Lighter Eggplant Parmigiana

My food blog friend Sally @Bewitching Kitchen inspired me to make this lighter version of classic eggplant parmigiana. The eggplant is breaded but oven-baked instead of fried. It was quite delicious. ūüôā

I served the cheesy eggplant over pasta with sauce, per my husband’s request, but it really wasn’t necessary. We ate it with spicy and garlicky saut√©ed broccoli rabe and roasted asparagus on the side. I used my new favorite jarred sauce, Trader Joe’s Italian Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine, as a shortcut.¬†This recipe was adapted from The Kitchen, contributed by Jeff Mauro, via Bewitching Kitchen.com. Great!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 medium to large eggplant
  • 2 eggs, beaten with a teaspoon of water
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 24 ounces jarred tomato sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine)
  • slices of fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 pound of prepared pasta, for serving, as desired (I used Capunti pasta)
  1. Heat a rimmed baking sheet ‚Äď empty ‚Äď in a very hot oven, 450 F to 500 F, preferably on convection.
  2. While the baking sheet is heating, peel the eggplant, cut crosswise in 1/2 inch slices. Place on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.
  3. Put the eggs, water, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
  4. Mix the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in another bowl next to it.
  5. Dip each eggplant slice into the egg wash, but allow just one side to get wet with the mixture.
  6. Next, dip it in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to coat, and carefully place on a rack with the crumb side up.
  7. Make sure you have the tomato sauce warmed up and ready to go, and the cheese slices also nearby.
  8. Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and drizzle the olive oil to coat the hot surface.
  9. Working quickly, add the eggplant slices with the crumb-coated side down. It will stick to the oil and start to get pretty hot right away.
  10. Add the tomato sauce on top, cover with cheese, and place in the oven, reducing the temperature to 375 F, preferably on convection.
  11. Cook for 20 to 25+ minutes. When the cheese is starting to get golden brown at the edges, the eggplant will be done. (Additional sauce can be added on top of the cheese halfway through the cooking process, if desired.)
  12. Serve immediately with your favorite side dish.

Two Years Ago: Oaxacan Pork Picadillo Tacos

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Layered Eggplant & Polenta Casserole

The plus side (supposedly!) of the original recipe for this dish from Martha Stewart was that it was a vegetarian casserole without cheese. After seeing an adaptation on Kirkley Crossing, I added fresh mozzarella. :/ Cheese makes everything better! I added fresh spinach too.

I made the polenta but did use jarred marinara as a shortcut. We enjoyed it with a green salad. Cheesy vegetarian casseroles are perfect comfort food in cold weather!

Yield: Serves 6

For the Polenta:

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup polenta or coarse yellow cornmeal (not quick cooking)
  1. Mix one cup of liquid with the cornmeal and stir. This prevents the cornmeal from lumping when added to the boiling liquid.
  2. Bring the remaining stock to a boil in a 3 or 4 quart sauce pot and add the salt and pepper.
  3. To the boiling stock, pour the cornmeal slurry in a steady stream, stirring constantly until completely added.
  4. Simmer over low heat, stirring often, until done, about 30 to 40 minutes. When done, polenta will pull away from the sides of the pot and will be soft in texture.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and finish as desired. Adjust the consistency with additional stock or water, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Pour onto a greased half-sheet pan and refrigerated until cool and firm. (I coated the sheet pan with cooking oil spray.)

