French style cassoulets—the forerunners of casseroles—often are based on savory pots of beans and meats. However, you can showcase the beans and veggies and skip the meat, as I do in this classic dish for Heirloom Bean Cassoulet, which is completely plant-based (vegan) and gluten-free. Try an unusual heirloom bean—Eye of the Goat, Flageolet, Rattlesnake—or something you can find anywhere, such as lima or Great Northern beans.
What are heirloom beans? They are unusual varieties of beans that farmers discovered during their harvest, and would save the seeds back to plant the following year—essentially heirlooms! Maybe it was an offshoot with a pretty color or large form—whatever it was, the farmer selected that one plant to harvest its beans (which are also seeds for the next year) and plant it again, forever preserving the unique qualities of that plant. That’s why we have so many gorgeous, unique varieties of beans! I will admit it right now—I collect heirloom beans. Whenever I spy an unusual breed of beans, I buy it and save it for a future culinary adventure. In this recipe pictured here, I used my flageolet beans that I picked up at the Rancho Gordo Beans store in San Francisco. But I have found so many cool beans at farmers markets and shops all over the world to bring back to my kitchen. It’s my thing.
So, you can use this simple, straightforward recipe to take advantage of your heirloom beans—or to showcase any dried beans you have in your pantry. It’s up to you! This rustic, hearty recipe will make the most of any bean, I promise. Here’s how to serve it: with a crusty, whole grain bread, toasted to perfection (perfect for sopping up any juices left on the bottom of your plate), and a crisp, green salad. That’s it, a plant-based meal made in heaven. And all of the nutrition rewards to boot.