Saturday, May 10, 2008

French Cooking 1: Delicious Simplicity

When I mention that I like to cook French cuisine, most people I know react either with astonishment, or with a certain "f#$% that fancy French food" look to their faces. Really, I fail to understand how French food always seems to create such diametrically opposed reactions. Either you're amazing, or you're a snob. I think one reason is that so many people think of French food as being long prepped coq au vin, fragile beurre blanc, or the pricey epitome of French retro-chic cooking (à la Julia Child), la filet du bœuf Wellington. As for the negative reactions, well, maybe there's still some post-9/11 anti-French fallout among the "freedom fries" sect. Who is to say?

Myself, when I think of French cuisine, I think of dishes that are simple yet delicious. Take, for example, the cassoulet, simple slow-cooked, bean stew. The stew often includes meat, in the form of pork sausage, duck, mutton, and pork skin. Being a mostly-vegetarian, however, I have searched for, and found, a delicious recipe for a simple and easy cassoulet
de légumes (vegetable cassoulet).

Veggie Cassoulet

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 zucchini, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
3 cups drained cannellini beans, liquid reserved
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 dried bay leaves
4 slices crusty whole-wheat toast

Heat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook zucchini, celery, onion, salt and pepper until soft, about 8 minutes. Mix in garlic and cook, stirring, another minute. Combine veggies, tomatoes, beans, 1/4 cup of the bean liquid, thyme and bay leaves in a 2-quart baking dish. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve warm with toast on the side.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 382 calories, 7.8g fat (1 g saturated), 66g carbs, 15.5g fiber, 19.6g protein.
The only change I really made, was to add a small block of crumbled tofu, just to up the protein a bit more. I also made the cassoulet in my 10-in dutch oven. The cast iron gives a wonderful, rustic flavor to the dish!

Bon appétit, tout le monde!


Elle said...

This looks fantastic! Simple, yet so satisfying.

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

That looks so good. I love simplicity in my food!

Christine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine said...

I have everything stock in my kitchen to make this already. Plus the tofu!Thank you for the recipe & pic. Can't wait :)