Sausage Cassoulet with Lotsa Veggies

When the weather is so cold, sometimes nothing will do but something hearty, such as a thick stew, a full-bodied soup, or a spicy chili. I’m talking comfort food. When I am really ambitious, I love to prepare cassoulet as it fits the bill perfectly, but it just takes soooo long to make, and while not difficult, it does involve a lot of steps.

Problem solved. I had clipped the original of this recipe from the October Runner’s World, which featured an article written by an unlikely author, at least to me, for such a magazine: Mark Bittman from The New York Times. I have a few of his cookbooks but did not realize how running has changed his life (and his weight). Reminder to self. You really need to get back to it. Nothing keeps the pounds off like running…

This was one of the quickest dinners I’ve pulled together in quite some time and indeed a complete meal, which we served with a warm whole wheat baguette from Trader Joe’s. Despite the ease of preparation, the flavors melded as if it had slow-cooked for much longer than it did. With a faster cook time, the vegetables had great texture and the cayenne gave it a noticeable but not overpowering kick.

Sausage Cassoulet with Lotsa Veggies

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound chicken Italian sausage
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
2 onions, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2” pieces
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2” pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups canned tomatoes (and juice), chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 can white beans, drained and well-rinsed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and drain off all but two tablespoons of fat. Turn heat to medium, add garlic, onions, carrots, celery, red pepper, and zucchini; season with salt and pepper. Cook five minutes, or until softened. Add tomatoes and juice, meat, and herbs. Bring to a boil. Add beans and boil again, stirring occasionally; reduce heat so mixture bubbles gently. Cook for 20 minutes until mixture thickens. Add cayenne. Warm through.

Serves four.

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