Monday, October 21, 2013

Beany, Baby

I've been reading "Mastering the Art of French Eating" by Ann Mah, the story of the year she spent alone in Paris while her diplomat husband was posted to Iraq on an unaccompanied mission. It's a fun read for a couple of reasons, and her chapter about cassoulet got me thinking about using more beans now that fall has arrived. Our nutritionist recommends them as well.

So, I got busy inventing a bean dish. Of course, it's impossible to invent a dish - everything has been done before - but it was new to me so I think of it as my own idea. I was inspired by tagines I had in Paris in a tiny little North African restaurant where the owner was the chef and the server, too. He would likely have used chick peas rather than beans, but My Beloved has a deep, abiding loathing for chick peas, and beans are more French anyway, so I used beans. Our North African host poured mint tea into tiny cups from on high, at least a foot above the cups, and never spilled a drop. Indelible memories, that's what Paris makes. 

We had purchased some spicy lamb merguez sausages from Bel Campo meats in Larkspur Landing and they seemed like the perfect foundation for a beany sort of a dish, since the beans would help to calm the spice. I browned them in olive oil in a large ovenproof casserole, then added spears of onion, rough chop of garlic, thick chunks of zucchini, two cans of cannellini beans, (one drained and one with its liquid), and a generous drift of herbes de Provence. 

Into a 300 degree F oven for about 90 minutes. After 60 of those minutes, I raised the oven temperature to 350, since things did not seem to be progressing as fast as I might like. 

It needed salt at the table, but it was otherwise just as I had hoped. The zucchini all but melts and its dark skin gives a tiny bite of bitterness to the dish. The herbes de Provence lend that deeply funky herbal quality that I love. The onions and garlic sweeten as they soften. The merguez bites were nicely spicy, not painful, but they got your attention. And those creamy beans framed all the other ingredients in velvet.

I'd make this again and again. Love those beanies, Baby!

Merguez Zucchini Stew, serves four

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Olive oil
3 slender merguez sausages, perhaps 1/2 pound
1 yellow onion, cut into wedges through the root end so they stay together
2 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 cans cannellini beans, one drained and one undrained
4 small zucchinis, cut in chunks ( cut them in about 1" triangles)
About 1 Tablespoon of herbes de Provence

In a large Dutch oven or heavy ovenproof casserole, brown sausages in a little olive oil. If they render too much fat, pour out some, but keep at least a slick of that flavorful fat to add richness to the dish. Lower the heat, and add onion and cook until it colors from the sausages and softens a little. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, being careful not to let it burn. Add the beans, the zucchini chunks and the herbes de Provence, cover, and slide into the oven for about 90 minutes.

With a big spoon, dig down until you get some sausage, some veggies and some beans for each serving.


Blogger Greg said...

Beans and more. Thanks for the mention of Merquez I've been wanting to try it.

Monday, October 21, 2013  
Blogger Namastenancy said...

I have made cassoulet in the past and didn't much care for it - too heavy for my taste. But your version sounds just right. Completely OT but the new exhibit of Korean art at the Asian looks fab! I will be previewing it tomorrow but if you are interested in coming to the city, we can "do" art at the Asian and have lunch. It's been a while!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Greg, I think you'd like it, as long as somewhat spicy is something you and Avril enjoy.

Nancy, it's really a wintery dish, good for rib sticking. When it's made well, it's absolutely delish, but making it well is not quick nor easy.

I'd love to "do" the Asian exhibit tomorrow. I've sent you an email about that, asking where and when to meet up.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013  
Blogger Diane said...

Another Paris book I'm putting on my list. Just bought three, can't wait to start them. This sounds lovely, especially for the cooler weather.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Diane, I am deeply envious of your Paris trip. :-)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013  
Blogger Katie Zeller said...

We love beans - well, I love them more than mon mari... But we are both very fond of cassoulet - which takes a very long time to make but is worth it, too. This looks like a great, quick version. And I have sausages in the freezer,

Thursday, October 24, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Katie, I thought so much about cassoulet after I wrote this post that I'm partway through making a big batch of the "real thing" now. Using chicken thighs instead of duck confit - I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thursday, October 24, 2013  

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