Fresh Summer Cassoulet w/ Gluten-Free Bread

More than a year ago I wrote this post, in which I talked about a vegan cassoulet I had at 29 Palms, in Joshua Tree. The chef gave me directions, which I documented with every intention of giving it a shot. But then life intervened. First I had to move. Then the summer was insanely hot, so that the very last thing I wanted to do last summer was spend time in the kitchen. Finally, I was me eating cassouletalways rehearsing.

All of that seems like it happened far more than a year ago. Wow. So much has changed. For example, I cut off my hair. See, there I am, last night, just about to dip a piece of gluten-free bread into the cassoulet. With really short hair. And not yet knowing whether the food had turned out as planned or was going to bomb. Nervous. Hopeful. Happy to be with people I love. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Cassoulet. Bread.

Until a couple of weeks ago my plan of recreating that delicious vegan cassoulet had fallen completely out of my mind. But I remembered it I was trying to figure out what to make for a dinner party I was co-hosting with friends who live in Evanston. Since Evanston is a bit of a hike from my place, I wanted to make something with ingredients that would be easy to carry. Also, affordability is always a consideration these days. Plus I have this new gluten-free thing. And, we were having the dinner party in honor of a friend who was visiting from California and is someone who really appreciates delicious food. (If you like to cook as much as I do, that’s an important quality in friends.) So I was super excited when I remembered the cassoulet. The only trick was coming up with a decent gluten-free bread. Which has been much more difficult than anticipated.

Indeed, during my relative silence of the past few months, I’ve actually been cooking a lot. But in addition to my generalized lack of creative energy (apparently I’m one of those people whose creativity is fueled by angst. Now that I’m no longer so unhappy, I’m not feeling the need to create. It is sad. But I like being happy.), I also haven’t been writing about it because there have been a lot of failed attempts. Specifically, with gluten-free bread.

I know, I know. Gluten-free bread does not involve beans. But, as I’ve mentioned before, bread is an essential component of a bean-based diet. Not only is it good for dipping into delicious sauces, bread adds an important textural variation. Here, it is necessary for both reasons. So, breath held and fingers crossed, I tried out yet another recipe promising delicious gluten-free bread so good that even people who can eat gluten will love it. And lo and behold, this recipe delivered! gluten free breadMaybe not the most beautiful loaf ever, but definitely, recognizably, bread. (The weird shapes happened because my dough was a lot more runny than it was supposed to be, so as it settled into the parchment paper, it took on the crinkles in the paper instead of being strong enough to straighten them out.)

This bread is a bit more dense and moist than regular bread, but totally and completely delicious. Indeed, last night a friend who habitually reached for the baguette wound up deciding that she preferred the gluten-free bread. Finally!

This version, which I think is the fourth recipe I’ve tried, was adapted from Gluten-free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes, by Daniel and Shauna Ahern. I love this cookbook. I love them. And I love this bread. Here’s my version. The cassoulet recipe follows.


  • 1-1/4 c. tapioca starch (The original recipe calls for potato starch. I subbed because I didn’t have any on hand and it was pouring out. Given what happened with my version, you should probably use potato starch.)
  • 1-1/4 c. almond flour
  • 2/3 c. oat flour (certified gluten-free)
  • 1/2 c. millet flour
  • 1 T. active dry yeast
  • 3 t. psyllium husks
  • 1-1/2 t. coarse sea salt
  • 1-1/3 c. warm water
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/6 c. olive oil
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 T. olive oil for the bowl

Combine the flours in the bowl of a standing mixer, if you have one. If not, just combine them in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Then add the yeast, psyllium husks, and salt. Whisk again. Pour the warm water, eggs, oil, and honey over the dry ingredients and mix with the paddle attachment (or a spoon) until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. At this point, the original recipe tells you that it will be soft and will slump off the paddle/spoon. But my mixture was a very runny, slightly grainy batter. Whatever you wind up with, oil a large bowl and scrape (or pour) in your dough/batter. Cover with a clean cloth and let it rise until doubled and bubbly. For me, that took about three hours. The original recipe says two.

