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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Recipe: Roasted Vegetable-Lentil Moussaka

Roasted Vegetable-Lentil Moussaka
by Victoria Challancin

Yesterday was blustery.  Not really cold, but just cold enough.  Windy.   A day for comfort food.  Thinking of my vegetarian Macedonian husband, I decided on a vegetarian moussaka.  

I've made many variations on this recipe over the years, but this one was particularly satisfying.  It begs for re-interpretation, as most casseroles do.  Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients as this comes together fairly quickly.

A layer of roasted vegetables over a layer of roasted eggplant slices

more layers...

 The yogurt topping with sesame and sunflower seeds

...and crumbled feta cheese  

[Note to San Miguel readers:  the cheese is artisan feta made and sold by Luna de Queso, across from the Telmex office on Ancha de San Antonio]

The finished dish

Roasted Vegetable-Lentil Moussaka
by Victoria Challancin

For the Lentils:
2 cups lentils, cleaned
4 cups water
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled, cut in half
1 onion, peeled and cut in half horizontally
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the Eggplants:
2 medium eggplants, about 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried, crumbled oregano, preferably Greek
1 garlic clove, peeled and pressed or minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Vegetables:
4 small zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices (about 2 cups)
1 large onion, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch half-moons
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch strips
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and pressed or minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, dill, or oregano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Tomatoes:
One 14.5oz can chopped tomatoes or 5 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
Pinch of cinnamon

For the Topping:
1 1/2 cups Greek-style thick yogurt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of ground allspice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
White pepper to taste
3–4  tablespoons sesame seeds and sunflower seeds mixed (optional)
3oz feta cheese, crumbled

Place lentils, water, garlic, and onion in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover, and cook until tender.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper toward the end of the cooking time.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425F/ 220C. Place the eggplant slices in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, chopped garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Toss gently to coat the eggplant slices.  Place on a cooking sheet in one layer.

Roast for 20 minutes. With a spatula, turn eggplant slices to brown the other side.  Continue roasting for 20 minutes, or until tender. Set aside.

Place the zucchini, onion, bell peppers, olive oil, garlic, herb, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Toss gently to coat vegetables with oil and spices.  Spread the vegetables on a cookie sheet.  Roast for 20 minutes, stir gently, and roast for another 15 minutes or until vegetables are roasted but still somewhat firm.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with a good pinch of cinnamon.  Mix gently.  Add about 3 cups of the cooked lentils [save remaining lentils for a salad] and the cooked vegetable mixture.  Toss gently to mix well.

Grease a large baking dish with olive oil.  Place a layer of roasted eggplant slices on the bottom of the dish.  Top with a layer of the lentils and vegetables, using half. Make another layer of eggplant slices and top with the remaining lentil-vegetable mixture.

To prepare the topping:
Reduce oven temperature to 350F/180C. With a whisk beat the yogurts, eggs, paprika, allspice, parsley, and white pepper together in a medium bowl, Spread over the vegetables and sprinkle with sesame and sunflower seeds.  Crumble the feta cheese over the top. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.  Serve hot or at room temperature.


What would I change?
Basically, nothing.  This dish is perfect as casual comfort food just as it is.  I used diced fresh tomatoes, but if I had had a can or, here in Mexico, a carton of diced tomatoes with their juice, I might have used them. As for the seeds on the top...I always add them to casseroles.  Nothing to do with authenticity.  Everything to do with fiber and texture.  Of course they are optional.  Pine nuts would be nice on top as a substitute.


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