There are probably only a handful of things that can only properly be accomplished in one singular way. The first that comes to mind right now is the squat. All you fitness buffs know there’s only one way to do it correctly. Lucky for me, I got some reassurance from Tony yesterday that mine are pretty close (thanks!). But take something like loading the dishwasher – many people will tell you there’s only one way, but really, it’s just their way. Moussaka falls into the latter category. So on our last night in Mykonos when I saw a menu describing the moussaka simply as “done in the correct way” – I giggled, but couldn’t resist. It would be a total crime to come home from Greece without having the proper moussaka.
That moussaka was super delicious, I’ll admit. But that guy who decided his moussaka was “correct” would probably have all kinds of problems with mine. First, the glaring omission of the lamb – or any kind of meat, for that matter. Second, this moussaka is stuffed with lentils and chickpeas but there isn’t a potato in sight (actually, I hear potatoes are up for up for debate when it comes to making moussaka correctly; it really depends on who you ask.) And lastly, this moussaka is slathered in yogurt. Seriously, what’s that doing in there?
Just like everything else, it’s contributing harmoniously to this correctly-made moussaka. I know it’s correct because I’ve made it three times, with a few tweaks each time to make it so. I don’t tire of bringing it for lunch three days in a row for two weeks back to back – and why would I, when it’s so mouth-watering and hearty and nutritious? It got just about all gobbled up at a dinner party recently, so I know I’m not the only one who adores it.
I’m sure there are many way to make moussaka correctly (I’m trying to be open minded here.) But this one, with its thick layers of velvety eggplant, hearty vegetables in a warm cinnamon-spiced tomato sauce, and protein-rich cheesy baked topping? Well, I can’t think of anything wrong about it.
2 medium eggplants, sliced 1/4 inch thick (to yield ~ 2lbs sliced eggplant)
1/2 cup (90gm) lentils
2 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces fresh tomatoes, cored and diced
1 onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 10oz package sliced fresh portobello mushrooms
1 (14.5 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 whole cinnamon sticks
1 1/4 cups (280gm) fat free plain Greek yogurt
3 oz freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (or other hard grating cheese)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Sprinkle the eggplant slices generously with salt, and place them in a colander in the sink.
Pick over lentils and rinse. Place the lentils, stock, and bay leaf in a saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are just tender. Keep warm.
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat, and spray with olive oil cooking spray. Cook the onions, letting them sweat out, until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until their moisture has been released, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and cook for another minute or until fragrant. Season vegetables with salt and pepper. Drain and reserve any unabsorbed liquid from the lentils, and add to pan along with chickpeas, fresh and canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, until thickened. If sauce gets too thick, add a few tablespoons of reserved vegetable broth. If sauce is thin, uncover and increase heat.
Rinse eggplant slices and pat dry with paper towels. While sauce is cooking, heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Using a little of the olive oil at a time and working in batches, cook all of the eggplant slices for about 5 minutes, turning once, so that they are lightly browned on each side. (Alternatively, arrange the eggplant slices on a rimmed baking sheet, brush with olive oil or spray with olive oil cooking spray, and cook under the broiler for 5-6 minutes per side.)
Remove cinnamon sticks from lentil mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place one third of the eggplant slices in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with one third of the lentil mixture. Repeat the layers twice, and press the top down with the back of a spatula.
Whisk together eggs and yogurt until mixed. Season with salt and pepper. Pour yogurt mixture on top of moussaka and top with grated cheese. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until top is lightly browned.
Servings Per Recipe: 6
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat: 12.1 g
Cholesterol: 121.2 mg
Sodium: 759.6 mg
Total Carbs: 40.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 14.2 g
Protein: 22.9 g