Turkey Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet

The white bean cassoulet at a local French Bistro, Martel, is one of my favorite dishes. Even the guarantee of garlic-breath does not deter. And though I like to think it’s healthy – what with the white beans and escarole or spinach – I know in my heart (sorry, pun intended) that this oil-butter-laden dish is, in truth, not a healthy choice.

Fast forward to our annual New Year’s Eve pot luck dinner. A friend whose teenage daughter is coping with very high cholesterol brought a vegetarian white bean cassoulet that was scrumptious. And healthy. Totally amazing.

In fact, this was so good, we all asked our friend Lisa for the recipe. When she replied, “Oh, it’s the cassoulet from Martel,” I snarked something like, “Um, what? You asked for the recipe and they gave it to you?”  Lisa’s puzzled answer was, “No, I just made it.” A month later, I’m still astonished (ok, jealous) that someone who is not a chef can conjure a recipe to match something they’ve tasted.

The next day Lisa emailed us her ‘recipe,’ the vagueness of which made me literally laugh out loud. It seems that someone with a creative mind brilliant enough to replicate a restaurant dish from scratch may not also possess the attention-to-detailedness to scribe it into a recipe others can follow.

With LASIK eye surgery looming (hence my blogging absence the last 2 weeks – all went well, sorry for the lapse!), I needed a few dishes to make ahead & store in my fridge for easy, lo-co lunches and dinners. In the weeks approaching my surgery date, I found a ‘cassoulet’ recipe on Epicurious, and married it with Lisa’s vague ‘White Bean Cassoulet’ directions.  I made it 3 times – sometimes with sausage, sometimes without – until I had a recipe with clear steps.

Though not technically a cassoulet as it is not slow-cooked (about 1/2 hour or 45 minutes), this tastes great and is easy to make. My teenage son even gave the sausage version a thumbs up – though he ate around the beans.

The following is a recipe made with Turkey Sausage (you could substitue chicken sausage – of any flavoring you like) and I included a vegetarian version on my recipes page.

Going Lo-Co Turkey Sausage & White Bean ‘Cassoulet’
(adapted from Lisa Goto & Epicurious) 

  • 1 package Shady Brook Farm Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage Links
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 onions, minced
  • ~1 TB Grapeseed or Olive Oil (could use less)
  • Tomatoes: 1 lb Campari tomatoes, halved (or plum/medium-sized tomatoes, quartered)*
  • 19 oz can of white beans – cannellini (or Navy or Great Northern), rinsed and drained.  Could use 2 cans.
  • 6 oz baby spinach leaves (can use more)
  • Asiago (or freshly grated Parmesan or Romano Pecorino) cheese to taste
  • OPTIONAL: 1 ½  teaspoon mixed chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme and/or sage, or ¾ teaspoon mixed dried herbs, crumbled.
    *    The Epicurious recipe calls for a 14 ½ oz can of diced tomatoes including juice – so you could use that, though I’ve not tried it.

Preparation

  1. Mince garlic, onions and slice tomatoes in half.  Rinse and drain beans and wash spinach if needed.
  2. In medium skillet brown sausages in oil over moderate heat, turning them until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  3. In same skillet (add a bit of oil if needed), sauté the onions and garlic in the oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and clear – about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add herbs if using, and the halved tomatoes (or canned tomatoes, with juice) and cook until the tomatoes basically melt down – about 5-10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cut sausage into 1/4 –inch-thick slices.
  6. Add sausage, beans and cheese and cook until cheese is melted – about 3-5 minutes
  7. Add spinach and keep on heat, stirring, until spinach leaves are lightly cooked.

Enjoy… great with a nice, crusty bread!

 

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The Beans and Cabbage Lunch

So…the White Beans with Cabbage, Pasta, and Ham. How was it for lunch?  Well, um, OK I guess, but unlike most leftovers it was not better the next day.  In fact this was, if anything, blander.  Not an easy achievement.

That said, for a quick, no-plan lunch this recipe worked well enough that I downed it 2 days in a row.  And its Tupperwared existence in my fridge saved me from having to think about lunch: a big bonus, as I was on conference calls through lunch both yesterday and today.  (Yes, I mute the call while chewing.)

However, my back-patting, ‘Wow, I am doing well with this Lo-Co thing’ was short-lived.  At 6pm I realized we were all starving and I did not have one single idea for dinner.  Not a plan.  Not a thought.  Not a clue.  And certainly not a single Lo-Co idea.

And shockingly, just opening my fridge and staring did not make dinner dance right on out to the table.

So I texted in an order to Five Guys Burgers & Fries (needless to say, my son was delighted).  And no, a veggie burger is not on my ‘favorites’ list there.  Though I guess now I need to at least give that bad boy a try.

I will say this, though, about my dinner-lapse.  It did provide just enough intestinal fortitude to ward off the Phish Food ice cream calling to me while prone on the sofa watching The Biggest Loser on the DVR.

And that has to count for something.  Right?

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My Dinner With Beans

So I don’t really know yet what I’m really supposed to DO to lower my cholesterol (I like a plan, with steps!), but I know that eating more fiber and less animal fat is important, so I looked through Mark Bittman’s fabulous book, How to Cook Everything, and decided to go with his White Beans with Cabbage, Pasta and Ham recipe for our first lo-co dinner.

Yes, it had ham.  I get that doesn’t make sense.  But here’s what I figured — though this recipe does not fit with the NO animal fat plan, it has to have way LESS FAT than a regular meat and potatoes kind of meal.  I could be wrong (this recipe doesn’t show nutritional info), but hey, it also had beans…  So at least it was a positive step.

Why this as my first Lo-Co recipe?  Especially since I don’t even like ham all that much?  Well, because I figured if my very first ‘bean dinner’ had ham in it, there was a chance that my son would try it.

And he did!

OK, so he didn’t love the dish, but he liked it…a little.  Even ate a decent amount of it, before I told him he could switch to an alternate dinner (he just plain needs calories, this kid).

And here’s a bonus:  by doubling the pasta called for in the recipe, I had already prepared an emergency second dinner for my son (which, as mentioned, was called into immediate play) – without one minute of extra work.

Love that.

My husband and I liked the dish too – for something with cabbage (not on either of our Top 10 lists), it was decent.  Not great, but pretty good.  And, you know, that is not bad – not bad at all – for a dinner based on beans.

Today, I’m planning to have the leftovers for lunch.  And I love nothing more than dinner for lunch.

Except for maybe ice cream.

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