“Make a habit of trying new things”…..
That quote really speaks to me right now because one of the things that I love about my January Journey into a more Plant-Based diet is that I have had to make myself try new things for this to work. That is kind of scary for two reasons. One, it can be a little difficult to spend money on ingredients for a dish you might not even like. Two, if you don’t like it, there aren’t a lot of options left in the fridge, ha ha! Since Jeff is really trying to do this with me, the pressure is really on.
January is usually a time for comfort food (Jeff loves his comfort food) but that is a little bit of a challenge for a newbie not eating meat. One of our favorite dishes in the winter is Shepherd’s Pie which is basically ground lamb with veggies topped with a mashed potato crust. Needless to say, it’s not considered what we call “healthy”. However, I did make a healthier version and blogged about it a few years ago for those of you still eating meat but wanting a lighter spin on it if you want to check it out.
So, “Shepherd’s Pie” is a very loose term for today’s recipe but the way it is layered seemed a little similar to that of the traditional version. Instead of lamb, my base is primarily eggplant and lentils. Then, I used polenta, which is stone ground corn kernels similar to grits, to replace the mashed potatoes. While not your meaty original, it was extremely “comforting and satisfying!
Eggplant and Lentils Shepherd’s Pie
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 1 large eggplant, stemmed and cubed
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp each of salt and pepper
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 4 oz mushrooms, sliced (I used portabella)
- 9 oz pckg steamed lentils
- 1 tbsp hot sauce
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup chopped basil
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup polenta/corn grits
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, toss the eggplant with salt and allow to rest on the counter for 30 minutes to draw out moisture. Place in a colander, rinse with water, then press between paper towels to dry.
Heat the olive oil on medium-low heat in a large saucepan and sauté for 10 minutes or until onions are soft. Add water 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time to keep the onion from sticking to the pan.
Add the red pepper, eggplant, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding more water as needed.
Stir in the mushrooms, and hot sauce.
Sauté for an additional 10 minutes, uncovered.
Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a medium saucepan and add in polenta. Simmer on low 3-4 minutes or until thickened.
Toss the lentils and basil into the vegetable mixture and mix well.
Pour the mixture into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Spoon the polenta over the vegetable mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes on stove top before serving.
Ladle into a serving bowl.
Bottom Line: We really enjoyed this! It felt like I was eating something so indulgent but in actuality it was very light in calories but high in nutrients. Next time I think I will serve it over some braised greens such as Swiss chard is collard for an even more elevated flavor. If you are a meat eater, it would be a side dish. I also think it would be amazing in individual baking dishes. This recipe is a keeper!