|Please note that I said “lighter” not light–this is a rich dish.|
To begin, I cooked up and drained some lentils (two cups cooked) to add to the tomato sauce. Cook the lentils just until tender–if they are mooshy going into the sauce, they will not hold up for the baking. If you are not into lentils you can just omit them and you will still have a really delicious meatless moussaka, but I love the flavor and texture that they add. I started the sauce by heating a tablespoon of olive oil and softening a cup of diced red onion, some crushed garlic, and a cup of diced fresh tomato.
When the onion was soft I added in the two cups of cooked lentils, two cups of prepared marinara sauce, two teaspoons of ground cinnamon, and a teaspoon of Aleppo pepper (you can use half that much standard crushed red pepper, or omit altogether). Cook for a few minutes and remove from heat.
I then prepared the eggplant and new potatoes. For the new potatoes I simply boiled until tender, cooled, peeled, and sliced lengthwise. I ended up with about two cups total. For the eggplants I peeled and sliced each one, sprinkled with some salt, and let them “detox” for thirty minutes in a colander. Rinse off the salt, then lay the slices out on a baking sheet that you have sprayed with some olive oil cooking spray. Spray the slices with that same cooking spray to coat (this is part of the lightening up–usually the slices are fried) and then bake at 375 degrees until they are softened up. Depending on how thick you slice them, this should take about 30 minutes. I used five small eggplants but if you are using standard size I would go with two.
|How they look out of the oven|
Finally, prepare the bechamel. In a saucepan, whisk together three tablespoons of olive oil with three tablespoons of flour. Don’t let it brown, just cook for a few minutes until bubbly.
Now, whisk in two cups of milk or milk-like substitute (I used plain almond milk because that is what we had on hand, and it worked just fine). Simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until you have a medium white sauce texture–it should be about the thickness of regular plain yogurt. Remove from heat, and whisk in a half teaspoon of salt, a good pinch of ground nutmeg, and a half cup of grated parmesan cheese or any similar hard, aged cheese (I used Grana Padano).
To assemble, coat the bottom of an 11 by 13 inch baking pan with half of the tomato sauce, and cover with the sliced potatoes. Add the other half of the tomato sauce and cover that with the eggplant slices. Pour on the bechamel and then sprinkle the top with another quarter cup of grated parmesan.
Bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or until browned and bubbly. Serves about eight normal people, or four in our household.
This is Really. Freaking. Delicious. The new potatoes add a nice texture and the eggplant just melts into the bechamel. You have to try it.
Vegan option: Just use almond milk for the bechamel and omit the grated cheese. Easy!
Thanks for reading,