Here is traditional French comfort food, a bistro-type casserole that usually includes sausage and other meats along with slow-baked beans, vegetables, and herbs.
This luscious vegetarian version uses cooked-ahead or canned beans to make it fast but still filled with nourishment and real French taste.
Bring on the cooler weather if it means wonderfully warming food like this!
1 cup pearl onions, unpeeled
2 medium carrots, sliced diagonally
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juices
3 cups cooked Great Northern or other white beans or two 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh marjoram leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly oil a 2-quart casserole dish.
2. Place the onions in a small saucepan with water to cover, bring to a boil, and let simmer until just tender, about 15 minutes (this makes it easier to peel the onions). Rinse under cold running water until cool enough to handle, then peel and set aside.
3. Lightly steam the carrots until softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the onions and carrots, coating with the oil and garlic. Transfer the vegetable mixture to the prepared casserole dish.
5. Add the tomato paste to the skillet and cook over medium heat for 1 minute, then blend in the wine. Add to the mixture in the casserole dish, along with the tomatoes, beans, parsley, thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste, stirring to mix well. Cover tightly and bake until hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
6. While the casserole is baking, lightly toss the bread crumbs in a small bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil.
7. When the cassoulet is done, remove the cover and remove and discard the bay leaves. Top with the crumbs, and return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to brown the crumbs. Serve hot.
Serves 4 to 6.