Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor of Love Pre-Labor Day Dinner: Vegetarian Moussaka

When it's a three day weekend, I like to make a more complex dish for Sunday dinner than I might make during a regular week.  I don't mind spending two or three hours in the kitchen on a Sunday if I don't have to head to work on Monday.

Tonight's experiment was Moussaka.  Moussaka is an eggplant and tomato based dish that's layered and baked in the oven.  I tend to think of it as Greek food, but it also apparently is also a dish found in the Balkans and Middle East.  A number of traditional Moussaka preparations have minced beef, but there are a number of vegan and vegetarian versions out there. After looking at several sources, I decided on this lacto-ovo version from, which called for lentils instead of beef.

Lentils are an excellent addition to a vegan or vegetarian diet. In addition to being high in fiber, they are also a good source of folate and iron.  Dried lentils store for a long time, and, unlike other dried beans, do not need to be soaked overnight before they're cooked.  Lentils can be ready to eat in about 20-30 minutes, so they're also good for quick meals.

This recipe called for canned lentils, but I had some dried lentils in the cupboard, so I decided to cook up a large batch of them and save some for other dishes throughout the week.  There are a number of types of lentils.  The ones I used are French Green Lentils, which I purchased from the bulk aisle in Whole Foods.   

To slice the vegetables, I broke out my mandoline slicer.  This mandoline allowed me to adjust the thickness of the slices very easily, and I was able to slice an entire eggplant, two zucchini, four yukon gold potatoes and one large onion in less than five minutes, including washing the veggies and swapping blades.  It helped to cut the eggplant and zucchini into three or so pieces, and I'm definitely glad for the food guard!  I used the serrated blade for the eggplant and zucchini and the straight blade for the potatoes.

The browning of the veggies took longer, even using my ginormous saute pan, so I was glad to have saved time on the slicing!  I think it was about seven rounds of veg.  I got a little nervous about the veg sticking to the pan, so I gradually added additional tablespoons of olive oil.

While I let the veggies drain on paper towels, I worked on the sauce.  Since I didn't have liquid left over from the canned lentils, I added in some vegetable broth.  I also used half a small bulb of garlic, rather than one clove of garlic.  I mean, really, who only uses ONE clove?

For the roux, I used skim milk and Earth Balance.  I may try and make it with Almond Milk next time.  Also, if there is a next time, I am bringing in minions to help me with the endless browning of vegetables.

Since this was looking to be a fairly hearty meal, I decided to make a side salad with romaine, red pepper, baby carrots and sunflower seeds.  I dressed it with Silver Palate's Champagne Honey Mustard Dressing.

All in all, the start time was 6:25 and the meal went on the table around 8:45.  It would have been longer if it wasn't for the mandoline!  But, it was well worth the effort for something so yummy, as well as something that would give us some leftovers.  Husband and I ate half the pan, and I imagine the rest of the pan will not last so long.

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