Vegetarian Moussaka


Moussaka

Moussaka is a Greek dish that involves eggplant, potatoes, a tomato-based sauce, and sometimes a white sauce on top. Beyond that, it seems like everywhere that I’ve had moussaka, it tastes completely different.   So I figured if anything goes, I may as well work on my own version.  To keep it healthy, I grill the veggies instead of frying them. I like tasting all the veggies individually, so I cut them on the thicker side and do two layers of them.  I also like multiple textures, so I use eggplant, zucchini, and potatoes.  For a slightly Indian twist, I add red lentils (masoor daal) to the sauce to give it more body and protein (and it becomes a complete meal for me).

It does take a lot of time to prepare because there are multiple components, but the good news is that you can do most of it ahead of time.  Actually, I prefer to make it the day before to let all the flavors meld ans let the layers settle down.  The day of serving, I pull it out so it comes to room temperature and then bake is as described below.

Veggies

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
3 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices lengthwise (not rounds)
2 large potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
oil
salt
pepper

Directions

1. Eggplant and zucchini: Grill on both sides (this is my favorite way of preparing it because of the flavor). However, if you do not have a grill or want to finish the veggie prep quicker, you can put them under the broiler until they .turn brown, then flip them once so that the other side also browns (picture 1 below)

2. Potatoes: Toss the slices with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat or parchment. Place the potatoes in a single layer on the sheet and roast in the oven at 400 F until the top browns. Flip the potatoes and brown the other side (picture 1 below).

Tomato sauce

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tbsp paprika
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
28 oz crushed tomatoes
1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Directions

1. In a large pot, heat the onions, garlic, bay leaf, and olive oil on medium high. Cook until the garlic just starts to turn brown.
2. Add the tomato paste, oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves, paprika, salt, and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes, red lentils and water. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to maintain a simmer. Simmer uncovered until most of the liquid is evaporated and the lentils become mushy and start to fall apart (~30 mins)- stir occasionally so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
4. Remove from the heat and mix in the cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste.

White sauce

Ingredients

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil
7 tbsp all purpose flour
3 cups milk, room temperature
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper

Directions

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and olive oil together on medium heat.
2. Whisk in the all purpose flour and stir until bubbly (~2 mins).
3. Slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer while continuously whisking. Whisk while it simmers until the sauce thickens (7-10 mins).
4. Remove from heat and whisk in the cheese (picture 5 below). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assembling the Moussaka

Use a deep 9 x 13 baking dish.

Layer 1: Potatoes- lightly oil the bottom of the baking dish. Then place the potatoes on the bottom in a double layer.
Layer 2: Very thin layer of tomato sauce (you should be able to see the potatoes through the sauce; picture 2 below).
Layer 3: Eggplant- place a two layers of eggplant on top of the tomato sauce.
Layer 4: Very thin layer of tomato sauce (you should be able to see the eggplant through the sauce; picture 3 below).
Layer 5: Zucchini- place a single later of zucchini on top of the tomato sauce.
Layer 6: Tomato sauce- spread a thick layer of tomato sauce on top of the zucchini. You should not be able to see the zucchini. There should still be at least 1 inch above this layer for the white sauce (picture 4 below).
Layer 7: White sauce- spread a thick layer of white sauce until it is almost at the top.

Bake moussaka at 350 F for 30 mins covered. Then remove the cover and bake for an additional 30 mins (until the top turns a golden brown).

Moussaka 1Moussaka 2Moussaka 3Moussaka 4Moussaka Sauce

 

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