Moussaka is native to several countries across the Balkans, Middle East, and Mediterranean,* but my favorite version of this dish is the Greek version with its layers of eggplant and ground meat (such as lamb or beef) and béchamel topping. One of my favorite things about this dish is the eggplant, but unfortunately this is also the reason Mike won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. I knew before I made this dish that he would not be partaking in it with me, so I decided to make it vegetarian (since Mike is the main meat lover in our house) by replacing the ground meat with quinoa. It ended up being fantastic and I think it will become one of my go-to vegetarian dinners.
* According to Wikipedia
(Yield: 2 servings)
1 small (1/2 lb) eggplant, thinly sliced into about 1/4-inch rounds
Salt and pepper
1/4 c quinoa
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried mint
Salt and pepper
1 TB unsalted butter
2 TB all-purpose flour
3/4 c milk (low-fat or fat-free is fine)
1 egg yolk
Salt and Pepper
1-2 TB grated Kefalotiri cheese (you can use Pecorino Romano cheese if you can’t find Kefalotiri)
16 oz gratin dish
For eggplant: Preheat broiler. Arrange sliced eggplant in a single layer on a baking sheet; brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil for 3-8 minutes on each side, until the eggplant is tender and golden.
For quinoa/tomato layer: Soak quinoa in cold water for 15 minutes. Strain it through a fine mesh sieve, then thoroughly rinse it under cold running water. Heat 2 tsp oil in a small/medium saucepan with a lid over medium to medium-low heat; add onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another 30 seconds. Transfer the rinsed quinoa, 1/2 c water, and a pinch of salt to the saucepan with the onion/garlic mixture. Bring to a boil over medium heat with the lid off; once it boils, give it a stir, cover it, and turn heat down to a gentle simmer. Cook 14 minutes, turn the heat off, and let it sit with the lid on for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork. Stir tomato sauce, oregano, mint, and a pinch of allspice into quinoa. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
For béchamel: Warm the milk in a small saucepan over low heat. In a separate small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter, then whisk in flour and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute. Slowly whisk in warm milk and cook until smooth, about 1 minute; turn off heat and whisk in a pinch of nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk 1/4 c of the béchamel sauce into the egg yolk, only adding a little at a time. Add egg yolk mixture to the saucepan with the rest of the béchamel, turn the heat on low, and cook 1-2 minutes until thickened.
To assemble: Preheat oven to 350F. Arrange half of the eggplant in the bottom of a 16 oz gratin dish; spread the quinoa/tomato mixture evenly on top of the eggplant. Arrange the remaining eggplant on top of the quinoa/tomato mixture; pour the béchamel on top and sprinkle on the grated cheese. Bake about 35 minutes, or until light golden brown on top.