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Vegetable Moussaka - A Classic Greek Casserole

Layers of vegetables and brown lentils in tomato sauce with just the right amount of cheese that blends together to create an unforgettable taste!!




Food and nostalgia go way back. The smell or taste of food can take you back to a memory or experience. I am sure we all have food memories, something to do with smell and taste of a particular food. Way back, may be about two decades ago one of my favorite places to dine  in Bangalore was Infinitea - a cute little tea shop in Cunningham Rd. Other than the variety of teas they offered they also have/had pretty unique and interesting menu. Momos was on the top of the list. Once when I visited this place with my closest college buddies, along with Momos I enjoyed the Vegetable Moussaka, so delicious!. When I had ordered the dish, I had no clue what to expect, but when it arrived it blew me away. It was packed with full flavor and textures with layers of vegetables, tomato sauce and just the right amount of cheese that marry together to create an unforgettable taste.



This classic Greek delicacy contains layers of vegetables and brown lentils that is cooked with tomato sauce. It is topped with a creamy béchamel sauce and then baked to perfection. This can be served for lunch/ dinner. It is fully loaded with vegetables and lentils making it very nutritious and filing at the same time. The list seems long and intimidating, but you may almost have everything in your pantry.



This dish takes time to make, planning and prepping well ahead of time helps. It is totally worth the effort, I promise!



When I recently checked out Infinitea’s menu online, I did not see Moussaka listed. However the taste, the memory of this dish still persists in my mind:). Here is my take on this outstanding greek casserole. Hope you enjoy making it as much as I did:)



 


INGREDIENTS


Makes one square 9x9 dish, serves 5-6 people


For Roasting Vegetables:


2 Zucchini sliced

6 medium potatoes, sliced

1 aubergine, sliced

4 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper


For the Brown Lentil sauce:


1/2 cup brown lentils, soaked in water for 1 hour

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 medium onions, chopped

1 cup crushed tomato, I used canned Cento Crushed tomatoes

1 large red pepper , chopped

1 tablespoon, cayenne powder

1 teaspoon sugar

salt, as needed


Béchamel Sauce -


1 1/2 tablespoon butter

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 serrano chili, finely chopped

2 tablespoon white flour

2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

salt, as needed


1 cup Parmesan cheese


Roasting Vegetables -


Preheat oven at 450F. Slice up all the vegetables. In a large bowl, take the sliced zucchini’s, add a tablespoon of olive oil, some salt and pepper. Gently toss and arrange them on the baking sheet. If you have a large baking sheet you can place the potatoes next to it as well. Toss the potato with 2 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, arrange them on the baking sheet (making sure not to overlap). Bake for 10-12 minutes or until you see golden edges on the sides of the veggies.


(Note - Instead of tossing them individually, place all the vegetables in a large baking tray, drizzle oil, sprinkle salt and pepper. Mix and arrange the slices next to each other, don't overlap.)


Similarly, work with the aubergine. Slice them into small disc (do not make it too thick). Toss it will a tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange them in a baking sheet and bake for about 10-12 mins. The potatoes take about 2-3 mins longer than the rest of the veggies. Set them aside.


Soak and cook lentils


Soak the brown lentils for about an hour. In a pot, add the soaked lentils and fill it up with 3 cups of water and some salt. Allow it to cook until soft, it will take about 25-30mins. Lentils should be soft and mushy when touched. Drain and set aside.


Brown Lentil sauce


Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, add sliced garlic and chopped serano chili, chopped onions. Saute until the onions turn pink. Add 1 cup of crushed tomato, chili powder and salt. Cover and cook for about 10minutes. Once the raw smell disappears, add the red peppers, sugar and mix well. Add 1/2 cup, cover and cook for about 10mins. Add the lentils, cook for another 5 minutes. Cook until most of the water is evaporated. Check for salt and allow this mixture to cool.


Bechemel sauce


Heat butter in a pan, when it is hot add the garlic and serano chilies. Saute a bit and add the flour, mix well. Once the butter has coated the flour add warm milk and keep whisking. Add pepper powder and salt. Continuously whisk until the sauce thickens. Turn off the flame and allow it to cool down.


Assemble -


Preheat oven at 375 F.


Take a square ceramic bowl, grease well. Carefully pace the roasted eggplants in one layer. Top it with roasted zucchini and then potatoes. Now take half of the brown lentils sauce and spread it across covering all the veggies. Sprinkle 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Now another layer of eggplant, zucchini and potatoes, the rest of the lentils and 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese. Top it again with leftover potatoes and then the final layer of béchamel sauce. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. If you wish, you can even broil it for 2-3 mins towards the end.

Serve warm. Enjoy!

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