Rescuing Forgotten Vegetables–Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

Rescuing Forgotten Vegetables–Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

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  1. I love vegetables. I LOVE them. Trouble is, they suffer from a tragic out-of-sight, out-of-mind condition hanging out down there in the crisper. Usually, I forget about them for so long that there’s nothing I can do to save them. Wasteful. Irresponsible. The guilt over throwing away slimy spinach is overwhelming. I beat myself up over it. Sometimes it keeps me up at night.
    No more! I will no longer defiantly shout "I AM AN ADULT!" in my head as I throw out rotting vegetation, because I have a solution, and it’s not vegetable stock. Let’s be realistic. I forgot about the vegetables; I’m not going to remember them in soup form. Or, not before the stock is covered in a fine, fuzzy film. I’m talking about something much heartier, and much more satisfying–an instant food coma.
    Granted, these vegetables were on the edge. I remembered my wilting green onions (38 cents for a bunch!), green beans (developing some brown spots), and sweating creminis just in time. It doesn’t always work out so well. Really, I’ll probably forget about my vegetables a million more times–but I’m really happy with how this came out.

    -onions of some kind–mine were green onions, wilty and yellowing in many places (I had to throw out about a third of each one), but regular onions would work well too.
    -carrot, peeled (optional)–I used one carrot, and I really wouldn’t miss it.
    -whatever vegetable are going bad and need to be used NOW–I had some green beans I needed to use, but spinach, broccoli, and asparagus would all be great substitutes. Oh! and maybe corn, and peas. But no excess water.
    -Veganaise (or mayonnaise, if you’re so inclined.)
    -Vegan Sour Cream (or regular sour cream)
    -Vegan Buttery Spread (I don’t know if you can tell, but I can’t do dairy.)
    -Salt and Pepper
    -Extra-firm tofu, frozen, thawed, and drained
    -Mushrooms, rinsed
    -Tamari/soy sauce

    Roast, bake, or boil the potatoes. You’ll be mashing them. I roasted mine because I have an inexplicable weakness for potatoes with skin still on.

    While the potatoes are cooking, slice the tofu and mushrooms (my tofu pieces came out about the size of crinkle-cut french fries, but it doesn’t matter how you do it) and soak them in Tamari or soy sauce. I used a mixture of both for the tofu, and just Tamari for the mushrooms. Set that stuff aside, and start chopping vegetables. Thin slices of carrot, mince a few cloves of garlic, inch-or-so-long green bean pieces.

    If you didn’t bake or roast your potatoes, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you did, your oven should already be around 400 degrees.

    When the potatoes are done, mush, smash, or mash them. Spoon in some sour cream, lots of Veganaise, and butter. Add everything but the mushrooms and tofu, mix it all up, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon a layer of this mixture into a casserole dish or other deep baking pan. Layer some Tamari-soaked mushrooms on top. Now the tofu. Now more potato-vegetable mixture. Top it all off with the rest of the mushrooms and pop it in the oven for 20 minutes.

    I’ll admit, I was doubtful about this. I had so many mushrooms, and usually you need tons of creamy mashed potatoes and something gravy-like for a good shepherd’s pie. I had four potatoes, no vegetable stock for mushroom gravy, and very little patience for lots of dirty pans. "This tofu will be tasteless," I worried. "These veggies will be boring." "This is terrible, my potatoes are not mashing enough." I was wrong. The sour cream and veganaise made the mixture of potatoes and vegetables perfectly creamy, and the potato chunkiness seemed just right. The flavors are simple, and it demands little labor aside from the chopping.
    Big secret here: I love a fancy meal now and then–complete with hours of chopping and simmering and a hundred different herbs and spices. But the meals that leave me spontaneously giggling in gastronomic bliss are usually humble vegetables, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper.

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