I love to take classic dishes and make them vegetarian. Moussaka is a classic layered casserole, filled with lamb and eggplant. My take on this classic is just as tasty, but can be served to both meat eaters and vegetarians alike and both will be satisfied.
Moussaka was the first Greek dish I ever learned to make and have developed this recipe over the years. I have taken the time consuming frying of the eggplant away and found that baking the eggplant makes for an easier and healthier way to create this amazing dish. The filling with its cinnamon and oregano will make your kitchen seem like you have traveled to Greece.
- 2 eggplant — about 3 pounds
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup dry quinoa
- 4 tomatoes, diced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
- ¾ cup white wine
- ¼ cup water
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- ½ stick of butter
- ½ cup of flour
- 2 cups non-fat milk
- ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ½ cup Parmesan, grated
- ½ cup Kefalotyri Greek cheese (if you cannot find this use more Parmesan)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice the eggplant into rounds, ¼ inch thick or less. Layer them in a colander and sprinkle each layer generously with salt. Let the eggplant sit in the colander in the sink for about an hour. Lightly rinse each slice and pat dry with a clean dish towel.
- Put each slice on to a parchment lined baking sheet (it will take 3 sheets to fit all the eggplant). With a pastry brush, brush each eggplant slice with a light amount of olive oil, on both sides. Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes, ½ way thru rotate sheets in oven. The thinner slices will get dark and slightly crispy, this is fine, you mainly want each slice to get some color, just like when they are fried.
- While the eggplant is in the oven start the filling. In a large heavy bottom Le Creuset type pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the already heated pan over medium high heat. Add in the onion and sauté until onions are transparent; add in the garlic and sauté for another minute. Stir in the dried quinoa until incorporated. At this point, add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon, oregano, white wine and water. Bring just to a boil; cover and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for half an hour. Remove the lid and let the mixture continue to simmer until almost all the liquid has been evaporated. You want the mixture to look dry. Taste to test for salt and pepper; add as you see fit.
- Cover bottom of an 8x11 casserole baking dish with a layer of eggplant slices. Then spread on ½ of the tomato/quinoa mixture. Layer again with eggplant and then the remaining tomato/quinoa and top with remaining eggplant. Set aside while you make sauce.
- Melt the butter in a pan and then sprinkle in the flour. Mix to incorporate and stir for a minute or so over low heat. Remove from heat and slowly add in the milk whisking to incorporate the flour mixture. Then whisk in the yogurt. Return to the heat and continue to whisk until mixture becomes thickened. Once thick stir in ¼ cup Kefalotyri cheese and ¼ cup of Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate everything.
- Pour sauce over the top of the final layer of eggplant. Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.
- At this point, you could allow the casserole to cool and the place in the fridge. This dish can be made ahead of time — it’s an easy dish to prepare for a dinner party (no last minute cooking or mess). If you do make it in advance, bring the dish back to almost room temperature before putting in the oven, or adjust for a longer baking time.
- When ready, you then just place the Moussaka in to a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for one hour. The edges will get bubbly and the center should brown with the cheese. The sauce gets a nice golden brown color.
- Take it out of the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
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