For the Layered Eggplant & Polenta Casserole:

  • 24 oz jar (3 cups) marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Italian Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine- delicious!)
  • 1 batch Polenta (recipe above)
  • 2 large handfuls organic baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil, or more if necessary
  • coarse salt
  • 1 medium eggplant, preferably organic, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1 pound (16 oz) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Preheat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  3. Slice polenta into squares about 1/2 inch thick. (I cut mine into 24 pieces.) Brush lightly with olive oil. Place in the skillet until lightly browned. Flip over and repeat. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in the skillet until nicely browned, flip over and repeat. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Spoon about 1/2 cup tomato sauce into a 9-inch square baking dish, spreading to coat evenly. Arrange eggplant slices snugly in a single layer. (I used 9 slices per layer.)
  6. Top each round with a sprinkling of spinach (1 large handful) and a slice of mozzarella cheese.
  7. Top with a layer of polenta.
  8. Spoon about 3/4 to 1 cup tomato sauce over the top. Repeat with another layer of eggplant, spinach, cheese, and polenta. Finish by dotting with remaining tomato sauce.
  9. Cover with foil; place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and juicy, about 45 minutes.
  10. Remove foil; place on upper rack in the oven and continue baking until sauce is lightly caramelized and eggplant is tender, about 15 minutes more.
  11. Remove from oven; let cool slightly, and serve.

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Eggplant Rollatini

Eggplant Rollatini is my absolute favorite dish to order when we go to Little Italy in the Bronx. Our family tradition is to go to the same restaurant each time we visit, Dominick’s,¬†for delicious family-style Italian food. This dish is only served on Sundays- and only while it lasts. I’ve been disappointed on a couple of occasions when it has run out before we have been able to get in our order.

Making this dish was a fabulous way to use my gorgeous CSA eggplant!¬†This recipe was adapted from Mad Hungry Family: 120 Essential Recipes to Feed the Whole Crew by Lucinda Scala Quinn. I didn’t peel the eggplants, reduced the amount of prosciutto, and increased the casserole baking time. The prosciutto can easily be omitted to make a vegetarian version. Wonderful.

For the Simple Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • one 28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, cut with a knife or kitchen shears
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt

For the Eggplant and Filling:

  • 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
  • 3 T grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2 large eggplants, peeled (if desired) and cut lengthwise into twelve to sixteen 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 5 to 8 oz sliced prosciutto, optional
  • 1 loaf Italian bread, for serving

To Make the Sauce:

  1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, swirl in the oil, and add the garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring until the garlic lightly sizzles but does not brown, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the tomatoes and salt. Simmer over medium heat for at least 20 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning, to taste.

To Make the Eggplant Rollatini:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  2. Shred enough mozzarella to measure 1/2 cup and add it to the bowl; reserve the remaining mozzarella.
  3. Add the egg, salt, and pepper and mix well.
  4. Heat an oven to 400 degrees, preferably set to convection roast.
  5. Brush the eggplant slices with oil on one side and place oil-side up on two parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets.
  6. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping the eggplant slices halfway through cooking.
  7. Remove sheet pans from the oven and let the eggplant cool for about 10 minutes. (Keep oven on!)
  8. Spread a thin layer of the ricotta mixture on each piece of eggplant.
  9. Top with a slice of prosciutto, if using.
  10. Roll the eggplant into a rollatini. Repeat with the remaining slices and filling.
  11. Coat the bottom of a deep baking dish with some of the tomato sauce.
  12. Place the rollatini in the dish, nestling them close to each other.
  13. When the pan is filled, put some sauce on the top of the eggplants and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  14. Finally, cut slices from the remaining fresh mozzarella and place on top of each rollatini.
  15. Bake until the cheese is melted, bubbling, and lightly brown in spots, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  16. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving with slices of Italian bread.

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Roasted Eggplant Lasagna

After making a fabulous dish from this book,¬†Flattened Chicken Thighs With Roasted Lemon Slices, I knew I had to try another. The preparation involved to make¬†this dish was a sharp contrast to the quick-cooking chicken thighs, but I knew it would be worth every minute. Twenty cloves of garlic too! ūüôā

This might be the most labor-intensive lasagna I’ve ever made, but it was certainly one of the best. The recipe was adapted from Mozza at Home: More than 150 Crowd-Pleasing Recipes for Relaxed, Family-Style Entertaining by Nancy Silverton with Carolyn Carreno. I used large eggs and substituted¬†some reduced-fat dairy. I also omitted the olives, straining the b√©chamel, pre-cooking the pasta, as well as broiling the baked lasagna.