sliced breadAt the end of your rising time, preheat the oven to 500 and put a covered cast-iron Dutch oven in to come to heat. (The original recipe suggests either a Dutch oven or a pizza stone. My dough would never have worked for a pizza stone, as it was far too runny. But maybe you will have better luck. I hope so!) After the Dutch oven has been heating for thirty minutes, remove it from the oven and place a large piece of parchment paper on top, using an oven mitt or kitchen towel to push it into the container. Drop in the dough. If you like, top with a swig of olive oil and some sea salt. Then fold the parchment paper over, put on the lid, and return the pot to the oven. Bake for thirty minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for at least thirty minutes.




The original directions for this cassoulet are as follows: Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over fairly high heat. Saute garlic and shallots. Add fresh greens, whatever is in season (the chef used Swiss chard), halved cherry tomatoes, basil, oregano, marjoram, and a healthy amount of salt. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes, until everything is carmelized. Then add cooked white beans and about two cups of white wine. Cook for about ten minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half. Serve with toasted bread.

As you can see, the only ingredient with a specified amount was the wine. So what I wound up with last night was complete guess work, which I did not measure or document except in this photograph.cassoulet, uncooked Also, I used two separate skillets in order to feed 8. Therefore, what follows is my best guesstimate for what I did in a single batch. Which I may do differently next time. And which, if you try this out, I hope you make your own. This recipe lends itself to that sort of cooking. I hope you try.

  • 1-1/2 T. chopped garlic
  • 3 T. halved, thinly sliced shallots
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1-1/2 c. halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2 c. sliced Swiss chard
  • 4 c. cooked cannellini beans
  • 2 c. white wine
  • 1/2 c. fresh basil, oregano, and marjoram, minced
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over fairly high heat. Add the garlic and shallots and saute for a couple of minutes, stirring, until richly fragrant. Add the tomatoes and salt. Cook for another minute or two of five. Then add the chard and herbs then cook, stirring a little, until carmelized. Add the beans and wine. Continue to cook for about ten minutes, until the liquid has reduced a bit and it smells so good you have to eat right now. Serve with toasted bread. Enjoy!


Roxanne’s Magic Bean Stew, courtesy of Michael Ruhlman

Hello! I feel like I’ve been away forever. And I’m not sure why. I think it’s because my food life has been taken over by trying to become gluten free. Which has been interesting, if difficult. Also, I had house guests for a few days. Plus there’s work. Yoga. My garden. Book clubs. Plays. Music. Friends.

Let’s face it: this effort I’ve been making over the past couple of years to rebuild my life after my marriage ended? It’s worked. My life is rich and full. The downside is that I find myself less and less interested in writing about what I’m doing. But, thankfully, this isn’t true for everyone. For example, Michael Ruhlman, who posted this inspiring entry about a conversation he had with Cleveland Clinic Preventative Medicine Physician Roxanne Sukol.  (I got my computer fixed and now the link feature works again!) They talked about food and nutrition and, at the end, he shared the following recipe. Which I’m planning to make for dinner tonight. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you try it, please do the same.

Roxanne’s Magic Bean Stew
(adapted for Michael Ruhlman’s kitchen and then again, for my style and the contents of my pantry)

1 cup of your favorite beans (I’m using Mother Stallard, from Rancho Gordo)
1 quart/liter water
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 Bay leaf
1″ piece of kombu
Pink Himalayan (or Kosher or any other) salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine everything except the salt and pepper in the insert of your slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low in a slow cooker for 7-8 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

someone else’s gluten-free bread

This isn’t really a post. I’ve wanted to write but just hasn’t been working out lately. My computer has a virus, so that’s a big problem. But really it’s that all I think about lately is gluten-free bread. Which I’ve been trying to figure out with almost no success. I know, I know. Gluten-free bread is not about beans. The thing I’ve realized, however, is how essential bread is to my mostly bean-based diet. Not only for the deliciousness that is toast dipped in saucy beans, but for things you might not think of, like bread crumbs, or soup thickened with bread. It’s super important. I must learn how to make it. I’m borderline obsessed.

