Lentil shepherd's pie for a holiday main dish on Meatless Monday

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Thanksgiving is approaching -- and this food-focused holiday can be particularly trying for vegetarian and especially vegan diners. But we're here to help: through November, we'll be offering a full lineup of dishes you can make for the big day. Last week's butternut squash and apple soup makes a perfect soup dish, and we've posted a green-bean casserole recipe before that's indistinguishable from an animal-products version. So today we're tackling the main course -- and not, it's not Tofurky. This lentil-based shepherd's pie (adapted from a recipe on the Food 52 website) has enough fall flavor to satisfy any holiday diner.

See also: Butternut squash and apple soup with curry for a smooth taste of autumn on Meatless Monday

You will need:

6 medium russet potatoes 6 parsnips 1 cup non-dairy milk (we used hemp milk) 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 1/2 cups lentils 3 cups water 1 onion 4 cloves garlic 3 carrots 3 celery ribs 6-7 cremini mushrooms 1 cup vegetable stock (preferably homemade mock chicken stock) 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste 1 teaspoon dried rosemary 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1. Peel the potatoes. Peel the parsnips. Quarter the potatoes and roughly chop the parsnips. Put the chopped potatoes and parsnips in a large pot and fill the pot with cold water and some salt -- the vegetables should be covered. Put it on the stove and turn the burner on high to bring the water to a boil. When the water boils, lower to a simmer and cook for 35 minutes or so, until both potatoes and parsnips are tender. 2. While you're waiting for the potatoes and parsnips to boil, put the lentils in a pot with the 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender but not mushy. The water will reduce as you cook, so keep an eye on it in case you have to add a little bit more. 3. As you're waiting on the potatoes, parsnips and lentils, you can slice up the celery, peel and slice the carrot, slice the mushrooms and chop the onion. (Leave the onion for last so your work area won't leave tears streaming down your face.) When the potatoes and parsnips are done, drain them and let them cool a little bit. 4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat; add the chopped onion. Cook for ten minutes or so, until translucent and starting to show some golden color. Meanwhile, return the potatoes and parsnips to the pot you cooked them in and add the non-dairy milk, the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and black pepper to taste. Mash them with a masher until they're as smooth as you'd like them. Looks good! By now, your onion should be ready to start adding more ingredients. 5. Add the carrots and celery. Cook for eight to ten minutes, until soft. 6. Peel the garlic and use a press to add it to the veggies. Add the mushrooms and cook for another three to four minutes. (Now would also be a good time to start preheating your oven to 350 degrees F.) 7. Add the lentils (drained of any excess liquid), the rosemary and the thyme. Add the vegetable stock and the tomato paste. Stir and cook for another five minutes or so, until everything is well mixed and heated through. Smooth out the lentils and vegetables to prepare for the potato/parsnip layer. 8. Spoon the mashed potatoes and parsnips over the top of the lentils and vegetables. It's ready to go into the oven! Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes and parsnips are just starting to get golden on top. This recipe makes a lot, so if you don't have a full table, prepare yourself for leftovers!

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