Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vegetarian Moussaka

Moussaka is Greece's answer to Lasagna, with a touch of Ratatouille mixed in. We based our dinner on this recipe, although I didn't follow it super closely. Moussaka is normally made with ground lamb; this recipe uses lentils instead, and ends up very light tasting in spite of all the oil.

Preheat oven 375°F. In a small saucepan, bring to a boil
  • 2/3 cup dried brown lentils
  • 1 1/2 cup water
Reduce to a simmer, and let cook twenty minutes or so, checking occasionally. If the water runs out, just remove from heat and leave the top on, so that the lentils steam themselves; you will cook them a bit more later.

Slice thin
  • 1 medium-large eggplant
  • 1 medium-large summer squash and 1 small zucchini
  • 4 small summer potatoes
If you are using a large supermarket eggplant, it is probably a little bitter, and you should do the salt thing (salt both sides of the eggplant slices, let them sit out 30 minutes, then rinse the salt and bitterness off) — the eggplants from Riverdog Farm don't need this treatment. In a large skillet, fry the veggies in single layers in just a little olive oil over high heat, a few minutes per side until they start to brown slightly. Transfer the veggies to a 9x13 glass pan, so that you have them in single overlapping layers: eggplant, squash, potatoes. These three layers should use half the squash and eggplant and all the potato.

Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pot sauté
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
until translucent. Add a splash of
  • balsamic or red wine vinager
and let reduce. Then add
  • about 4 large tomatoes, diced
  • some salt
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and allow some of the juices to cook off and the flavors to begin to marry. Then add the cooked lentils and
  • some clove and nutmeg
Cook a few minutes more, then remove from heat. You should have about 4 cups of filling.

Once you have the initial layers of your casserole, you are ready for the filling. Whisk
  • 1 egg
in a two-cup heatproof glass (Pyrex!) measuring cup, and whisk in just a little of the hot tomato-and-lentil liquid. Then add a little more, whisking constantly, to temper the egg. Keep adding by small amounts; when you have added about 1/4 cup, you may start using larger spoonfuls, whisking all the while, until you have two cups of lentil-and-egg mixture. Pour the lentil mixture over the casserole, spread evenly, and repeat with
  • 1 more egg
Sprinkle the casserole with
  • 1/3 pound feta, crumbled
and add another layer of eggplant and another layer of zucchini.

Move the casserole to the oven, and begin making a bechamel sauce. In a small saucepan, melt and whisk together
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • some nutmeg
and cook over low heat, whisking, until the sauce starts to thicken, five or ten minutes. Season with
  • salt and pepper
In your Pyrex measuring cup, whisk
  • 1 egg
and dribble in a little of the hot milk. Whisking constantly, keep adding more hot liquid, slowly at first, until the eggs are tempered.

Remove the casserole from the oven, and cover with the bechamel. Sprinkle evenly with
  • grated parmesan (about 1/4 cup)
and bake another twenty minutes or so, until you get hungry enough that you don't care whether everything has fully set (it has, but it's still hot enough to look runny). Allow to cool ten minutes before serving. Sprinkle the top with
  • fresh parsley and oregano
and serve.

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