Note: I’m currently in Seoul, waiting for my flight to Bangkok! I will post updates soon, but in the meantime… Moussaka!
For some reason, midway through the day, I decided I wanted to make Moussaka for dinner. I don’t know why, but it seemed like a reasonable thing to try and piece together, making a recipe that is my own. (Well, as “my own” as it can be, since there are so many variations already out there).
I looked at dozens of Moussaka recipes, trying to get a feel for the basic components. I discovered that it consists of slices of eggplant layered with meat and tomato sauce, baked with a bechamel sauce on top. That is all fine and good but I wanted to make a vegetarian variety, and I wanted something a little lighter than bechamel sauce (which is full of butter and eggs, two things I frankly don’t need any more of right now).
In addition to eggplant, I used some potato and artichoke hearts, and I pureed some lowfat cottage cheese with a little reduced-fat sour cream and a pinch of nutmeg to make a significantly lightened sauce for the top. It won’t brown like bechamel would, but it still tastes nice and is a great counterpoint to the tomato sauce.
This is a great recipe for using the mandoline, since the potatoes and eggplant need to be thinly sliced, but it would also be the perfect opportunity to work on your knife skills. Win-win!
My potatoes were still a little firm, so next time I might try boiling them for about 10 minutes before I put them into the dish.
2 8 oz red potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large globe eggplants, thinly sliced (I didn’t peel mine, but you can if you want to)
a few generous pinches salt
14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
Place a layer of eggplant slices on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and sprinkle evenly with salt. Place another layer on top of that, and sprinkle with some more salt. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices, salting each layer. Let sit about 30 minutes. Water will bead up on the slices.
To keep the potatoes from browning, put in a bowl of water with a pinch or two of salt until needed.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 28 ounce can plus 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp sugar
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium.
Add the onions and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are nicely yellowed and very soft.
Add the garlic and stir for another minute or two.
Stir in the tomatoes and remaining ingredients, adjusting to taste.
Simmer for about 15 minutes over low.
1 1/2 cups lowfat cottage cheese
2 tbsp reduced fat sour cream
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Combine cottage cheese and sour cream in a bowl. Puree with an immersion blender (or you could use a standing blender or food processor) until smooth. Stir in nutmeg.
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 glass baking pan and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs.
Pat the top layer of eggplant slices dry.
Put a layer of slightly-overlapping eggplant slices over the bread crumbs, then top with a few ladle-fulls of tomato sauce (spread evenly).
Continue patting the eggplant slices dry as you use them.
Lay the potato slices in a single layer over the sauce, then top with some more sauce.
Sprinkle the artichoke hearts over that sauce, then continue alternating eggplant with tomato sauce until you have filled the pan (ending with tomato sauce).
Carefully spread the white sauce evenly over the top of the tomato sauce, cover with foil, and bake for 60 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake for 10-15 minutes more. (A fork should go through all layers easily)
Put the pan on a rack to stand for about 10 minutes before serving.
Cut into squares to serve.