That’s whyI was beyond excited when I saw this post on Food52. So much so that I decided to share. Because (a) the bread looks really great, and (b) the post is gorgeous and beautifully written. Enjoy.


blackeyed pea salad with celery, mango, and peppers

black eyed pea salad with mangoThis is my version of a salad someone brought to the Easter party I attended this year. Which is hard to believe was just last weekend. It’s been one of those world shifting weeks. Before I get into that, though, let me tell you about the salad. Because (a) I want to write it down before I forget what I did, and (b) I’m starting to realize that I should always put the recipe first. That way people who just want the recipe won’t have to wade through a bunch of words about whatever else I’m interested in. So. Here’s how I made the salad. And trust me. This is one of those dishes that tastes a whole lot better than the crappy photo makes it out to be. Really. It’s delicious.

1 cup blackeyed peas, picked over and rinsed
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. honey
salt to taste

Bring  four cups of water to a boil, add the peas, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, adding about a teaspoon of salt in the last 15 minutes. (They may take a bit longer. Cook until tender but not so long they turn to mush.) Remove from heat and let the peas cool for a while in their cooking liquid while you prep the mango, celery, and pepper. Once everything is chopped, transfer to a large bowl. Then drain the peas, put them on top of the chopped produce,  and drizzle the olive oil, vinegar, and honey on top. Stir to combine. Taste and add salt, more vinegar, and honey as needed.

This is best at room temperature. But on a hot summer day I bet it will be pretty damn good right out of the fridge.

Now. On to the world-shifting week. Right now, as I write this, I’m in Tallahassee. I had to come down all of a sudden because my aunt died last Saturday night, in a car accident. I found out first thing Sunday morning. Which made for a weird, fragile, surreal Easter.

On the one hand, I was happy. A relatively new friend had invited me and another relatively new friend for Easter. I love spending time with both of these people. So I’d been looking forward to the party for weeks, feeling grateful for the direction my life has taken and thinking about what I could contribute. After I finally decided what to bring, I spent much of Saturday making pickled red beets and red onions, to complement the hostess’s lamb heart salad, something that sounded simultaneously brilliant and revolting. They turned out really well. Beautiful. Delicious. (I’ll write about them soon.) I was excited to share them with people. And ever since the class with Ana Forrest a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been working really hard to not fixate on how I think I should be feeling and instead just feel whatever is actually going on without judgment. So, on Sunday, I couldn’t just stop the happy feelings in their tracks.

On the other hand, I was in shock and, at times, overcome with sadness. My Aunt Alice, who married my mom’s brother, was a stay-at-home mom with two boys. Our two families grew up next door to each other. While I haven’t seen her much in recent years, she was a huge part of my life and someone whose presence I foolishly took for granted. She has always been there, a constant for my entire memory. And while I’m sure she sometimes wished I would not come over quite so often, I think m y aunt, who I adored, also loved having a niece who was almost like a part-time daughter.

All of this combined for a weird Easter Sunday. While I waited for it to be time to go to the party, I made a cake. This cake. honey ginger cakeIt’s a honey spice cake without gluten and refined sugar. Again, I’ll post sometime soon with the recipe. For now, it’s enough to say that I couldn’t have planned a more perfect way to spend that time. It was perfect because Aunt Alice was the one who taught me to bake, letting my cousin and I break eggs, showing us how to measure flour, separate the whites and yolks, and do all the things one does to transform individual ingredients into cooked food starting when we had to stand on stools in order to reach the counter.

Originally, that’s what I meant to write about. About the cake and about Aunt Alice teaching me to bake and about loss and life and grief and a million things. Hoping to articulate this as well as some of the ways in which my life has changed in the last year. But there wasn’t time to try. I had to go to the party. Then it was Monday. I had to work. Cope with the reality of my aunt’s death. Find an affordable plane ticket. Come to Tallahassee. Attend the funeral. See my cousin and the rest of my family. Grieve.

