Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Shepard's Pie (Vegetarian Option)

I signed up for a farm share through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program this summer and have been getting a bag of farm fresh produce every week throughout the summer. It's been a challenge keeping up with everything, so I've been trying to come up with ideas for how to use a lot of the veggies all at once. This Shepard's Pie helped me use up a lot of the farm produce and so, get a lot of vegetables into one meal!

I tend to think of Shepard's Pie as a fall or winter meal, because it is so hardy, but the fresh herbs and beans kept it light and fresh tasting. Enjoy!

Shepard's Pie
Top Layer: Mashed Potatoes
I've gotten pretty creative with my mashed potato recipes - starting with adding onions and garlic, I've gone all the way to adding basil and balsamic vinegar. For this dish, I used what was at hand and was pleased with the results, but make the mashed potatoes your favorite way!

4 red potatoes
1 leek, thoroughly cleaned and chopped
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
handful fresh basil
milk or soy milk - used to blend to preferred consistency

Chop and boil red potatoes, leaving skins on. Drain and set aside. Saute leek in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Mix potatoes, leeks and milk - use electric mixer and more milk for smooth consistency or hand-masher and less milk for a thicker texture. Mix in chopped basil and salt and pepper to taste.

Middle Layer: Veggie Medley
Any veggies will do for the middle layer - in the past, I've used a bag of frozen mixed veggies with corn, green beans and peas. For this summer version, I used fresh green beans, yellow wax beans, carrot and yellow summer squash. Wash and trim green beans, wax beans, carrot and squash. Slice carrot and squash into coin shapes and cut green and wax beans into 1 inch pieces. Steam together.

Bottom Layer: Meat Layer
1/2 pound ground Buffalo or organic grass fed beef
1-2 cups of vegetarian grounds
2 vegetarian burger patties (I used 2 Amy's original burger patties, warmed up and then broken into pieces)

2-4 Tbsp chopped or minced onion (optional)
2-4 Tbsp chopped peppers - use mildly spicy peppers for a great flavor (I used the small wrinkled Italian variety - they are mildly spicy, but very flavorful and it made the meat(less) layer a big hit!)
1 cup chopped cherry/grape tomatoes

Lightly saute onions and peppers, add meat or vegetarian crumbles/patties. Cook until done, add chopped tomatoes, turn off heat and put a lid on for 5 minutes or until ready to assemble. This will lightly cook the tomatoes and help blend the flavors.

Assembly: It couldn't get any easier than pouring each layer into a casserole dish in order. Individual ramekins would also be a great way to serve this dish. Everything is already cooked fully, so it doesn't really need to bake, but you can either keep it warm in a low oven or let it bake a little to crisp the top. We ate this one night as is (with a little salt and pepper to taste) and added a little cheddar cheese on top the next - both ways were delicious. Enjoy!

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