My family is not Greek, but one of my favorite dishes my mom made when I was  growing up was moussaka – I’m not sure where or why she got the recipe. The version she made was roughly the Greek one, layered and and served warm (but there are many different versions). I wasn’t striving for authenticity with my own version, just trying to satisfy a craving. It’s a great dish for a lazy day of cooking; roasting the vegetables separately might seem picky and is certainly not traditional, but it gives the dish deep flavor.

Zucchini and Eggplant

Part of the reason for my making this dish was to use up the zucchini and eggplant that were lingering from last week’s trip to the farmers market. I would have preferred to use more eggplant, but I just used what I had: about two pounds of zucchini and one pound of eggplant. I sliced the vegetables about a quarter inch thick on the mandoline, tossed them with about a teaspoon of salt each and set them in separate colanders to exude some moisture. After about an hour, I wrapped the veggies in a thin towel and squeezed even more moisture out. I then tossed the sliced vegetables with olive oil and pepper (already plenty of salt on them) arranged them in a single layer on sheet pans (keep the vegetables separate throughout this process) and roasted them for about 30 minutes at 400ºF, flipping them halfway through, until they were deep brown in spots, almost starting to burn. I spread the zucchini evenly across the bottom of an eight inch square baking dish and set the eggplant aside.

These will form layers one and three of the assembled dish.

Tomato-Lamb Sauce

While the vegetables were roasting I sauteed a diced medium onion in olive oil until it softened, then stirred in a pound of ground lamb, a teaspoon of salt, and a dash each of ground cinnamon, allspice and cumin. I let that cook until the lamb was no longer pink, stirring frequently to break up the chunks of lamb, then added about a fourteen ounce can’s worth of tomato sauce (I actually used tomatoes I canned last year mixed with tomato juice left over from a canning project this morning). I let this reduce until little loose liquid remained, then poured it on top of the zucchini in the baking dish.

This is layer two; arrange the roasted eggplant slices atop the tomato sauce for layer three.


The last layer is simply a béchamel sauce; I sauteed two minced shallots in four tablespoons of butter until the shallots were translucent, then stirred in four tablespoons of flour and cooked it long enough for the roux to acquire some color, stirring all the time. I then slowly whisked in two cups of skim milk and added a teaspoon of salt and a dash of nutmeg. I let it boil a few minutes to thicken, and then poured it over the top of the baking dish to form the fourth and final layer.

I baked at 400ºF for thirty minutes, until the béchamel starts to brown. Allow the pan to cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting it so it can set up. Cut into squares and serve warm.

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One comment on “Moussaka”

  1. Brian 8 September, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Moussaka is one of my favorite things to eat. I’ve never had a zucchini variation of it, so I’ll have to try it out sometime. Also, I agree that roasting the vegetables separately is the way to go in order to get the most flavor out of them.

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