Summer is approaching and with it the appetite for sun-ripened vegetables. Most of the vegetables are available all year round, but they taste best seasonally rendered. Many vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini only develop their full aroma when they have had enough sun. This is what makes summer vegetables so special. As we have some very hot and sunny days behind us, the veggies on the markets are bursting of flavor right now. So, I decided to turn them into a vegetarian main course, the vegetarian moussaka.
Moussaka is a Greek oven-baked dish with slices of deep-fried potatoes and eggplants, a sauce of ground meat, and tomatoes topped with a layer of béchamel sauce. I like the combination of potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, and béchamel. The meat, however is for me as a vegetarian more of a “is this necessary?”. People don’t stop trying to convince me of eating meat but how can I explain it? I just don’t like it. Especially in its raw state, it doesn’t give me any pleasure, but reminds me of human cruelty and death. When I pass meat stalls and notice the intense smell, I ask myself: Is that the smell of decay? No, all this does not arouse my appetite.
Vegetables and fruits, on the other hand, with all their beautiful colors, shapes, different surfaces and consistencies, different smells and tastes, simply fascinate me. In them I see the beauty and diversity of life. That’s why I love them.
So the challenge for this recipe was to find a vegetarian alternative for the rich meat sauce. Instead of ground meat, I decided to use chopped vegetables like green peppers, zucchini, and carrots. To get more bite into the sauce, I added some Ebly (wheat berries) after half of the cooking time. With oregano, fresh mint, and parsley, I have rounded off the taste of the sauce.
My moussaka is prepared cheese-less. To turn the béchamel sauce during baking into a fluffy layer with a brown crust, I have stirred in 2 eggs. You can veganize the recipe by leaving out the eggs and using vegetable milk for the béchamel sauce.
Let the vegetarian moussaka cool down a little before you serve it. It’s a rich and soothing dish without being heavy. Enjoy it with some plain yogurt and rustic bread! If you like like the combination of eggplants and tomatoes, try also my recipe for parmigiana di melanzane and my recipe for eggplant roll-ups!
- 3 large potatoes
- 2 medium-sized eggplants
- olive oil to drizzle the potatoes and to fry eggplants
- vegetable oil to fry the eggplants
for the vegetable sauce:
- 1 onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 green pepper
- 1 small zucchini (100g)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 carrot
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- salt, black pepper, sugar to taste
- 1 tablespoon dry oregano
- fresh parsley and mint, 2 tablespoons together
- 1 hand of wheat berries (Ebly)
for the béchamel sauce:
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 500ml milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- a pinch of nutmeg
- 2 eggs
- rustic bread and plain yogurt to serve
- Peel the potatoes and slice them. When they are not too long, you can slice them lengthwise. Place the potato slices in the casserole dish so that the whole bottom is covered and they overlap slightly. Drizzle the potatoes with some olive oil. Then, put the potatoes into the cold oven and bake them at 200°C / 450° F until golden. The moussaka will be later cooked in the oven, so we use the energy that we need to preheat the oven for cooking the potatoes.
- Trim the edges of the eggplants and cut them lengthwise into thick slices. Drizzle some vegetable oil into a skillet and add a generous shot of olive oil. I prefer to use olive oil. But since it starts smoking quickly when heated, we mix it with vegetable oil. Now put the eggplant slices into the skillet and fry them until nice and brown from both sides. Cover the skillet with a lid while frying to soften the eggplants. Put the fried eggplants on a plate and set them aside. As this recipe requires some richness, I don’t drain the eggplants on kitchen paper.
- For the vegetable sauce, peel the onion and the garlic cloves and chop both finely. Also dice the green pepper and the zucchini finely. Don’t forget to remove the stalks and the seeds of the pepper! Next, heat some olive in a pot. Add onions, garlic, zucchini, and pepper and sauté everything on medium heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, peel the carrot and the tomatoes and dice both. When veggies are nicely sautéed, add the carrot pieces and the tomato paste. Fry it for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and about 2 cups of water. Cook the sauce for about 10 minutes and stir it regularly. The sauce should be like a thick Bolognese sauce.
- While the sauce is cooking, chop the fresh herbs finely. After 10 minutes. Season the sauce with salt, black pepper, sugar, oregano, turmeric, mint, and parsley. Add the Ebly (wheat berries) and a little bit more water if necessary. Cook it for 10 more minutes.
- The potatoes should be ready now, so check them and take them out of the oven when ready! Next, prepare the béchamel sauce. Therefore, put 4 tablespoons of olive oil into a pot and add the flour. Mix it well so that both turn into a smooth paste and fry it for some seconds. Then, add the cold milk and stir the mixture well until it comes to boil. Turn off the heat and season the béchamel sauce strongly with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Let it cool down for about 5 minutes, then stir in the eggs.
- Now we will layer the moussaka. Sprinkle the potatoes with some salt and pepper. Then, place the eggplant slices evenly on top of the potatoes. Pour the vegetable sauce over the eggplants. You don’t need to season the eggplants. They will absorb some of the sauce. Finally, spread the béchamel sauce evenly on top. The vegetarian moussaka is ready to bake.
- Put the vegetarian moussaka into the hot oven and bake it at 200° C / 450° F for about 25 minutes until nicely brown on top. Let the moussaka cool down a little before you serve it. It tastes best with some rustic bread and plain yogurt to dip! Enjoy!