Early this year, I made a resolution to stock my kitchen with better cookware. One of the items high on my list was a heavy-duty cast-iron casserole. A few weeks ago, my friend Laureen stopped by, and came bearing a wedding gift in a big old heavy box. She must be a mind-reader, because that box contained my object of desire: a le creuset casserole, in the cutest yellow-tomato shape (complete with a realistic stem-like lid).
For someone who likes to cook and has been doing it for a while, I feel like I have a very poor understanding of cookware. Much of it stems from the fact that (a) I cook in a *tiny* kitchen with limited space for pots and pans, and (b) when I stocked my kitchen 5 years ago, I was under a tight budget and ended up getting one run-of-the-mill cookware set and then just using that for years. So I am starting to educate myself a little bit on cookware, and it turns out that cast-iron cookware is made by pouring molten iron into a mold (a centuries-old method of making cooking pots). The Le creuset variety is then coated with a layer of enamel, which means it does not require "seasoning" like regular cast iron pots do. The wonderful thing about cast iron pots is that they are nothing if not sturdy, so I totally expect to take good care of my little tomato and have it last a lifetime.
I searched around for a recipe to try in this pot, and came across one in a recent issue of Vegetarian Times magazine. It sounded like a delicious recipe (vegan to boot) and uses carrots (which I tend to under-use) and rubbed sage (a new addition to my spice rack). This recipe was part of an article on carrot recipes; I am dying to try out a carrot cake which was also published in the same article.
(adapted from "Vegetarian Times" magazine, serves 4-5)
1 bunch fresh carrots, peeled and cut into slices on a bias
1 green pepper, cut into large dice
1 onion, cut into large dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-oz package Italian-style baked tofu, cubed
1 28-oz can tomatoes (crushed or whole peeled)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rubbed sage
salt and pepper to taste
1 and half cups dried pasta (your favorite shape)
1. Heat the olive oil. Saute onions and garlic till transluscent and aromatic.
2. Add the carrots, peppers and bayleaf and saute for 3-4 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes, sage, tofu, salt and pepper and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per package directions. Serve the cacciatore over the hot pasta.
I was very impressed with the way this stew turned out. The le creuset casserole browns veggies just beautifully. It held heat for a really long time and was a snap to clean. Thanks, Laureen, I will be thinking of you every single time I use this beautiful pot!