While I was in NYC for a conference, I had the pleasure of dining with my sister and brother in law at a fabulous restaurant Cleo at Mondrian Park Ave. The chef certainly had a way with Mediterranean small plates but one particular dish that caught my attention was the vegetarian Moussakah with eggplants and feta immersed in delicious béchamel sauce.
I have made Mousakkah many times with Lamb, beef and also with just vegetables and it always comes out warm and comforting.
Inspired by Cleo I experimented with a new recipe and it was a winner.
Moussakah is a very popular Greek dish but there are many versions of it through the Mediterranean, all equally worthy of trying.
In a traditional Greek Moussaka recipe, minced beef (or lamb) is cooked in a tomato base and spices then layered with eggplants and topped with creamy béchamel sauce and cheese.
In this vegetarian version, my basic ingredients are sweet eggplants and mushrooms. Then the béchamel sauce and the topping of feta and gruyere. I have made two small plates here for lunch but you can adjust and make one large one. The béchamel sauce has leftover which was wonderful. I have stored it for use during the week.
- 1 large eggplant or 3-4 slim ones
- Olive oil
- Pink salt
- Cremini mushrooms – I box around 20 pieces
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1/4 of a cup olive oil or avocado oil
- 1 cup pureed tomatoes
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Stick of butter – 4 ounces
- Whole milk – 3 cups
- Flour – 4 ounces
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup Grated Gruyere
- a pinch of nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the eggplant into slices (1 inch), Season with salt and place in a colander for about half an hour.
- Squeeze the liquid from the eggplants with your hands and pat dry with a paper towel. Drizzle the eggplants with some olive oil and bake them for 15 minutes in a 400-degree oven until golden brown.
- Add olive oil to a pan over medium heat and stir in the chopped mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes, add the garlic and chopped onions and continue to cook. Add the cinnamon and adjust the salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce thickens.
- For the béchamel sauce use a deep pan and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour whisking continuously to make a paste and add warmed milk pouring in a stream. Continue to whisk the whole time to avoid lumps and get to a smooth paste. Remove the pan from heat and add the egg yolks, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and the grated cheese. Whisk to incorporate all the ingredient and get a smooth and creamy paste
- To assemble I have used 2 small dishes, you can use a large baking dish as well. Sprinkle the bottom with some panko or breadcrumbs and layer the eggplants. Add the mushrooms sauce and another layer of eggplants.
- Top with the béchamel sauce, feta, and more gruyere.
- Cook in a 400-degree oven for 15 mins until bubbly. Cool for a few minutes before digging in