Now I’m here in my hometown, surrounded by my family and immersed in this nature that is so much a part of who I am. I’m breathing in the humid Florida air. Listening to the crazy loud insect symphony. Feeling the reality of all these feelings. Without analysis or cataloging. Just feeling. Somehow finding that there isn’t so much to write about. Instead I’m busy trying to live well. Spending time with people I love.  Doing my best to be grateful for every minute. And trusting that here will be time to write more later. For now, namaste.

Norwegian lentil “meatballs”

lentil meatballs in gravyThis recipe was originally inspired by Sylvia Fountaine’s post at feasting at home. ( Except the Norwegian spin, which came from one of my two book clubs, the one in which we try to read books from, or at least about, other countries. Whoever is hosting tries to serve food from, or at least influenced by, that place. Our most recent book was “Norwegian by Night,” by Derek Miller. Which was very good. And set in Norway. But with a heavy emphasis on being a Jew from New York forced to live in Norway. So I think it’s okay that I took such enormous liberties with what is apparently a most classic Norwegian dish. Especially since the end result, which was heavily influenced by Signe Johansen’s recipe in Food and Wine (, wound up being completely delicious, as well as entirely gluten and sugar free. Note that the meatballs themselves are vegan. But the gravy is not.  Here’s what I did.

1 c. black lentils (uncooked)
5 or 6 cardamon pods, lightly crushed
1/2 c. quinoa (uncooked)
1/2 med. onion, finely chopped
1 t. ground allspice
1 t. ground cardamon
1/2 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1 T pink Himalayan (or kosher or sea) salt
6 oz. firm tofu
2 T. olive oil

1 qt. beef stock
1/3 c. red wine (something you would drink) or brandy
1-1/2 c. creme fraiche or sour cream
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Rinse the lentils and place them in a medium pot with 3 cups of water and the cardamon pods. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Drain well.

2. While the lentils are cooking, rinse the quinoa and place it in a small pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 14 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the lid.

3. Saute the onion in 1 T. olive oil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Add the spices and salt, and cook for another minute or two until fragrant.

4. Pre-heat the oven to 400 and line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Combine the quinoa, half of the lentils, and the onion mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times, until it has the texture of coarse sand. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the tofu and remaining olive oil to the bowl of the food processor (no need to rinse) and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Mix the tofu mixture into the lentil/quinoa combination, then stir in the remaining lentils until everything is thoroughly combined. Either form the mixture into balls or, if it’s too wet (as mine was), use a tablespoon measure to form ball-like patties on the prepared baking sheet(s). Bake for 20-25 minutes. If you prefer a crisp exterior, flip the balls and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

5. While the balls are baking, make the gravy. Boil the stock in a large, deep skillet for approximately ten minutes, until it’s reduced by half. Then add the wine (or brandy) and boil for another two or three minutes. Whisk in the creme fraiche and cocoa powder, reduce the heat, and simmer until the balls are done. Serve on the side.

Erica Mather on food cravings

Erica Mather on food cravings

Last weekend I wound up cooking two different types of beans. Which means I’m now eating mostly out of my freezer. Or at least main dish, blog-worthy type meals. Because, while it’s delicious. there just isn’t much to say about oatmeal with blackberries and granola. So instead I thought I’d share a blog post from Erica Mather, a Forrest yoga teacher from NYC who is in town this weekend teaching a workshop. Before the workshop, all I knew was what appeared on the flyer: Erica Mather, NYC, Forrest yoga guardian teacher. That means she is one of the people Ana Forrest has selected to carry on the legacy. But this morning, after day 1 of the workshop, I decided to read up on this person. Because during yesterday’s workshop, where we focused on hips, the intention was to mine our own depths to find what we’re seeking. I sought–and found–trust. At first I thought I was looking for trust in another person, a new relationship. But by the end of the 2-1/2 hour workshop I realized I was trying to find trust in myself, in my own intuition. My ability to know what I need.

