Tag Archives: carrots

Harissa-Spiced Cassoulet

L1040015If anyone had told my younger self that I would go through menopause in my late thirties, I probably would have shrugged and went on with my life.   Back then, I thought menopause would merely be a ceasing of menstruation and maybe a year of hot flashes.  However, I’m learning that the experience of menopause is a heck of a lot more than that, and it’s a really difficult transition.  Just the other day I was so frustrated and disheartened that I thought to myself, Why aren’t there menopause support groups the way that there are AA meetings?  The thought kind of made me laugh, but then I soberly wondered if any actually exist.
L1040007It wasn’t until recently that I came to the conclusion that all of my ailments were due to my hormones being out of whack due to menopause.  It’s pretty amazing how much control our hormones have over how our body functions; they control everything!  They’re like the lobbyists of the U.S. political system.  (Ok, I won’t get political…but isn’t that a good analogy?!)

I am trying to remain patient and maintain some sense of normalcy with this transitional phase of my life, but it has been a struggle the last few months as my symptoms become more acute.  Yoga definitely helps.  And I’ve started training for the half-marathon that I will be running in April.  Every little thing helps.  I just hope that I am one of the more fortunate women for whom menopause lasts two years instead of ten.  Gulp.
L1040004This was my first time making a cassoulet.  I came across this recipe in Food & Wine, where a Minneapolis chef was sharing riffs-on-casserole recipes.  If you haven’t ever made one, they are as easy as a casserole, and even more delicious.  And this particular cassoulet is perfect for hunkering down on a cold winter’s night.  It’s almost March, people!
L1040013Harissa-Spiced Cassoulet
Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield:  10-12 servings

1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced, plus 2 large carrots, cut into 2 1/2-inch lengths
14 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Four 6-ounce chicken sausages, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
3 turnips, peeled and cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 ounces rustic peasant bread, crusts removed, bread cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered. Add the onion, celery and diced carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning 
to soften, about 8 minutes.  Add the beans and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°. In a small skillet, toast the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer 
to a spice grinder and let cool. Add the smoked paprika and crushed red pepper and grind the harissa blend into a powder.
  3. Wipe out the casserole and heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in it. Add the sausages and cook over moderate heat, until lightly browned all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Do not wipe out the casserole.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes, turnips and large carrots to the casserole. Season with salt and black pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 minutes.  Add the harissa spice blend and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the bean mixture and the chicken broth and bring just to a simmer.  Cover and bake the 
cassoulet for about 1 hour, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the oven and uncover the cassoulet.  Mix in the sausages.
  6. Preheat the broiler. In a bowl, toss the bread, parsley, lemon zest and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil; season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle the bread over the cassoulet and broil until golden and crisp. Let the cassoulet stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

 

Carrot Salad with Coriander Vinaigrette and Pistachios

DSC_4995I’ve been uncharacteristically happy lately.  I saw my therapist last week for the first time in a month, and didn’t know what to talk about.  I’m so used to spending my sessions focusing on how to improve things in my life—preventing negative behavior patterns, setting personal goals, etc.  Walking in to see my therapist, I was worried that there would be an uncomfortable silence due to my lack of problems to discuss.  On the contrary, my therapist assured me that these are important sessions to have because we can look at what is working in my life, why it is working, and how to create more of it in the future.  Eureka!

I am definitely someone who feels better in the spring and summer months, but even so, I can’t remember feeling this content in many years.  I even have frequent moments of straight up joy and euphoria these days.  It feels so goddamned good and foreign at the same time.  I want to hold onto these moments, but they are fleeting.  And they should be; we wouldn’t want to savor them otherwise.  I go about my day feeling grateful I have a life that I absolutely love.  I’m working on not reacting to people’s words and behaviors as much as I used to.  I am learning to be kinder to myself and not critique every little thing I think or do.
DSC_4983I want to shout my happiness out to the world.  I want to dance in the streets.  And yet I find myself being shy about sharing my jubilation with others.  When friends ask how I’m doing, I have been replying with, “I’m really good.  I’m really happy.”  I want to go on and on about why so I’m happy and how great it feels, but I think that would be strange.  It would feel boastful, and I was raised in the Midwest where excessive pride in one’s achievements or accomplishments—hell, talking about yourself at all—was frowned upon.  I did call my 85-year-old grandma last week and share my happiness with her.  I think it delighted her.

This carrot salad was my obsession for the entire 4 days it was in my refrigerator.  I love cilantro, especially in the summer, and it compliments the sweetness of carrots beautifully.  Cilantro makes everything taste fresh.  I find it hard to believe that there are people out there who despise cilantro.  Those people are crazy.  There, I said it.  The lemon juice adds a nice acidity so the vinaigrette does not taste heavy at all.  Be sure not to add the pistachios to the salad until right before serving, or they will turn soft.  I can’t wait to make this again.
DSC_4992Carrot Salad with Coriander Vinaigrette and Pistachios
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield:  4-6 servings

1/4 cup unsalted, shelled raw pistachios
3/4 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 garlic clove, finely grated
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
sea salt
1 lb. carrots, peeled, julienned or coarsely grated
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Toast pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 6-8 minutes.  Let cool; coarsely chop.
2.  Toast coriander in a small dry skillet over medium heat, tossing often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Let cool; coarsely chop.
3.  Whisk garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and coriander in a large bowl, then whisk in oil; season with salt.
4.  Add carrots, toss, and let sit at least 30 minutes.  Toss with cilantro and pistachios just before serving.