Because I used un-cooked pasta when layering my dish, I was not able to use the genius tip of cutting the lasagna prior to baking. Thankfully, I didn’t have any difficultly cutting it after it was fully cooked.¬†Absolutely amazing!!

For the Eggplants:

  • 2 large eggplants (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup large garlic cloves (about 20 large cloves), peeled and sliced 1/16 inch thick lengthwise (preferably on a mandoline)
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup (about 3 oz) pitted small black olives, such as Taggiasche, Nicoise, or Kalamata, optional
  • 3 T za’atar or dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red chile flakes

For the Cheese Sauce:

  • 1/2 large yellow Spanish onion, halved root to tip, peeled
  • 4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 arbol chile pod
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart whole milk (I used 2 cups whole milk & 2 cups 1 percent milk)
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 12 ounces (3 cups) shredded low-moisture mozzarella (part-skim okay)
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) fresh ricotta
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the Pasta & Assembly:

  • 16-ounce package dried lasagna noodles (I used DeCecco)
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  1. Prepare the Eggplant: The eggplant is roasted on the oven floor. If using an electric oven, adjust the oven racks so that one is closest to the oven floor and put a pizza stone on it. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Trim and discard the tip and stem ends of the eggplants and cut the eggplants into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Divide the eggplant pieces between two large baking sheets. Drizzle each portion with 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss and gently massage the cubes to coat the eggplant. Spread the eggplant cubes out in a single layer on the baking sheets.
  4. Cooking one batch at a time, put one baking sheet on the oven floor or on a pizza stone on the lowest rack and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cubes are dark brown all over and beginning to lose their shape, rotating the baking sheet from front to back and moving the cubes with a metal spatula halfway through the cooking time so that they don’t stick.
  5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, season with 1 teaspoon of salt; set aside.
  6. Repeat with the second batch of eggplant.
  7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, season the second baking sheet or roasted eggplant cubes with 1 teaspoon of salt; set aside.
  8. Combine the garlic and the remaining 1/4 cup oil in a large Dutch oven or another large high-sided pot over medium heat.¬†Cook until the garlic is soft and very light golden brown, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn, about 5 minutes.
  9. Add the tomatoes, sugar, and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, stir to combine, and cook the tomatoes for 5 to 6 minutes, until they thicken slightly.
  10. Spoon out and reserve 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce.
  11. Add the roasted eggplant, olives (if using), za’atar or oregano, pepper, and red chile flakes. Stir to combine and cook until the eggplants have taken on the color of the sauce, about 5 minutes. (Add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup water if the sauce becomes dry or sticky.)
  12. Turn off the heat and set aside while you make the cheese sauce.
  13. Make the Cheese Sauce (& Béchamel): Trim and discard the root end of the onion half. Cut the onion half in half again root to tip so the onion is quartered. Slice 1/4-inch lengthwise.
  14. Combine the butter, onion, chile pod, and bay leaves in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat.
  15. Cook, stirring often, until the butter is melted and the onion is soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.
  16. Add the flour, whisking constantly to remove any lumps, and cook for 2 minutes to cook off the flour flavor.
  17. Gradually add 1 cup of the milk, whisking constantly.
  18. Increase the heat to high and cook the sauce, whisking constantly, until it begins to thicken, about 1 minute.
  19. Add another cup of the remaining milk, whisking constantly.
  20. Return the sauce to a boil and add the remaining 2 cups milk, whisking constantly.
  21. Return the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, whisking or stirring constantly, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes.
  22. Turn off the heat and stir in the salt.
  23. Remove and discard the chile pod and bay leaves.
  24. With a ladle, remove 1 cup of the béchamel; set aside.
  25. Add the mozzarella, ricotta, Parmigiano, and the eggs to the pot with the remaining béchamel and gently whisk to combine.
  26. Adjust the oven rack so that one is in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  27. Assemble & Finish the Dish: Spread 1/2 cup reserved tomato sauce over the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
  28. Lay 6 half-sheets (or 3 full sheets) of lasagna on the bottom of the pan to cover it.
  29. Add half of the tomato-eggplant sauce (about 2 1/2 cups) and spread it evenly over the pasta.
  30. Spoon half of the cheese sauce over the sauce and spread it in an even layer to the edge and into the corners of the pan.
  31. Lay an additional 6 half-sheets (or 3 full sheets) of pasta over the cheese sauce. Press down on the pasta sheets with the palms of your hands to remove air bubbles and to ensure that the layers are flat and even.
  32. Spoon remaining tomato-eggplant sauce over the top; spread evenly.
  33. Spoon remaining cheese sauce over the top; spread evenly and to the edges and corners of the pan.
  34. Lay a final layer of pasta on top.
  35. Using a rubber spatula, gently spread the reserved béchamel evenly over the top of the lasagna.
  36. Sprinkle with Parmigiano.
  37. Put the lasagna on a baking sheet and put it in the oven to bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and puffed up a bit. Rotate the pan halfway through the baking time.
  38. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