When I went to Erica Mather’s website, I learned all kinds of things. But I decided to share this post because it is about food cravings, something that for me is intimately related to beans. I’m not sure if I’ve ever written about it before, but one of the reasons I’m so passionate about beans is their ability to stop what used to be my incessant craving for white sugar. I noticed that when I ate beans, I didn’t crave anything afterward. Which was in marked contrast to the way I felt after eating everything else.

I noticed this probably 15 years ago, in another lifetime, when my idea of a regular yoga practice was once a week and the idea of listening to my body felt mostly like a neurosis. If only the now me could go back and tell the then me all I now know to be true. About intuition. And trust. But, well, there are some things you just gotta learn. And it helps to have good teachers. Erica Mather is one of them. I look forward to whatever she may teach me today. When we get to spend the day upside down!

Cranberry beans with charred peppers, garlic, sage, and Big Fork Black Pepper sausage over mustard greens

Borlotti beans with mustard greens, Big Fork sausage, charred pepperrs, garlic, and sageThis recipe is adapted from Saltie, A Cookbook, by Caroline Fidanza, who explains that the recipe originated with Marcella Hazan, who it turn got the recipe from her husband’s housekeeper. ( While all of the recipes in Saltie sound fantastic, the book reads almost like a memoir, so it’s taken me a very long time to move past the stories and into the food. But now that I’ve crossed the line I anticipate a spate of Saltie-based dinners. Because man–this recipe was delicious! Admittedly, a lot of the yum came from Big Fork’s perfect, perfect sausage. ( Which is not in the original recipe. And I used frozen, not fresh, beans. So my version of this recipe differs slightly from the original. Only slightly, though. Here’s what I did.

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberry beans
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 cloves garlic, 6 halved, 6 thinly sliced
1 bunch of fresh sage leaves
Kosher salt
3 bell peppers, yellow, orange, and/or red
1 bunch mustard greens, washed and trimmed

Bring a pot of water to boil, add the cranberry beans, halved garlic, a glug of olive oil, and 12 sages leaves. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until tender. Salt liberally and allow the beans to cool in the cooking liquid. Or, alternatively, drain the beans, salt, and dress with 3-4 tablespoons of oil. While the beans are cooking, core and seed the peppers, then slice them into strips that are approximately 1 inch long, and 1/2 inch wide. Don’t worry about being precise. Variation in sizes will just result in the smaller pieces being more charred. The only trick is to make sure all of the peppers get cooked, to bring out the depth that comes with carmelizing. Raw peppers are lovely in their place. Just not here.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat. Being careful not to overcrowd, spread a layer of peppers in the skillet, salt, and cook until well-browned/slightly charred, about 8-10 minutes, using tongs to turn. Transfer to a heatproof bowl when done. Repeat, adding oil as necessary, until all of the peppers are cooked.

garlic and sage

Pour the remaining oil (you should have about 1/4 cup) into a separate skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and saute, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until it turns gold and starts sizzling. Add the rest of the sage leaves, stir for another minute or so, then remove from the heat. Pour the contents of the pan over the peppers.

Slice the sausages (1 per person) into 3/4″ rounds, and saute for 5 minutes or so, until browned, in the skillet that you used for the garlic and sage. Turn to make sure both sides are browned, working in batches if necessary to ensure there is enough space around each piece for even browning. If you haven’t already done so, drain the beans. Add the cooked sausage to the beans.Borlotti beans and sausage

To serve, place a few mustard greens in the bottom of individual bowls or a large serving bowl or platter. Top with beans, sausage, and the pepper-garlic mixture.

Note that I used a lot of mustard greens. Probably 3 or 4 leaves per serving. In retrospect, it was a bit much. I will probably go with 2 leaves next time. Also, this time I followed the original recipe and kept the leaves whole. But it was kind’ve a pain to cut them. Next time I will tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces first. If you try this out, please let me know what you do. And how you like it. Note that you can easily make this recipe both vegan and gluten-free. Just leave out the sausage.