While chatting with a my lifelong friend/sister, Barb, on Facebook the other day she mentioned a couple of her mom's family recipes, Moussaka and Stifano. I think of Moussaka as a Greek lasagna, usually made with eggplant and ground meat, lamb or beef. It has layers of potatoes, a tangy tomato meat sauce, cheese, and a generous amount of creamy béchamel sauce poured on top of the layers, and topped with cheese.
Gert was one of my favorite mom's growing up. She had a wide range of talents and great stories to tell of her life experiences. We remained friends as I became an adult. I'd come to visit Barb unannounced and if she was not home it wasn't a problem. I was at home there and stayed anyway. Sometimes Gert & I would crack open a bottle of wine and talk through the night. I was more at home at her house than my own parents' house. She lost the battle with stomach cancer some years ago and I do think about her from time to time and miss her. Gert was a lot of fun to be around. She has lived all over the world and when she made an authentic ethnic dish, it was authentic. I don't think she'd mind what I did with her family recipe. I also made a vegan version of her Stifano, a Greek beef stew, using stew meat size seitan pieces. I'll be posting that later. Simmering for three hours in the crock-pot, this dish made my house smell wonderful.
My version of Gert's Moussaka, vegan style.
2 Large eggplants, sliced 1/2" thick
1 14 oz. tube Gimme Lean ground beef style veggie protein - I think Soy curls would work well for this dish
3-4 small zucchini, sliced
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes
1 cup organic Panko breadcrumbs
Cooking oil such as Olive, I used hazelnut oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces tomato sauce, I just blended my home canned tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped dried parsley
small sprig of fresh rosemary
fresh thyme leaves, about 1 teaspoon
1/2 cup red wine
about 1/2 - 3/4 cup Daiya mozzarella style vegan cheese
sea salt and ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup, 1 stick, vegan margarine, I used Earth Balance organic
1/2 cup spelt flour
3 cups non dairy milk
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
pinch of nutmeg
sea salt & pepper to taste
Slice and cook the potatoes in a small amount of water for ten minutes or until just tender, al denté. Set aside.
Peel and slice the eggplant and the zucchini and toss them with a little sea salt. Then I put them in the dehydrator for an hour or so to let the moisture evaporate. If you don't have a dehydrator, you can put the slices between paper towels and weight with another plate for an hour or more.
While the eggplant is drying, prepare the 'meat' sauce. Dice or crumble the veggie protein which looks a lot like ground beef and brown it in a couple tablespoons of oil. Then add the diced onions, garlic, sea salt, and pepper. When the meat was brown and onions tender add the cinnamon, nutmeg, herbs, and tomato sauce. Stir well, add the wine, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring a couple times.
The eggplant can be steamed, or sauteed with or without a breading. I chose to dip them in some egg replacer and dredged in a little spelt flour. Then I gently fried them in a little hot oil just until they were golden, not very long. Then put them aside on a paper towel until I needed them. I suppose when I have fresh picked eggplant from the garden I could just put the slices 'as is' without any prior cooking. But, since I used eggplant from the market which is probably not so fresh, it needed some tenderizing first.
Lightly oil a 9" x 13" pan and sprinkle the panko bread crumbs in the bottom. Leave a small space around the edges of the pan so the bechamel sauce can ooze over the sides of the dish. Make the first layer with the sliced potatoes. Top with a layer of eggplant slices, add the tomato 'meat' sauce, sprinkle with the shredded Daiya cheese. Add the zucchini slices next. Top with a layer of eggplant slices.
Preheat the oven to 350º and make the béchamel sauce.
Melt the vegan margarine. Using a whisk, add the flour to the melted margarine whisking continuously to make a smooth rue. Allow the mixture to cook for a minute but do not allow it to turn brown. Add non dairy mild in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil. Remove from heat, and stir in turmeric, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Pour the béchamel sauce over the eggplant and be sure to allow sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the bechamel on top and sprinkle remaining cheese. Bake in 350º oven for 45 minutes or until sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 - 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
Most of this dish can be made ahead of time, but it's best to make the béchamel sauce right before you intend to bake it.
Enjoy, I am going to go have some right now.