Yeast
I decided to find a recipe and make it. Overcoming my fear of yeast bread making. It was surprisedly very easy. All it is is flour, yeast, salt, water, and Everything Bagel seasoning.
I have been experimenting with proofing my breads. Usually, I leave them out, but I decided to try and making a proofing oven in my oven without a proofing setting. It worked. I turned my oven to the lowest setting which is 170F. When it is ready, I put my dough in a metal bowl with a damp kitchen towel in the oven and shut it off leaving it to do a first proof for an hour or longer. It really works! I’m now making all of my breads this way and have cutdown production time by half. I’m now making my no-knead bread in a day instead of over two days.
Ready to make two loaves of Turkish Pide Bread?
- - 500 grams quality brand of all-purpose flour (or 3.5 cups)
- - 7 grams dried yeast (or 1 teaspoon or 1 packet)
- - teaspoon salt
- -1.5 cups warm water
- - Olive oil to grease bowl for proofing
- - 1 egg yolk
- - 1 tablespoon olive oil
- - As much of Everything Bagel seasoning as you want
- 1. Turn oven onto lowest setting.
- 2. Combine flour, yeast, and salt in mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add warm water. Use a wooden spoon to mix ingredients then your hands to bring the dough together.
- 3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface kneading for 15 minutes until it is elastic and smooth.
- 4. Brush the metal bowl with oil then place the dough in the bowl coating it with oil.
- 5. Spray kitchen towel with water making it damp then cover the bowl with it.
- 6. Place bowl in oven and turn oven off letting the dough proof for an hour or until it doubles in size.
- 7. Remove dough.
- 8. Put a baking tray on the middle shelf then preheat oven to 450F/230C.
- 9. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half then flatten slightly with hands not making it too thin.
- 10. Place pieces on separate parchment paper then stretch into a rectangle.
- 11. Cover with damp cloth for 15 minutes.
- 12. Polk holes in the dough.
- 13. Whisk oil and egg yolk and brush on the pieces then sprinkle with Everything Bagel seasoning.
- 14. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Simple Roasted Sweet Potato Lentil Feta Salad
For the past two weeks, it has been hot here in Newport. Our house doesn’t have air conditioning – units or central – it can get pretty toasty. Not a pleasurable environment to cook anything, but we still have to eat. This is a super simple tasty summer meal. Or nice side to chicken or fish.
I have a Phillips Air Flyer. It makes french fries, baked potatoes, chicken, and donuts. Today, I decided to see if I could roast veg in it. I didn’t want to turn the oven onto 400 and roast for 30-40 minutes. The kitchen was already 86 degrees so adding to the heat doesn’t seem ideal. I chopped up peeled sweet potatoes, carrots, and red onion then combined them with some oil olive and a pinch of chili flakes. Preheat the Air Fryer at 360 or 375 depending on your Air Flyer running it for 10 minutes. Add the veg into the basket. Cook for 10min, shake, then another 5-10min. An air flyer is a worthy investment. Fried foods without the fat and mess.
Let’s talk about lentils. My pantry is stocked with a few different types of lentils such as brown, yellow, and French. This recipe calls for French lentils which can be hard to find. Some grocery stores s stock them, but your best bet is a health food store where they have self-serve bins of beans and lentils. That’s where I found the French lentils was at my local A Mart which is a regional well-stocked natural food store in Newport.
To cook lentils, weight what you need out, rinse, then put in a saucepan. Add the lentils, a bay leaf, salt, and water making sure it covers the lentils. Put on the stove with the lid on high for about 20-30 minutes. Test it along the way. I’m bad at setting timers so I have guess and test.
The question of cheese arises. You can use goat or cow’s milk feta for a vegetarian meal. To make it vegan, you can omit the feta or use a vegan feta cheese. Any way you serve it, it will be tasty.
Roasted Sweet Potato Lentil Feta Salad is super easy to make and is a quick, healthy summer dinner. Want more plant-based recipes? Go here.
Roasted Sweet Potato Lentil Feta Salad
- - 2 large carrots, cut into cubes or sliced baby carrots
- - 1 red onion, finely sliced
- - 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled cut into cubes
- - 3 tbsp olive oil
- - Pinch dried chilli flakes
- - 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- - Pinch of salt
- - 250g cooked French lentils
- - 1 Bay Leaf
- - Feta, crumbled
- - 2-4 hand full of greens
- - Preheat the oven to 400F or 300C. See post for Air Fryer instructions.
- - Put the carrot, onion and sweet potato in a large shallow baking tray, drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and the chili flakes.
- - Roast for 30 mins, turning occasionally, or until tender and turning golden.
- - Make the lentils according to the pack instructions adding salt and bay leaf.
- - Serve lentil on a bed of greens.
- - Top with the roasted vegetables and crumbled feta.
- - Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Indian Fried Cabbage and Peas Breaks the Cabbage Image
Cabbage. This vegetable has an image problem. Cabbage, like many vegetables, has a bad reputation. It has been cooked to death without much thought to flavor. It is known as dreary, boring veg that is served in gulags. It was a poor person’s food. Easily available and cheap. Plenty of butter and salt makes it ok to eat. Back in the day, spices were a luxury, but it is 2019 and spices are abundant. So let’s move away from cabbage boiled to mush. There are other ways to prepare cabbage where you will want to eat it. Without being threatened that there will be no dessert until you finish it.
Sometimes I just buy veg at Aldi on a whim and cabbage was my most recent purchase. I do like a challenge. I had an idea to use a recipe out of the Thug Kitchen for roasted cabbage, but I decided to go South Asian with a curry base. Indian Fried Cabbage and Peas breaks the cycle of bland and boiled. While it is soft, it is bursting with flavor and color. If you are trying to cut down on rice, then this is a good substitute in texture if you chop it finely enough. I used my food processor. It was efficient getting the pieces to a perfect size for quick cooking.
While I love kitchen gadgets, none of my kitchens have been big as well as moving a lot, I have had to be very selective with my gadgets. My Kitchen Aid food processor is twenty or so odd years old and I am glad I have it. It is a workhorse making hummus, sauces, and shredding veg. Gadgets have to have a purpose and used weekly for me to keep them in the kitchen or at all. Guess I am the Marie Kondo of kitchen stuff. My list of must-have for the kitchen is electric tea kettle, slow cooker, toaster oven, stand mixer, air fryer, and food processor. I do not own a hand mixer, an electric can opener nor juicer.
Fried Cabbage and Peas
Back to the Indian Fried Cabbage and Peas. This recipe was quick and simple. Cabbage, cumin seeds, coriander, paprika, salt, pepper, fresh ginger, and green peas. All should be pantry items. I use fresh ginger in a bottle. It is just great to have on hand ready to go into a recipe. Same with bottle minced garlic. All the flavor without the fuss.
While Indian Fried Cabbage and Peas can be the main dish if you add another veg dish such as Okra Tomato Curry. Instead of rice, I served this with Coconut Cilantro Curry Grilled Chicken.
Indian Fried Cabbage and Peas
- 1 Cabbage, shredded or finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive or veg oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin Seeds
- 1 inch ginger, grated or a tablespoon of squeezable ginger
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 cup frozen or fresh Green Peas
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oil in a pan over med-high heat and add cumin seeds and ginger sautéing for a minute
- Add cabbage, paprika, coriander powder and salt mixing well
- Add 1/4 cup water.
- Cover the pan and cook for 8-10 minutes till the cabbage is tender.
- Add in the green peas and cook for another minute or too.
Homemade Hummus Made Fresh
Hummus is a quick and delicious snack or meal. It is easy to stop at the grocery store picking up a tub. While store-bought is good, hummus made fresh is the best. When you make it yourself, it just tastes so much better and you can adjust it to your tastes. Everyone has their own recipe for hummus.
Reader’s Digest Hummus
My hummus recipe came from an old Reader’s Digest magazine. The page is crumbled and covered in stains of olive oil and tahini it has been used so much. You’d think I’d have it memorized after all of those years, but I still need it. The hummus recipe was to be used for a healthy fried chicken recipe so it wasn’t as creamy. While I have that fried chicken recipe, I’ve never made it. I just use the hummus recipe. Maybe sometime soon I’ll make that chicken recipe since it does look rather tasty. I may try it in the Air Fryer.
The recipe wasn’t creamy, but more stick to the chicken kind and that’s what it is designed to do. It was tasty but creamy and smooth hummus is so nice. I had to modify it. Not a fan of the overpowering flavor of garlic, I keep the garlic under control only using one small clove since I’m pretty sure Newport does not have a vampire problem. I add spices like cumin into the mix. I’m generous with all the other ingredients. What I have found the key to the smooth hummus is ice cubes. You blend them in one at a time until you get the texture you want. Now there is a huge debate with the Middle East as to who invented it and who makes it the best.
Not Just for Pretzels
While it is a dip, it makes a delicious spread as the filling of a fresh simple roasted Vegetable Hummus Tart. Serviced with a salad, it makes for a simple yet stunning dinner. It can also be a side such as with Imam Bayildi or Turkish Eggplant Tomato Casserole, pita, and a salad. At BJ’s, the stock really pitas. There are big, soft, and chewy which brings the whole meal together. Simple, fresh, healthy foods.
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 Tablespoon Tahini
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Teaspoon sea salt
- 1 Teaspoon cumin
- 1 Teaspoon paprika
- 3-5 ice cubes
- Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth adding an ice cube for desired creaminess.
