Photography is not my strong suit. Which means that I have to invite you all over for dinner, since the food looks much better in person.
I might serve you this. (It would help if you liked eggplant.) This was one of the most satisfying meals that The Programmer and I had last month -- several meals, actually, since Kit prefers eggplant in the form of eggplant Parmesan and Caboodle prefers that eggplant just stay at the farm and be fed to livestock.
What took the dish over the top for us is that I substituted slow-roasted fresh tomatoes for canned ones. That's less likely an option for you now (snow season! gak!) but keep this in mind for when you are inundated with tomatoes next summer or early fall: Cut a bunch of tomatoes in half or in wedges, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle them with a little olive oil, and bake at a low temperature -- 225 to 250 degrees F -- for about two hours. The tomatoes will begin to dry out, which concentrates their flavor. You can also roast the tomatoes at a higher temperature (say 325 degrees) for a shorter time; they will brown and caramelize along the edges.
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
(Adapted from Vegetarian Times. I especially liked the original recipe's idea to place some of the vegetables on top of the mashed potatoes. This version removes the eggs, cuts down on the fat, and makes minor ingredient substitutions. Serves 6 to 8.)
1/4 cup non-fat milk
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided use
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
2 cans (about 15 oz. each) diced tomatoes with liquid, or 1 can diced tomatoes and 2 cups of roasted fresh tomatoes
2 eggplant (about 1.5 pounds total), peeled only if desired, and cubed
About 2 Tbsp fresh herbs, chopped, to taste (I used about 1 Tbsp basil and a combination of parsley, oregano and thyme)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 green bell pepper, sliced thin
1 small zucchini, sliced thin
Place the cubed potatoes in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes 10 to 15 minutes, or until soft. Drain, and mash with milk and butter. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Saute the onion in the oil for about 5 minutes, or until it begins to soften. Add the tomatoes, eggplant, herbs, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Remove from heat, and stir in the Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper as desired.
Spread the potato mixture over the vegetables in the Dutch oven, banking it up a little along the sides and leaving an indentation in the middle.
Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and zucchini, and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes, or until just tender. Pile the sautéed zucchini and bell pepper into the center of the mashed potatoes.
Bake the casserole at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until heated through.