I went to Greece last summer for two weeks. Those two weeks were arguably the best two weeks of my life. Matt and I traveled to Athens, then to some of the Greek islands (Naxos and Santorini), and then we went to Delphi. It was so beautiful, but honestly, beyond falling in love with the country for its beauty, I fell in love with the food. Well, not all the food. Just one dish: moussaka. I seriously ate it at EVERY MEAL. I'm pretty sure moussaka is the Greek equivalent to like tuna casserole, but seriously, I could not get enough of this stuff. No it wasn't vegan, it wasn't even vegetarian, but it was so.good.
Here's a picture of a smattering of Greek cuisine (including moussaka on the left):
Upon deciding to give this whole vegan thing a go, I realized that I would need to bid my dear sweet moussaka adieu. It was heart-wrenching to say goodbye to something that brought me so much joy, but alas, I did.
But then, that Veganomicon book came into my life. As I perused the pages, I saw, to my incredible disbelief and surprise a recipe for EGGPLANT-POTATO MOUSSAKA WITH PINE NUT CREAM SAUCE. As tears of joy streamed down my face, I tried to tell myself it wouldn't be the same, couldn't be the same, but hope springs eternal in my kitchen. That's why I keep coming back...
So I gave it a go. And...
IT WAS AMAZING!!!!
Matt said he even liked it more than "real" moussaka.
This was a little more time-consuming than I would like for a normal Tuesday night, but it was so worth it. And I realized that the key to moussaka is all in the tomato sauce and the cinnamon. As the sauce heated, I seriously was taken back to Greece...
Did I mention there was a windchill of -15 in Chicago this morning. Sigh...
So, here's what I did wrong:
-Once again I did not really weigh the vegetables (ok, the weigher thing in the grocery store intimidates me, sue me). I'm pretty sure I did not have enough zucchini.
-I may have used more olive oil than was necessary to coat the vegetables for roasting...which was probably good because I didn't spray the baking sheets prior to roasting.
-I only used 3 shallots...mostly because I thought my eyes were going to start shooting flames. Why are shallots SO much more potent than normal onions?
-I only used a 28 ounce can of tomatoes.
-Matt put in 2 bay leaves...and then didn't take them out. Looking forward to chomping down on that later...
-Didn't have any lemons, so I used some old lemon juice in the fridge and only had enough for 2 tablespoons. Added a little water to make the paste thicken up.
-DEFINITELY do not have white pepper...nor do I know where on earth I would find that.
-Slicing vegetables length-wise is not my forte. The slices were either too thin or way too fat. And I almost lost a finger. Proceed with caution.
Here's the recipe from Veganomicon:
1 pound eggplant
1 pound zucchini
1 1/2 lbs. Russet or baking potatoes
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. olive oil
4 large shallots, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. vegetable broth or red wine
2 (15-oz) cans crushed tomatoes, with juice
2 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
Pine Nut Cream
1 lb. soft silken tofu
1/2 c. pine nuts, plus additional for garnish
3 T. lemon juice
1 t. arrowroot powder
1 clove garlc
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/4 t. salt, or to taste
1/2 c. dry, fine white bread crumbs
PREHEAT THE oven to 400. Lightly oil three baking sheets or shallow pans.
Prepare the vegetables:
Wash the eggplant and zucchini, and trim the stems. Scrub and peel the potatoes. Slice the eggplant, zuchini, and potatoes lengthwise into approximately 1/4-inch-thick slices. Rub the eggpland slices with a little salt and set aside in a colander in the sink for about 15 minutes to drain. Briefly rinse with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.
Place each vegetable on a separate baking sheet. Distribute the 1/4 c. oil among the three sheets and sprinkle the vegetables with salt (except the eggplant, if salted already). Toss to coat the vegetables on each sheet, making sure each piece is completely coated with oil. Drizzle a little extra oil on the eggplant, as it has a slight tendency to stick. Spread out the vegetables on each sheet; some overlapping is okay. Roast the pans of zucchini and eggplant for 15 minutes, or until tender. Roast the potatoes for about 20 to 22 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Allow the vegetables to cool.
While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the tomato sauce:
Combine the remaining 1/4 c. olive oil and minced garlic in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium heat and let the garlic sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until slightly reduced, another 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, ground cinnamon, and bay leaf. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should reduce slightly. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and adjust the salt (if necessary.)
Make the pine nut cream:
In a food processor, blend the pine nuts and lemon juice, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until a creamy paste forms. Add the tofu, garlic, arrowroot, nutmeg, salt, and white pepper. Blend until creamy and smooth.
Lightly oil a 9x13-inch pan and preheat the oven again to 400, if necessary. Spread 1/4 cup of tomato sauce on the pan, then add successive layers in order of eggplant, potato, sauce, and half the breadcrumbs. Spread all the zucchini on top of this. Top with a final layer each of eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and bread crumbs. Use a rubber spatula to evenly spread the pine nut cream over the entire top layer. Scatter a few pine nuts on top, if desired.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and a few cracks have formed in the topping. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving
Give this a go and TELL me it doesn't taste like your Greek grandmother made it for you and forced you to eat the whole pan...
I should have taken a picture that showed all the layers, but I seriously don't know how you people have the patience to do a photo shoot with your food. After all that work, all I can think about is eating it.