Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vegetarian Bean and Apple Cassoulet

Some friends and I recently dined at a new vegetarian restaurant in Vancouver called The Acorn.

There is no denying that it was exciting to go to a restaurant where I could eat everything on the menu! No bits of rendered pork hiding in the salad, grimy beef stock in the "vegetable" soup or beans cooked in lard. The world was my oyster (mushroom) at The Acorn!

I ordered a Heirloom Zuni Bean Cassoulet as my main. Although the flavours were delightful, I couldn't help but be put off by the $18 price tag for a bowl of beans and 2 pieces of crostini. Granted, they were tasty beans. Was it good? Yes. Could they have made it a tad more special for that price point? Oui. Is rent on Main Street high? Probably. Could I do it better at home for a fraction of the price? For sure!

Will I be back to Acorn? I'm hoping so. There were enough good eats there to warrant a return visit. If you are interested in checking it out, here is the menu.

Here is my version of a vegetarian cassoulet- inspired by The Acorn and this Vegetarian Cassoulet from

Vegetarian Bean and Apple Cassoulet
This can be made in less than half an hour if you use canned beans, but I prefer the texture of the cooked, dried beans in this dish and it doesn't really take that much longer if you plan ahead. Serve with crostini or slices of fresh baguette alongside.

1 1/2 cups dried beans (Zuni or other white bean) or 3 cans white beans, drained
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 medium yukon gold potatoes, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 apple, peeled and diced
4 sprigs thyme, stripped from stem
1 bay leaf
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup apple cider or unsweetened apple juice
optional: cooked bacon (veggie or pork for the carnivores!)

Easy to add some bacon for the carnivores...
1. If using dried beans, rinse beans in cool water. Place beans in bowl and cover with several inches of water. Let sit for 6- 8 hours. Drain. Put in pot with lots of salted water and bring to a boil. Turn off and let stand for 1- 1 1/2 hours. Drain.
2. In large dutch oven or soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery and potatoes and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, apple, thyme and bay leaf and saute for another couple minutes.
3. Add vegetable stock and apple cider. Add reserved beans or canned beans and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables and beans are tender. If desired, puree a half cup of cassoulet to make it thicker. A hand blender works well for this.
4. Season with sea salt and pepper and drizzle each serving with olive oil. If desired, garnish with bacon (real or imitation).