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Gardener's Pie

As an omnivorous member of the food community, I feel that I have a confession to make. I am an ex-vegetarian.

I know a lot of people who used to be vegetarians, and even though we've all more or less come to terms with meat-eating for various reasons, many of us still feel very conflicted about meat.

In my ideal world, I would eat only meat that I raised or hunted myself. I'll get back to you when those 10 acres magically fall out of the sky. My second-best choice would be to eat only meat that was humanely and locally-raised. Again, maybe someday when we both don't have to work two jobs to make a living I'll be able to live out this fantasy.

For now, though, our budget and lifestyle dictates frugal meat-buying, supplemented with meat alternatives and lots of beans. John is generally the preparer of meats in this household. I myself prefer cooking from the vegetable kingdom.

This is not born from some desire to distance myself from the dubious origins of the meat we buy and consume. I am not that delusional. It is simply because I adore vegetables and feel much more accomplished in cooking them than I do meat. I find their transformation from raw to cooked somehow more pleasing than grilling a hamburger or even roasting a chicken, which I dearly love. And so, when left to my own devices, I am more likely to forage than hunt.

This recipe grew out of a craving for something hearty and warming, but without having to resort to meat. My recipe is based on Gena Hamshaw's, and I thank her for the fabulous idea. To my mind, this take on shepherd's pie lacks nothing and is an excellent stand-in for the meaty version. Perhaps you're looking to get more vegetables in your diet. Perhaps you're a vegetarian. Either way, this pie will satisfy.

Other articles you might enjoy: Chickpea Cakes, Stuffed Collard Leaves, Pumpkin and Black-Eyed Pea Cakes

Gardener's Pie
Serves 6

Note: The filling for this pie can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. The potato topping, however, should be made right before assembly. To make this dish vegan, simply replace the butter with vegan margarine and the cream with a dairy substitute or vegetable broth.

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and add:
           1 1/2 cups green or brown lentils
Turn down the heat and simmer until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Set the lentils aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add to the pot and boil until tender, about 15 minutes:
           1 pound 4 ounces russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
           12 ounces parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
Put the hot potatoes and parsnips through a ricer or mash them in a bowl. Add:
           2 tablespoons softened butter
            1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy cream or milk
            1/4 cup sliced scallions
            1/4 cup chopped parsley
            Salt and pepper to taste
Stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Heat in a large skillet over medium-high heat:
           2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
           1 large onion, chopped
           1 medium carrot, diced
Sauté until the onion is translucent and the carrot is tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add:
           3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
           1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add:
           12 to 16 ounces mushrooms (any kind will do), chopped
Sauté until the mushrooms have released their juices and the mixture is fairly dry. Add the reserved lentils and stir to combine. Add:
           Salt and pepper to taste
This filling may be made up to 2 days ahead of time. Spoon the filling into a casserole dish or a 10-inch pie plate. Spread the potato topping over the filling and, if desired, drag the tines of a fork over the potatoes to make a decorative pattern. Bake until the dish is warmed through and the topping is slightly browned, about 30 minutes (this may take longer if you started with cold filling).


Gayle Percival's picture

I would never have thought of doing this and cannot wait to try it. (I think parsnips are divine)
M D's picture

"My second-best choice would be to eat only meat that was humanely and locally-raised. Again, maybe someday when we both don't have to work two jobs to make a living I'll be able to live out this fantasy." How about just humanely? Or better yet, go vegan. Your recipe sounds delicious and could be easily veganized.

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