My Mousaka (or moussaka) with layers of eggplants, potatoes, and peppers, is topped with yogurt and olive oil béchamel. I recently added the spicy and smoky Kea sausage to the lamb, to deepen and enrich the flavor.
Read HERE about the origin of this iconic Greek dish.
‘Pseudo-moussaka’ is the meat-less, vegetarian version of the dish that my mother often prepared in the summer (scroll down to see this delicious Variation).
Little did we know how idiosyncratic the name of the vegetarian version were to our home. We all loved it and I thought the term ‘pseudo-moussaka’ was common until my first husband burst into wild laughter upon hearing the name of my family dish! After much investigation he concluded that it was family jargon, but it was ours, and it was delicious.
I serve large spoonfuls, as with all gratin dishes; not perfectly cut squares. If you prefer a more elegant presentation make it in individual clay pots.
Makes 6 servings
2 large eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds) sliced lengthwise to 1/4 inch slices
1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced to 1/4 inch slices
3 large green bell peppers, seeded, quartered lengthwise and cut to about 1 inch pieces
1 pound lean ground lamb or beef
4 ounces spicy and smoky sausage, crumbled, or 3 ounces bacon, thinly sliced (optional)
1 1/2 cup chopped onions
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/3 cup red wine
1 pound red ripe tomatoes peeled and chopped or 2 1/2 cups imported tinned chopped tomatoes with their juice
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-2 pinches allspice and freshly ground nutmeg
Yogurt and olive oil béchamel
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups full- fat plain yogurt
1/2 – 1 cup grated smoked cheddar or Metsovone cheese
1 cup grated aged cheddar or Gruyere cheese, more for sprinkling the top
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Salt the eggplant slices and place them in a colander. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile heat about 1 inch olive oil in a deep heavy skillet and fry the potato slices briefly, without letting them cook through. Alternatively you can brush the potato slices with olive oil and bake under the broiler. Layer the potatoes at the bottom of six individual glass or ceramic oven proof dishes, at least 2 1/2 inches deep (or a rectangular 9X12-inch dish).
Broil the sliced potatoes, brushing with olive oil on both sides, or you can shallow fry them.
Sauté the peppers in olive oil (the same you used for the potatoes, if you fried them) stirring often, until they start to color, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
Arrange the potatoes at the bottom of the pan.
Keep only 1/3 cup of the frying oil in the pan; pour the rest in a bowl and reserve. Sautee the ground lamb and sausage or bacon, if using, in the olive oil, stirring often for about 10 minutes. Add the onions and continue to sauté, stirring, for another 8 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add the Aleppo or red pepper flakes, the red wine, the currents, if using, and the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken. Add salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg to taste, and remove from the heat.
Grill the eggplant slices and arrange over the potatoes.
Wipe the eggplant slices with paper towels and line on a baking sheet. Brush both sides with the reserved oil, and grill under the broiler, turning once, until golden on both sides.
Preheat the oven to 400.
Make one more layer with the fried bell peppers.
Arrange the eggplant slices over the potatoes on the baking dish (or dishes). It doesn’t matter if they overlap. Add the sautéed peppers over the eggplants and top with the lamb and tomato sauce.
Over the vegetables pour the meat and tomato mixture.
To make the bechamel topping, whisk together the olive oil and flour, over moderate heat until frothy, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, whisk a bit longer and add the cold milk and yogurt. Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, and don’t worry if the mixture looks lumpy. It will become smooth as it cooks and thickens. When it starts to boil, remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses, salt and pepper. Taste and add more cheese or salt, if you like.
Top with the olive-oil-and- yogurt béchamel sauce. Pour the sauce over the meat or about 1/2 cup sauce over each of the 6 baking dishes, top with some cheese, and bake for about 45 minutes until bubbly (individual portions need about 30 minutes). If you like to further brown the top, place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.
Bake for about 45 minutes or more, until bubbly and well browned on top.
Serve large tablespoons, making sure each portion has vegetables, meat and topping.
Serve hot or warm. You can cool and refrigerate, then reheat gently before serving.
Pseudo-Moussaka with Spicy Tomato Sauce, Walnuts, and Feta
‘Pseudo-moussaka’: a meat-less version of the iconic Greek dish my mother often prepared in the summer. In my adaptation of the family recipe the eggplants, peppers, and potatoes are spiced-up with an oriental-inspired tomato sauce that is enriched with walnuts and Feta. And plan ahead, because the dish tastes even better the next day when the flavors have had time to meld. Pseudo-Moussaka should be served warm or at room temperature, so either allow to cool or reheat slightly, depending on when you choose to prepare the dish.
2 large eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds) sliced lengthwise to ¼-inch thickness
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 2/3 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
3 large green bell peppers, seeded, quartered lengthwise and cut into about 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cup chopped onions
1-2 teaspoons Maraş pepper or a good pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (freshly ground black pepper works as well).
1/3 cup red wine
1/2 cup black currants, preferably Zante
1 cinnamon stick
1 pound chopped red, ripe tomatoes or 2 1/2 cups imported canned tomatoes with their juice
1-2 teaspoons ras el hanout or 2 teaspoons allspice, plus 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 cup crumbled Feta cheese
2 cups Olive Oil and Yogurt Béchamel Sauce (see above)
2 cups grated aged cheddar, Gruyere or Graviera cheese
Preheat the oven to 400˚ F (200 C).
Salt the eggplant slices and leave in a colander for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours. Rinse the eggplants and pat dry with paper towels. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush the eggplant slices with oil on both sides and grill under the broiler, turning as needed, until golden on both sides, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
(You can broil the eggplants a day before and refrigerate them. You can also make a batch well in advance and freeze in zip-log bags, to use in this or any other dish).
Sprinkle the bottom of a 9-by-12 inch glass or clay baking dish – which is at least 2 ½-inches deep – with the breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons walnuts.
Heat about 1 inch olive oil in a deep heavy skillet and fry the potato slices briefly without letting them cook through. Remove with a slotted spoon and layer them in the baking dish.
Sauté the peppers in the same oil, stirring often, until they start to color, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Pour-off all but 2/3 cup of the frying oil in the pan and reserve the rest to make the béchamel. Sauté the chopped onions in the skillet, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add Maraş pepper and the red wine. When it starts to boil add the currants, the cinnamon and the tomatoes. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or more, until the sauce thickens. Add the spices and remove from the heat. Add the rest of the walnuts and the Feta. Taste and correct the seasoning with more salt or pepper – the mixture should be quite spicy.
Arrange the eggplant slices over the potatoes. It doesn’t matter if they overlap. Add the sautéed peppers over the eggplants and top with the tomato sauce.
Make the béchamel as described above, remove from the heat and fold in the cheese, reserving 2 tablespoons. Pour the béchamel over the dish, sprinkle with the reserved cheese and bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour, or until the moussaka is bubbly and the top colors.
Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving. You can also cool completely, refrigerate and gently reheat just before serving.