Hello Dear FITME Family,
Today’s recipe came from pure frustration. Frustration from a super long line at Trader Joes, another super long line at Costco, and an absolute food desert at Safeway. This is all so surreal I feel like I have to pinch myself to remind me that this is all really happening. But then I remind myself of the blessings, like running water, electricity, beautiful spring in bloom, the ability to move around to shop for food, and pantry saviors like…lentils. Lentils helped my parents and grandparents get through the toughest times, including multiple wars. My mother talked about how meats (including chicken) were a luxury at a time in her childhood when it was unsafe to leave the house, and the income was dwindling. The only difference between that time and today is that the enemy today is invisible, and the war is with a virus and not another country.
Now many people think that lentils are boring or lack flavor, but I see lentils as versatile, adding a hearty texture and flavor to dishes for little cost. Lentils are loaded with protein, fiber, and iron, and are not a major GMO crop like soy. I would much rather experiment with lentils in recipes than use processed mock meats like Beyond Meat, which is loaded with inflammatory oils and other ingredients you cannot find in nature. Lentils actually make a great base for Shepherd’s Pie:
To give it a Middle Eastern touch, I used Za’atar and cumin, but you can use thyme instead of za’atar if you wish. I could not find garlic in any store, so I had to use garlic powder in the video. I always favor fresh garlic whenever possible. If you want the dish to be fully vegan, use nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan cheese, and plant milk instead of cow’s milk. I also wanted to add mushrooms to the base (for a nice meaty flavor) but again, the stores around me had no mushrooms. Feel free to play around with this recipe, adding vegetables you love! Check out the easy technique in the video below:
Hoping we can all go back to normal very soon!
Mediterranean Shepherd’s Pie
1 tbsp olive or avocado oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced small
1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
1 tsp garlic powder, or 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp za’atar (or thyme if you don’t have za’atar)
1 tsp cumin
1 cup green lentils, rinsed
1/3 cup tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 medium red-skin potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
Vegetable broth or water
1/4 cup regular or plant milk (unsweetened)
Chives or parsley for garnish
Add the potatoes to a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile place the 1 tbsp oil, onion, carrot, and celery in a large saucepan and sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add water 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time if needed to keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan. Stir in the cumin, za’atar, garlic powder (or garlic) lentils, and enough water or veggie broth to cover the lentils by 3 inches. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Add the tomato paste to the saucepan and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, and pour the lentils into a 9 × 13-inch baking dish. Remove the potatoes from the heat and drain. Mash the vegetables until smooth and creamy, then add the olive oil, milk, and Parmesan cheese–season with additional salt. After mashing with a fork, whip using a hand mixer, and spread the mixture evenly over the lentils. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.