A while back I posted Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s vegan moussaka recipe from their fantastic cookbook, Veganomicon. That recipe is so good and so very authentic-tasting that it was hard to imagine the need for another meat-free moussaka — until we moved countries, that is, and my kitchen got smaller and simpler and tofu got a lot pricier. Isa and Terry’s recipe is a smash hit at parties, and completely worth the effort for special occasions, but when I am just cooking for us, spending 6 or 7 hours thinly slicing, roasting, layering, blending, sauteing, assembling and so forth can really take the fun out of sitting down to dinner (by which time I am so exhausted I would rather just go to sleep). That’s why I was so excited to find a recipe for vegetarian moussaka in Joan Nathan’s book The Foods of Israel today, a book I turn to less often than others because it contains a lot of meat recipes, as well as ingredients that (until we moved back to Israel) could be hard to find. This moussaka is certainly not fancy, but is quite attractive and delicious and will not leave you too spent to enjoy your meal.
Dona Flor’s Vegetarian Moussaka adapted from The Foods of Israel Today, by Joan Nathan
A few notes: First, this recipe is vegetarian, but could be adapted for vegans with a little creative know-how. See Isa and Terry’s recipe for ideas on how you could fuse the two. Second, I halved the recipe I am posting below; this one serves 10. And lastly, I really don’t believe in salting and straining my eggplant, especially if they are fresh. The reason for doing this is to leach out any bitterness, but as I cannot remember the last time I tasted a bitter eggplant, I skip this step and avoid the hassle.
4 pounds/about 2 kilo eggplants (about 4 large)
4 Tbs salt (if straining, see above)
1/2 cup olive oil (I do not use extra virgin for sauteeing, as it breaks down at high temperatures. Use regular olive oil for cooking and extra virgin for dressing salads, etc.)
2 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds/1kilo fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 28 ounce can plum tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbs tomato paste (I omitted this, as I forgot to purchase it when I was shopping. I don’t think the recipe suffered too much as a result)
1 cup dry red wine (ask at the wine store for something that will also be good for drinking, as the moussaka goes very well with a glass of red wine)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
4 Tbs bread crumbs (not a lot, but essential to the recipe)
4 Tbs butter or good quality margarine
6 Tbs flour
3 cups milk (I used soy)
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
a few grinds fresh pepper
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 ounces goat cheese
Wash and dry the eggplants and remove the stems. Cut them into 1/2 inch rounds. If salting: sprinkle with salt and leave for an hour in a strainer. Then rinse with water and squeeze gently to remove any liquid. Pat dry.
Heat a skillet with a thin film of olive oil. Brown the eggplant lightly on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
Saute onions in a few tablespoons of olive oil until transparent. Add the garlic (careful not to burn!) and season with salt and pepper. Stir tomatoes and their liquid into the onions. Continue cooking gently for 5 minutes.
Mix the wine with the tomato paste. Add to the onions and tomatoes and simmer over low heat, uncovered for about 20 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Add some of the chopped parsley and season to taste. You should have about 4 cups of sauce.
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and grease a 9×13-inch baking pan (large, rectangular) with olive oil. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the bottom.
Arrange a layer of eggplant in the dish, then spoon half the tomato sauce on top. Add another layer of eggplant and the remaining tomato sauce. Top with the remaining eggplant rounds.
Melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Stirring constantly, cook for 1 or 2 minutes, being careful not to brown (I used whole wheat flour, which worked fine, but it is a little hard to tell if you are burning it because it is already brown). Gradually add the milk. Bring slowly to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring all the time, until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
Remove the white sauce from the heat and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Put the egg yolks in a bowl, crumble in the goat cheese with your fingers and when sauce has cooled a bit, fold egg mixture into it. Pour the sauce over the eggplant and bake for about 1 hour.