I’m an eggplant convert. I never ever used to eat it, but I’ve been experimenting with it lately, and really it’s not so bad! The key is the salt drain—never skip it! I started off simply with eggplant parmesan, and eggplant with meat and tomato sauce, but now I’m going way out of my comfort zone with this vegetarian moussaka.
Ever since traveling to Greece, I’ve wanted to try moussaka, which is off limits because of its combination of meat and cream sauce. I had to choose between a dairy-free cream and cheese sauce or a fake meat. I chose fake meat—lentils, actually.
I didn’t want to use actual fake meat, so lentils are a good substitute of ground meat, and mushrooms add an extra bit of meatiness. The rosemary definitely gives it a lamby flavor, too.
It’s complicated at first glance, but separate it into a few steps (that can be made at different times/on different days): lentils, eggplant/potato, and sauce; it’s less daunting this way. Then you just have to assemble and bake! It’s great to make ahead, or for the freezer, just heat it up when ready to serve.
Kosher Vegetarian/Lentil Moussaka adapted from Jamie Oliver
- 25 g dried mushrooms
- olive oil
- dried oregano
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 8 oz. brown lentils, soaked and drained
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 15 oz. can plum tomatoes
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- 2 medium eggplants
- 2 medium potatoes
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 3 black peppercorns
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 oz. feta cheese
- 1 oz. kosher pecorino romano cheese
- 2 egg yolks
- Preheat the oven to 350 and put up a pot of water to boil.
Make the lentil ragu:
- Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water and set aside to soak.
- In a large pan over medium heat, add a good glug of olive oil and a teaspoon of dried oregano, then mix in the onions, garlic, and rosemary.
- Drain the mushrooms, reserving the water, then chop and add to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes, until softened, but not brown.
- Turn the heat up to high and pour in the wine. When the wine is boiling, add the lentils, one bay leaf, tomatoes, and mushroom water. Season with salt and bring to a boil again, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for one hour, mixing and breaking up the tomatoes occasionally.
Prepare the other layers:
- While the lentils are cooking, peel the eggplants and slice into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick rounds, place in a colander and sprinkle with kosher salt, and let soak in the sink.
- Next, peel the potatoes and cut into rounds. Toss with olive oil and some dried oregano and roast in an even layer for 40 minutes.
- Rinse and dry the eggplant, toss with olive oil and oregano, and roast alongside the potatoes, also for 40 minutes.
Make the bechamel:
- Heat the milk with a bay leaf and the peppercorns over low heat. Don’t let it boil, you just want it to warm up. Strain it into a bowl.
- Melt the butter into a pot (just wipe the milk pot clean and reuse it), and then whisk in the flour.
- Slowly, slowly whisk in the warmed milk.
- Add half the cheese to the sauce, then turn off the heat and let cool. Whisk in the egg yolks.
Assemble your veggie moussaka:
- Lightly grease a lasagna pan (9×13-inch Pyrex) and place the potatoes in a single layer on the bottom. Spoon half the lentils on top, then half of the eggplant rounds, followed by the rest of the lentils, then the rest of the eggplant. Pour the bechamel on top, top with the remaining cheese, and bake for 40 minutes.