Last summer, my 9-year-old daughter went to a weeklong cooking camp. She came home each day with a full dinner for the family, including a main dish, side dish, and dessert. The theme was French cooking, and we tried all sorts of recipes we hadn’t tried before. I did no cooking that week. It was perfect.
The first afternoon of the camp, my daughter brought home a vegetarian cassoulet with mixed greens and chocolate mousse cake. Cassoulet is a medieval peasant dish that was traditionally made with beans and whatever meat was available. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my kids with this dish, but they both ate it. And LIKED it.
That’s quite unusual for a new food in our house. Whenever I introduce something they haven’t had before, invariably one child likes it while the other child doesn’t. I can never predict which child will play which role, but this outcome is almost inevitable.
So when everyone was okay with the cassoulet, I decided to make it again a few weeks later. I’ve made it several times since then, tweaking the cooking camp recipe a bit to suit my family’s tastes. It’s a convenient, healthy one-pot meal full of beans and produce. I added chicken once when I had some leftovers, and that version was delicious, too. But this meatless cassoulet is hearty on its own, and the garlic bread crumbs give it a nice little crunch.
For the Cassoulet
- 1 lb great northern beans or cannellini beans 7 cups cooked
- 3 inch medium leeks white and light green parts sliced into 1/2 pieces
- 5 carrots chopped
- 4 celery ribs chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 4 cups water or broth
For the Bread Crumbs
- 3 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- Cook the beans according to the package directions. Here's my post about how to cook beans. You can alternately use canned beans (rinsed).
- In a large pot, saute the leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in the olive oil with the thyme and bay leaf over medium-low heat, covered, until veggies are beginning to get tender (about 10 minutes).
- Add the beans, salt, pepper, and water to the pot. Simmer gently, partially covered, for 30 minutes.
- While the cassoulet is simmering, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the bread crumbs with the oil, garlic, additional salt and pepper. Spread the mixture in a 9 by 13 inch baking pan and toast it in the oven for about 15 minutes, until golden and crisp. Stir once or twice during the 15 minutes.
- When the cassoulet is finished cooking, taste it and add more salt and pepper if needed. Remove the bay leaf and fresh thyme. Sprinkle with bread crumbs just before serving.
Vegetarian Cassoulet Price Breakdown
This recipe costs a total of $6.49, or $.81 per serving (see Price Chart for details). This is a terrific price for a hearty vegetarian meal that you can enjoy for lunch or dinner.