The Cooking Chronicles: Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables

I adore fall – I revel in the brilliant golden hue cast by trees, find the crisp (not cold) air refreshing, and recognize that it is the one season that acts as a yearly reminder to live in the moment – because before we know it, winter will be upon us. On the food side of things (which it always comes back to), I think autumn speaks to me because what I love to eat corresponds most with a turndown in temperature. Light, warm-weather appropriate meals of salads and the like are far from being my favourite. Instead, curries, stews, and lovingly braised meats appeal more to my palate. While I know I need not justify my preferences to anyone, I feel the harvest season is when it all comes together.

So, utilizing some of my farmers’ market bounty, I set to create Mark Bittman’s cassoulet with lots of vegetables, another gem from Food Matters. Unlike some of the other dishes that I mistakenly label “one pot wonders” (somehow, I never consider the rice cooker to be a “pot”), this recipe truly is contained to one vessel. The large saucepan I chose, however, turned out to be not quite large enough, and as a result, I wasn’t able to include all of the recommended stock. The variation turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the sweet tomato juice (I used canned tomatoes) thickened wonderfully as the beans naturally cooked down. I was also afraid that one pound of sausages wasn’t enough considering the large quantity of vegetables, but actually, there was more than enough meat, and more than that, the fact that they were immersed and finished cooking by simmering away in liquid meant that they ended up moist and full of flavour.

Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables

The cassoulet was a hearty, satisfying dish, and like stews or chilis, was even better for lunch the next day. We ended up with six good-sized servings, which helped save me an evening of cooking – always a bonus! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

The Cooking Chronicles: Curried Lentils with Potatoes

My Mum introduced Mack and I to Spice Centre (9280 34 Avenue, 780-440-3334) in Little India the other day. The impetus for this visit was a desire to pick up some lentils for an earmarked recipe of Curried Lentils with Potatoes in Mark Bittman’s Food Matters (here is a very similar recipe from another one of his cookbooks), another one of our “meat alternative” ventures.

What we found, beyond a great assortment of dried lentils and beans, was a fabulous selection of spices. With each small packet priced from $1.49-$2.99, we couldn’t resist stocking up. I mention this because their red chili powder was more potent than any other we’ve ever tried – we made the mistake of adding the usual amount to a tried-and-true chili recipe…and ended up with a dish so spicy I teared up at first bite. Needless to say, we won’t be making that blind measurement mistake again.

Anyway, Bittman’s recipe is a keeper – super easy, and served with rice, makes a comforting meal. The potatoes become fall-apart tender, and the lentils add an earthiness to the dish. And like most curry recipes, it involves the addition of coconut milk – when simmering on the stove, there is no aroma more welcome in my kitchen. Bittman does provide a variation involving chicken, which Mack would have preferred, and myself, having been brought up on curries containing green beans, would add that for an additional vegetable boost.

Curried Lentils with Potatoes

As the nights cool down, I’d suggest you stock your pantry and have this recipe handy as a go-to cold weather meal.