July 1st, 2010

Eggplant Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream

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Serves 8
Time: 1 1/2 hours, much of it active


In our version of this traditional Greek casserole, layers of tender roasted eggplant, potatoes and zucchini are layered with a sublime cinnamon-scented tomato sauce and topped with velvety, creamy topping of pine nut custard. While you might not want to attempt this after a long day of work, it’s a great dish for a potluck or a special Sunday night dinner. The pine nut cream is also a great trick to have up your sleeve or lasagna, pizza or anything calling out for a rich, savory topping. This recipe is modified from Veganomicon.

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

For the vegetable layer:
1 lb eggplant
1 lb zucchini
1 1/2 lbs russet-type baking potatoes (using large, long potatoes works perfectly in this recipe)
1/4 cup olive oil

For the sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large shallots, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup vegetable broth or red wine
2, 15 oz. cans crushed tomatoes, with juice
2 teaspoons oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
salt to taste

Pine Nut Topping:
1 lb. soft tofu
1/2 cup pine nuts
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
1 clove garlic
pinch nutmeg
1 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
white pepper to taste

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Extra pine nuts for garnish (optional)

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

Wash and trim stem from eggplant and zucchini. Scrub and peel potato. Slice the eggplant, zucchini and potato, lengthwise, into approximately 1/4 inch thick slices. Rub 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 soften, briefly rinsing with cold water and squeezing out any excess liquid water.

Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and place each vegetable on a separate baking sheet. Distribute 1/4 cup oil between the three sheets and sprinkle vegetables with salt (except eggplant if salted already). Toss to coat, making sure each piece is completely coated with oil. Spread vegetables out with minimal overlapping. Roast the zucchini and eggplant for 15 minutes or until tender. Roast the potatoes for about 22 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool.

While vegetables are cooking prepare the tomato sauce. Add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and minced garlic to a large heavy bottom sauce pot. Bring to medium heat and let garlic sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add shallots and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and simmer until slightly reduced, another 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, ground cinnamon and bay leaf. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sauce should reduce slightly. Turn off the heat, remove bay leaf and adjust salt.

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

Lightly oil a 9 x 13 pan and pre-heat oven again to 400 F. Spread 1/4 cup of sauce in the pan, then add a layer of the following; eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and half of the breadcrumbs. Spread all of the zucchini on top of this. Top with a final layer of eggplant, potatoes, sauce and breadcrumbs. Use a rubber spatula to evenly spread the pine nut topping over the entire top, smoothing out any uneven spots. Scatter a few pine nuts on top if desired. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until top is lightly browned and a few cracks have formed in the topping. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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