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Published: Tuesday, 3/1/2005

Vegetarian Cassoulet

4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

1 rib celery, coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 15-ounce can great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup cabernet sauvignon or other full- bodied red wine

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper or to taste

1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 10-ounce package meatless frozen sausage or 1 teaspoon light soy sauce

1/2 cup dried bread crumbs

Sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a 2 1/2-quart baking dish. Wrap parsley, thyme, and bay leaf in a cheesecloth bag and tie it with kitchen twine. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir in the beans, tomatoes with juice, wine, salt, pepper, red-pepper flakes, and bag of herbs. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour 1/2 cup water into medium skillet over medium heat. Cook the frozen sausages, covered for 10 minutes, then drain and cut the sausages into 1-inch chunks. (Or omit meatless sausages and add 1 teaspoon light soy sauce.) Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pan and cook sausages, turning them occasionally, until all sides are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Remove bag of herbs from beans and discard. Transfer 1/2 cup of bean mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth, then stir the puree into the remaining beans. Stir in sausage. Taste and adjust seasoning, then pour mixture into prepared baking dish.

Combine bread crumbs with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a small bowl. Spread on top of beans. Bake cassoulet in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until it is thoroughly heated and bread topping is lightly browned. Garnish servings with parsley.

Yield: 4 servings

Source: The Spirited Vegetarian

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