Plant-Based Eating – Not Just for Hippies
I’ve been down this road before regarding cutting down on meat in our family’s diet. It is a struggle to come up with varied, filling, and tasty vegetarian meals to serve to my guys that they will eat willingly. It is especially given all that is going on in my life. I’m leading two lives being a history hero by day and a cyber warrior by night. It is all good. I’m using both sides of my brain and regaining awareness of the world around me again I have not had in ages.
Helping the Environment
Being an environmental stewart has been part of my life for decades, but moving to an island has brought it front and center. We recycle, use reusable containers, reusable bags, conserve water, and compost. It isn’t easy in a culture built on ease and convenience. It is tough to remember to bring my own reusable straw. And many places will not fill your reusable bottle if it isn’t their branded cup. As a PR person, I get it from a branding perspective, but as someone who wants to do the right thing, it is frustrating with ending up with a collection of plastic drink cups. Maybe that’s a sign I need to give up my unsweetened iced tea habit from fast-food places. Add in the fact that many grocery stores have everything wrapped plastic, it is hard to get away from plastics. In fact, it seems that everything we use on a daily basis is made with plastics.
Going Towards Plant-Based
Acknowledging the above, we still have a lot more to do. One way we are working towards a more Earth-friendly life is getting serious about plant-based eating. Plant-based eating is being either a vegetarian or a vegan. Now those two words are loaded for people. That is sad since most of the planet, plant-based eating is the norm, not the exception. Meat is a special treat. The terms have become socially and politically-charged in Europe and the US. But over history, there have been movements to encourage people to eat more fruit and veg. I’m a supporter of eating more of a plant-based diet. For me, it isn’t political or a social statement, my body just feels better the more fresh fruit, veg, beans, and legumes I eat. What you eat is your choice and I will never shame anyone into eating plant-based, but I’d suggest you try one recipe a week. Start a tradition of Meatless Monday. We are up about 4-5 days a week now.
Pantry is Key
Outside of how it makes me feel, it is also budget and time friendly. Meat is expensive especially if you are purchasing, for example, natural or organic beef. Beans, rice, and legumes are priced well and you can purchase them in bulk. The key to plant-based eating for me is having a well-stocked pantry. In my basement, I have shelves of canned goods like various types of tomatoes, beans, and coconut milk as well as containers of veggie broth, rice, lentils, and pasta. I keep onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes down there as well. My freezer has frozen veg such as corn, peas, and mixed veggies and naan bread. Types of fresh peppers, cauliflower, cilantro, minced garlic, crushed ginger, curry pastes, cheeses, and other sauces are always in my fridge. On my counter, I always have apples, lemons/lime, avocados, and tomatoes. I buy the spices in bulk I use a lot of at an Indian store or Asian grocery. If one isn’t near you, it is worth it doing one big stock-up making an adventure about it. Go with a list. Once you have the pantry stocked just purchase the fresh items you need. There are times my grocery bill is $20 in a week since all I need is the fresh stuff.
We aren’t 100 percent plant-based. We love dairy products a little too much. And my guys enjoy chicken and pork. (And so do I) Fish is on the menu at our house, too. We aren’t vegetarian or vegan. That would be very hard for us, but as I said earlier we are at 4-5 times a week eating plant-based with some added dairy depending on the recipe. That said we are moving slowly towards plant-based by cutting down on dairy and have cut out beef from our grocery list.
If you are interested in a plant-based diet then I have some easy recipes to start with in my vegetarian section such as Lentil Ragu over pasta pictured above.
Or this recipe for Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos with Avocado-Lime Creme. Simple ingredients to pick up at your local grocery store. I used Indian store chili powder for the sweet potatoes causing it to be very spicy. So depending on where you got your spices, amounts will change. Grocery store chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon is enough, but for me having the Indian store spices which by the way are typically stronger than the grocery store spices, I will need to cut it in half. I forgot to get yogurt so I used sour cream. Also, I used a bagged kale salad with red cabbage. Recipes like this are flexible. Adapt it to what you have on hand.
Black Bean & Sweet Potato Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Creme
- 1-2 medium sweet potato, cubed
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- Flour Tortillas
- 1 can black beans, drained, and rinsed
- Kosher and freshly ground black pepper
- Avocado-Lime Creme
- ½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1 small avocado
- ½ garlic clove or a small one
- Juice of 1 lime
- Kosher salt & fresh black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400° F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil, chili powder, salt and pepper, and spread onto the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- In a food processor or blender, combine the yogurt, avocado, garlic, lime juice, and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Take the Turtle Approach
Take baby steps in moving to plant-based eating. Introduce it slowly into your lifestyle as you build up a pantry and an understanding of what foods you like. The food is colorful and flavorful with lots of different textures. It will be an adjustment in mindset over the meat, starch, and veg approach most of us grew up with as kids. A good documentary to watch is Forks over Knives. Find out what works for you and then go for it.