Although there are innumerable versions of cassoulet, most are based on a stew of white beans and various forms of pork. The dish gets its name from the pot it's traditionally baked in, the cassole, which is often shaped like a wide inverted cone to insure the greatest amount of luscious crust. This version includes duck confit and the French garlic sausages that are a specialty of Toulouse.
Pot-Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Cumin
Paula Wolfert visited the kitchens of Dar Yacout, where the cooks still use charcoal fires to make dishes like lush and smoky roasted-eggplant salad.
Pasta with Smothered Broccoli Rabe and Olives
Many Mediterranean cooks use clay pots to cook foods without added liquid. In Sicily, the method is called affogato and the pot is an earthenware tegame. In Paula Wolfert's adaptation of a specialty she enjoyed many years ago at the Ristorante Circolo Uliveto, in the Sicilian town of Trecastagni, she substitutes an easier-to-find cazuela for the tegame. She uses it to cook coarsely chopped broccoli rabe (ideally the young, leafy kind) with grated pecorino cheese, briny olives and meaty anchovies, then folds the mixture into boiled pasta and bakes it.
Moroccan Lamb Stew with Noodles
Paula Wolfert learned a chicken dish called chaariya medfouna from a private cook named Karima. "Chaariya means noodles," Wolfert says. "Medfoun means a surprise or something hidden.” In Paula’s adaptation, the steamed noodles cover tender chunks of lamb spiced with cumin.
Pork and Wild Mushroom Daube
The Provençal stews called daubes are cooked in wide-bellied, narrow-necked earthenware pots (daubières). The lids are specifically designed to trap moisture during cooking. Dutch ovens or bean pots are perfect stand-ins for a daubière.
Chicken in Red Wine Vinegar
For Paula Wolfert, this rustic Lyonnais dish is comfort food. Slow cooking transforms red wine vinegar, tomato, shallots, garlic and a touch of honey into a perfectly balanced sauce for chicken.
Pan-Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts and Raisins
The late Armenian cookbook author Arto der Haroutunian, who taught Paula Wolfert this dish, caramelized cauliflower on the stove before baking it with eastern Mediterranean flavorings: chopped tomatoes, plumped raisins and Marash red pepper flakes. You can use any cazuela or flameware pot, but Wolfert likes the unglazed black La Chamba roasting pan from Colombia, which she says imparts sweetness to the dish.
Pistou is an olive oil-based basil sauce from the south of France that closely resembles Ligurian pesto. There's only one way to make true pistou —by hand. Tear the basil leaves into pieces first, then grind the leaves against the side of a mortar with a pestle to puree them into a silky, creamy sauce. Like its Italian twin, pistou can also be served as an accompaniment to grilled meats, poultry, fish and vegetables.
Clay-Pot Tarte Tatin
Flameware is perfect for preparing this French tart, as an ordinary clay pot may not be able to withstand the high heat required to caramelize the apples.
Sweet Cherry Clafoutis
Most chefs in France's Limousin region say that this creamy cake tastes best made with unpitted cherries. If this is too rustic for you, pit the cherries, roll them in sugar and freeze them; the frozen sugar grains seal the fruit, so juice doesn't stain the batter. Purists insist on local black cherries, but I think you can use any bold-flavored fruit, like apricots or plums.
Poached Pears with Prunes
Paula Wolfert adapted this lightly spiced, unusual fruit dessert from one created by chef Fatima Mountassamin, who helms the kitchen at Marrakech's most ambitious Moroccan restaurant.
Every morning, cafés in Marrakech serve these crêpes, called begrhir, drizzled with honey or spread with apricot jam. Cooking the crêpes on only one side leaves a lacy network of tiny holes, perfect for catching the sweet toppings; the fine semolina provides a lovely sandy texture. Paula Wolfert adapted this recipe from one in the book La Pâtisserie Marocaine by Rachida Amhaouche.