Monday, September 17, 2012

Vegetarian Moussaka

I saw a big, beautiful slice of traditional moussaka at a local Mediterranean restaurant, and I knew right then and there that I just had to make a vegetarian version for us here at home. Granted, this is the first moussaka I've ever even tasted, but I think it's a total winner. 

To make it vegetarian, I used my versatile Mushroom Meat spiked with warm spices like ginger, cinnamon, and allspice in place of lamb, and I seriously cut down on the amount of béchamel sauce that tops more traditional versions. Instead, I topped it with a thin layer of tangy béchamel and a thin layer of crispy phyllo dough. It adds a nice variety of textures and flavors to this Greek dish.

Vegetarian Moussaka

2 cups mushroom meat

1 large russet potato 
2 tablespoon olive oil (divided)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fresh minced oregano
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 cups tomato sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
16-20 thick slices of eggplant*

Lemon Parmesan Béchamel Sauce (recipe follows)
8 large sheets phyllo dough
1 tablespoon olive oil
chopped parsley for garnish

Make the Mushroom Meat according to the recipe and set aside. Slice the potato into 1/4-inch slices, place into a covered dish with 1 tablespoon of water, and microwave in high for 3 minutes. Allow the dish to remain covered for another 3 minutes so that the potatoes soften.

In a medium pan over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil and the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, and garlic until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add the Mushroom Meat, tomato sauce, and tomato paste, and stir to incorporate. Once the sauce is warm, remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350. Make the Lemon Parmesan Béchamel Sauce and set aside. 

Assemble the moussaka in a 13 x 9 casserole dish. Start by lining the bottom of the casserole with 1/3 of the tomato sauce mixture, then layer in the potatoes, one half of the eggplant slices, the remaining tomato sauce mixture, a second layer of eggplant, and finally the Lemon Parmesan Béchamel Sauce. Bake uncovered for 1 hour.

While the moussaka is in the oven, prepare the phyllo topping. Cut the phyllo to fit the top of your casserole, drizzle every other layer with some of the remaining olive oil, stack the sheets, and set aside. After an hour, remove the moussaka, place the phyllo sheets on top, and return it to the oven for another 20 minutes.

Allow your Vegetarian Moussaka to cool for 30 minutes before slicing. (Serves 6 to 8.) 

Lemon Parmesan Béchamel Sauce

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
zest of 1 organic lemon
2 large eggs (beaten)

In a medium pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk mixture together until nutty and fragrant. Add the milk and turn up the heat in order to bring the mixture to a boil. Stir consistently. Once the mixture boils, add the garlic, cheese, nutmeg, and zest. Temper the eggs before mixing them into the sauce. Set aside.

*To ensure my eggplant isn't sour like it can sometimes be, I briefly (15 seconds) blanch the eggplant slices in super-salty water and then set them out on a kitchen towel to dry. This is quicker and more effective than other methods.


Petya K. Grady said...

in bulgaria we top off our moussaka with yogurt. it's much lighter than bechamel and balances out the potato overload.

The Chubby Vegetarian said...

Petya, When I had leftovers for lunch today I put yogurt on it. It made a good dish even better.

Unknown said...

This moussaka was great!

The Yogi Vegetarian said...

Mmmmoussaka... veggie versions are so good! Yours looks amazing with the filo topping. Have you tried mint (fresh or dried) in with the aubergine? Many versions use this as well as cinnamon and nutmeg.Gives a light and sunny feel:)