I went to a beautiful casserole party the other night for a sweet friend's birthday. Everyone brought warm dishes of casserole delights, delicious ingredients nestled in earthenware or glass pans. It was the perfect party to get Fall rolling along. I had a few ideas but ran out of time for my initial idea (a cold layered sushi casserole!), so I went with a lovely vegetarian dish: a white bean and leek cassoulet with oven dried cherry tomatoes, topped with olive oil-rich crunchy roasted garlic croutons. To serve, place white bean mixture into your prettiest dish, and top generously with croutons. Don't put the croutons on too early as you don't want them to get soggy. Top with a sprig of beautiful rosemary if you are feeling jaunty! This can easily be a delicious, elegant and filling vegan dish as well - simply omit the butter when making the mire poix (carrots and leeks).
WHITE BEAN & LEEK CASSOULET with OVEN DRIED TOMATOES
3 cans of white cannelini beans
3 large carrots, diced into cubes
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced thinly in rounds
A pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Vegetable broth (I used Whole Foods organic brand, in the Tetra-pak)
A few tablespoons of unsalted butter
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
A bulb of garlic
A crusty baguette
1. Oven-dry 2 cups of halved cherry or grape tomatoes on parchment paper on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Set aside.
2. Next, in oven, roast 1 bulb of garlic with extra virgin olive oil in tin foil, for 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees (or until garlic is soft). Remove from oven, remove garlic from skin and chop finely, setting it aside.
3. While you're roasting stuff in the oven: Combine the sliced leeks, cubed carrots, 1 tablespoon of butter and a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil in a cast iron pot. Cook leeks and carrots on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add 1/4 cup- 1/2 cup vegetable broth to deglaze pan.
4. Add your three cans of white cannelini beans. Simmer on low for 20 minutes, allowing beans to heat. Add half of the roasted garlic to the mixture. Use potato masher to partially mash beans into broth and mixture. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
5. Tear apart a crusty French baguette into crouton-sized pieces. Toss with 2 tablespoons or a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, the rest of the roasted garlic and some chopped fresh parsley. Bake in oven until crispy, 15-20 minutes on 325 degrees.
6. To assemble: fold in oven dried tomatoes (reserving a few for decoration), to bean and leek mixture. Top with garlic and parsley croutons. Place a few dried tomatoes amongst the croutons, and sprinkle with some more fresh, finely chopped parsley. Decorate with two sprigs of fresh rosemary, and serve!