Vegetarian moussaka

Since moving to the (landlocked) Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, JD and I have been eating more and more vegetarian meals. We’ve never been in the habit of eating meat every day and, sadly, I just haven’t found a source for fresh fish and seafood that isn’t eye-wateringly expensive.

This brings us to last week. We were getting ready to spend a long weekend in Lille, France and I wanted to make something that would result in two nights’ worth of dinner so we could do laundry,  pack, and dream about how many mussels we would eat at the annual Braderie festival in Lille. I had a faint memory of a delicious vegetarian moussaka with a very rich sauce that I had made once years ago when JD’s sister was visiting, and I wanted to see if I could recreate it.

The results were wonderful, and we happily ate this for dinner two nights in a row. I hate to admit this but, in general,  I don’t really love leftovers. For some reason, they kind of put me off. I suppose I find it a bit of a dismal prospect to stare into the depths of the fridge at something from the night before that you know you should eat, since being wasteful is bad, but you really wish it would magically transform into a pizza or a brownie. Hence why I get excited when we have “good” leftovers, and if those leftovers happen to be pie, and I happen to have them for breakfast with coffee, even better. All that to say – this moussaka is delicious and it makes good leftovers.

Eggplant, lots of rich, spiced sauce, a layer of sliced potatoes for heft, and lovely bechamel. How can you go wrong?
  Roast your eggplant while you make the sauce, it’s a lot easier than frying it.
  Onion and garlic form the base of the sauce.  Sautée for a few minutes on medium heat until onion has softened slightly and garlic is tender.
  Add sliced mushrooms.
  Mmm veggies! Zucchini, carrot, and red pepper.  Add to your pot and continue cooking.
  Tomato paste for richness

Two cans of crushed tomatoes and a can of lentils for protein + body.

  Cinnamon for warmth!
  One cup of red wine. Oh, that was for me to drink, not for the recipe. Just kidding, it is for the sauce.   4-5 medium potatoes (here, I made a couple too many)
  Continue simmering your sauce.  Get started on the bechamel – melt butter and add flour to make a roux. Continue cooking for a few minutes until golden and fragrant. Then add warmed milk, and stir in cheese (not pictured). Once it has cooled from hot to warm, add eggs and nutmeg.
  Freshly grate some nutmeg if you can, if not, use ground.  Add one later of eggplant.
  A layer of sauce, another later of eggplant, a layer of sliced potatoes and top with bechamel.


Vegetarian Moussaka

2 large eggplants, sliced
1 tsp oregano
4 tbsp olive oil
4 medium potatoes

For the sauce:

1 large onion, diced
4-6 cloves garlic, minced, depending on how much you love garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 large zucchini, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon (taste and add more as needed)
3 tbsp tomato paste
800ml or 28oz crushed tomatoes
400ml or 14oz brown lentils
1 cup red wine
2 bay leaves

For the béchamel:

4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated gruyere, emmental, or other sharp cheese
freshly grated nutmeg
3 eggs, beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 375F / 190C. Brush sliced eggplant with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with oregano. Bake for 15 minutes, turn, and bake another 15 minutes until eggplant is soft and has browned. Set aside.
  2. Parboil potatoes for 5 minutes, then drain. Once cool, slice potatoes and set aside.
  3. In a medium stock pot over medium high heat, add olive oil and sautée onions and garlic until onions begin to soften and garlic is fragrant but not brown, 4-5 minutes. Add mushrooms, and continue cooking another 5 minutes until mushrooms have released most of their juices and are starting to brown.
  4. Add carrots, zucchini, red pepper, and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add 1/4 tsp cinnamon, bay leaves, crushed tomatoes, lentils, and red wine. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning – you may need to add salt, pepper, and a little more cinnamon, if desired.
  6. To make bechamel, heat 2 cups milk in a small saucepan until hot but not boiling, set aside.
  7. Add butter to a saucepan and when melted, add flour and whisk to combine. Cook for a few minutes until your roux is golden and fragrant. Whisk in hot milk, a little at a time. Sauce will become quite thick. Whisk in cheese and set aside to cool slightly.
  8. When bechamel is warm but not hot, whisk in 3 beaten eggs and nutmeg. For me, this required some vigorous mixing but the sauce will come together and smooth out.
  9. In a large baking dish or lasagna pan, layer half your eggplant, then add your sauce, the other half of the eggplant, and a layer of sliced potatoes. Spread the bechamel sauce over the potato layer with a spatula.
  10. Bake in your preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, until browned and bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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