Thursday, April 10, 2008

Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream

Worst picture ever,
so suck it!

I've gotta admit. This recipe pissed me off a little bit. Not in the taste or quality, but measurement-wise.

I mentioned about a month ago that the measurements appeared to be off for the Veganomicon beanballs, resulting in many complaints across the internet that the beanballs were mushy and kind of gross. I bitched about it. Then I got over it.

This time, however, I was making the moussaka for the holidays. And when you're making it for not one, not two, but THREE TO SIX PEOPLE, you want it to come out correctly.

And there is NO WAY IN HELL that the quantity of potatoes and eggplant can completely cover (without enormous gaps) the size of the pan the recipe calls for--and I even got a 1.25 lb. eggplant, for god's sake (I saw the dude weigh it). As I was layering them, I found myself muttering little cusswords under my breath, ones that I shan't revisit here.

Needless to say, if you're gonna make this, you need more eggplant and potatoes. So I've bumped up the measurements. Could you end up making too much of both with the new measurements below? It's possible. But I think there's a better chance of not having a layering fiasco if you double both quantities. Plus, it'll make it somewhat more feasible for the moussaka TO STAY TOGETHER instead of falling apart whenever you try to scoop out a piece. It's all about the layering, babies.

All that being said, I *DID* like this dish. Did it blow my mind? Not really. Was it nonetheless tasty? Heck yeah. Do I think the pine-nut cream was a LITTLE bit overhyped? *COUyesGH* But there WAS definitely something attractive about the tomato-cinnamon interminglings. And I love me some roasted eggplant.

*AND* Sam, the 7-year old son of a guy my mom's been seeing, gave it a hearty thumb's up, without me even asking. And apparently he's a picky eater. And he's 7, and 7-year olds usually aren't big fans of weird dishes like moussaka. (In return for his compliment, I then DESTROYED him at Spongebob Uno! Ok. Not really. He totally kicked me and my mom's ass. *sigh*)

Recipe........ GO!

    Vegetable Layer

  • 2 lbs. eggplant*

  • 1 lb. zucchini

  • 3 lbs. russet or baking potatoes*

  • 1/4 c. olive oil

  • Sauce

  • 1/4 c. olive oil

  • 4 large shallots, sliced thinly

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/3 c. vegetable broth or red wine

  • Two 15-oz cans crushed tomatoes

  • 2 t. dried oregano

  • 1/4 t. ground cinnamon

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Salt

  • Pine Nut Cream

  • 1 lb. silken tofu

  • 1/2 c. pine nuts, plus additional for garnish

  • 3 T. lemon juice

  • 1 t. arrowroot powder (I used cornstarch, I forget what the conversion equivalent is)

  • 1 clove garlic

  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • Salt, to taste

  • White pepper

  • 1/2 c. dry, fine white breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly oil three baking sheets or shallow pans.

Prepare the vegetables:

Wash the eggplant and zucchini, and trim the stems. Scrub and peel the potatoes. Slice the eggplant, zucchini, and potatoes lengthwise into approximately 1/4 inch thick slices. (Make sure the potatoes in particular are sliced thin enough, otherwise they will either take a long time to cook through or be hard.) Rub the eggplant slices with a little salt and set aside in a colander in the sink or in a big bowl for about 15 minutes to drain. Briefly rinse with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.

Place each vegetable on a separate baking sheet. Distribute the 1/4 c. of oil among the three and sprinkle the vegetables with salt (except eggplant). Toss to coat the vegetables on each sheet, making sure each piece is completely coated with oil. Drizzle a little extra oil on the eggplant, as it has a slight tendency to stick. Spread out the vegetables on each sheet; some overlapping is okay. Roast the pans of zucchini and eggplant for 15 minutes, or until tender. Roast the potatoes for about 20 to 22 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Allow the vegetables to cool.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the tomato sauce:

Combine the remaining 1/4 c. olive oil and minced garlic in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium heat and let the garlic sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine/broth and simmer until slightly reduced, another 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, ground cinnamon, and bay leaf. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should reduce slightly. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and adjust the salt.

Make the pine nut cream:

In a food processor, blend the pine nuts and lemon juice, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until a creamy paste forms. Add the tofu, garlic, arrowroot, nutmeg, salt, and white pepper. Blend until creamy and smooth.

Final assembly:

Lightly oil a 9 x 13 pan and preheat the oven again to 400F, if necessary. Spread 1/4 c of sauce on the pan, then add successive layers in order of eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and half the bread crumbs. Spread all the zucchini on top of this. Top with a final layer each of eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and bread crumbs. Use a rubber spatula to evenly spread the pine nut cream over the entire top layer. Scatter a few pine nuts on top, if desired.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and a few cracks have formed in the topping. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes from the book

The zucchini will likely be very water after roasting, so when it's cool enough to touch, gently but firmly squeeze the slices, by the handful, to remove any excess water. This will prevent an overly wet casserole and will help concentrate the flavors.

(Recipe posted at Veggie Diaries, originally from Veganomicon)

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