The next installment in the Veganversary-meal saga is a dish that hails from the Middle East: Moussaka. The dish dates back to the 11th century, and versions of it have been found in Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece. Originally, this dish was commonly made with lamb, but as I'm a vegan we're going to stick to vegetables. The Greeks tend to make their moussaka in layers, and this is the form I follow. Like many of my favorite dishes, this recipe is adapted from Veganomicon. I've made it so many times, however, that I know it by heart.
1 lb. eggplant
1 lb. zucchini squash
1 1/2 potatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cinnamon
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
For the topping:
1/2 pine nuts
juice of one lemon
1 package soft silken tofu
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp arrowroot powder
dash white pepper
To get started, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the eggplant, zucchini, and potatoes into 1/4" or thinner slices lengthwise. Go for lengthwise, so you'll have larger pieces. This'll save you some precious time later. Rinse off the eggplant slices, and rub them with salt. They'll drain some liquid after, so put them in a colander and place them on a towel of some variety. Nobody wants eggplant juice all over the countertop.
Spread 1/4 cup of the olive oil between 2-3 baking sheets, and add the veggies. Toss to coat, and appropriately salt and pepper them. And by appropriately, I mean don't re-salt that eggplant. Phew, that would be salty. Bake them in your preheated oven 25 minutes for the potatoes, and 15 minutes for the zucchini and eggplant. Everything should be headed toward golden brown.
While this baking is occuring, you can get started on your sauce. In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high. Mince the garlic cloves and throw them in, allowing them to sizzle for a minute or so while you chop the scallions. Add them to your hot pot and cook them til they soften, about two or three minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Cover and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced slightly.
Next, it's time to prepare the pine nut cream topping. This recipe is from Veganomicon, too, and I use it for *everything.* Pine nut cream tastes especially great alongside tomato-based dishes like this one, or lasagne! It's also quite simple.
So, put the pine nuts and lemon juice into the food processor and blend until it forms a paste. Then, throw in your tofu, garlic cloves, arrowroot powder, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg and blend until smooth. Adjust to taste.
Now, once your veggies have left the oven and had a chance to cool off, it's time to put it all together! (if necessary, re-heat the oven to 400 degrees now.)
Spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce across the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with a layer of eggplant (use half of what you have), followed by a layer of potatoes (again, half). Spread some more sauce on, then sprinkle on half the breadcrumbs evenly. Place all the zucchini in a layer, then add a bit more sauce, and repeat eggplant, potato, and breadcrumbs. Top with the rest of the sacue.
Finally, spread the pine nut cream across the top evenly. Sprinkle on some pine nuts for prettiness! Pop that bad boy into the oven and bake for 35 minutes or so, or until the pine nut cream has browned and begun to crack slightly.
This dish tastes great fresh out of the oven, or re-heated the next day as leftovers. Sierra and I re-heated some for lunch today, and enjoyed it as a picnic lunch with salad and bread. Sierra made a great balsamic-dijon dressing and the yellow tomatoes added some flavor and color.
The verdict? Centuries-old recipes are still delicious these days. Thanks, ancestors, for writing this stuff down.