A few months ago, a Greek friend was feeling down, so we invited her and a few others over for a Sunday dinner. Having never cooked anything remotely Greek, I had quite a lot to learn. Luckily she had us over a year or so before and served a vegetarian Moussaka that was out of this world.
Up for the challenge, I spent the whole day creating my Greek feast. I made a traditional meat version and a veggie version of Moussaka with a Horiatiki Salad (with feta on the side) and Bakalava for dessert. (Luckily, I have a Greek coworker who shared her mom’s delightful recipe.)
To make the Moussaka, I read a half dozen or so recipes before starting. That is generally the way I cook – I approach it like a research project so I am aware of the variations that exist and can make adjustments based on the ingredients I have on hand (or don’t like.)
This is the vegetarian version. I’ve made it vegan for my lactose-intolerant ladyfriend with great results. I am a sucker for the grated Kefalotyri cheese on top, but the dish is still completely delicious without. (Or with Romano or Parmesan if you can’t find Greek cheese.)
The best vegan recipe for Moussaka is, of course, the one that Isa Chandra Moskowitz has in her amazing cookbook called Veganomicon. While always intrigued by the idea of making a “cream” sauce with pine nuts and tofu, I’ve never gotten around to it. I also like the idea of a bechamel (white sauce) poured over the dish instead. Since I don’t use the pine nut cream, that result had very little protein to make it solid. So, in that amazing book, there is a recipe for Shepherdess Pie (vegan Shepherd’s Pie) that gave me the idea of using tempeh as a “meat” for the red sauce. I also found this tempeh-based Moussaka recipe as well. Finally, I also consulted a more traditional Moussaka recipe for guidance.
This serves about 6-8 and takes awhile to make – give yourself about 1.5-2 hours (including baking time). Totally worth it. Enjoy!
Moussaka (Vegetarian and possibly Vegan)
1 lb eggplant
1 lb zucchini
1 lb potatoes (russett or baking)
olive oil for brushing
(Spray oil if you have it)
2 8oz packages of Tempeh (Lightlife)
1/3 cup Tamari or Soy sauce
2 cups water
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup red wine or veg broth
2 15 oz cans of crushed tomatoes w/juice
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 bay leaf
2 Tbs butter (Earth Balance)
2 Tbs flour
1 Cup milk (regular or PLAIN soy)
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup of grated Kefalotyri cheese or Romano
- Wash eggplant and zucchini and scrub and peel the potatoes. Using a very sharp knife, slice all of them lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices.
- Spray or brush 3 cookie sheets with olive oil. Place sliced vegetables on the sheets and brush/spray with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Some overlap is OK.
- Roast veggies for 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Potatoes may need 20. Remove when lightly browned. I sort of stack the baking sheets on one side of the stove while I cook other stuff.
Prepare Red Sauce
- Crumble tempeh into small pieces into a large saucepan. Add tamari or soy, water and 1 tsp of oil. Cover and let boil for about 10 minutes.
- Remove lid and allow to liquid to boil off for about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander.
- Do not rinse pan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat and saute garlic and onions for 4 minutes. Add tempeh to pan.
- Add wine and simmer a few minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, ground cinnamon and bay leaf.
- Simmer, partially covered over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove bay leaf.
- Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
- Add flour and whisk to form a roux. Whisk until it darkens, but just a light brown.
- Add milk slowly, whisking until there are no lumps. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Remove from heat when thickened. (Coats the back of the spoon.)
- Brush a 9×13 inch glass or metal pan (sometimes I use a larger one) with olive oil. Spread some of the red sauce on the bottom.
- Add successive layers of eggplant, potatoes, sauce and half the breadcrumbs. Put the zucchini on top of this. Continue to layer and end with bread crumbs.
- Pour Bechamel Sauce evenly over the top.
- Bake for 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven
- Sprinkle optional grated Kefalotyri cheese on the top and bake for 15 more minutes.
- Remove and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing to serve.
I have served this with a quickly sauteed spinach in garlic and oil on the side or on top. Totally not necessary, but it looks nice.
Tastes great as leftovers, as the flavors meld and the texture firms up.