Note: The pasta can be prepared through step #34 a day in advance. Cover the pan and refrigerate until ready to bake.

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Ottolenghi’s Deconstructed Baba Ghanouj

This is the final part of our amazing Middle Eastern feast that I would like to share with you. Even though baba ghanouj is typically an appetizer, we really could have eaten this dish as a complete meal! We gobbled it up with warm naan.  Our spread was complete with grilled chicken thighs, Tomato and Pomegranate Salad, Hummus, and Baked Rice. SO so SO good.

This recipe was adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi via The New York Times, contributed by Sam Sifton. I used 3 eggplants and charred them on a gas grill. I loved the use of fresh oregano as a garnish because my home-grown oregano has completely taken over my herb garden! ūüėČ

  • 3 large eggplants, approximately 2-3 pounds
  • flaky sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons tahini paste
  • 2 plum tomatoes, roughly grated
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed, peeled and minced
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • warm naan, for serving
  1. Char the eggplant. Prick surface of the eggplant in multiple places with a fork to release steam when cooking. To cook on a stove, place each eggplant directly over an open medium flame, and cook for 15 or 20 minutes, using tongs to turn the eggplant a number of times, until the skin is charred all over and the flesh is soft and smoky. To cook on a gas or charcoal grill, place the eggplants on the grill, and cook over medium-high heat, using tongs to turn the eggplant until the skin is charred all over and the flesh is completely soft and smoky.
  2. Remove the eggplants from the heat, and place on a rack to cool and drain, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel away the skin, leaving the stalks intact, and place them on a large plate.
  3. Using your fingers, coax each eggplant into a fan shape, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and drizzle with a tablespoon of tahini.
  4. Meanwhile, mix the grated tomato in a medium bowl with the garlic, oil, lemon juice and another pinch of salt. Spoon the mixture over the eggplants and tahini, leaving some of the eggplant visible, and then sprinkle with the oregano leaves and a final dusting of salt.
  5. Serve with warm naan.

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Ottolenghi’s Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

The fresh corn polenta in this dish is insanely delicious. I could eat it every meal of the day- so sweet, rich, and fabulous!! It would be lovely with absolutely any topping. It will be the only polenta I will ever make in sweet corn season. Worth every bit of effort. I hope I’m not overdoing my rave review!! ūüôā

This dish was adapted from Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi. I reduced the amount of oil in the eggplant sauce by half and extended the cooking time for the polenta. Such a special meal!

I’m bringing this one to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #78 co-hosted by Judi @Cooking with Aunt Juju¬†and Petra @ Food Eat Love. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 4

For the Eggplant Sauce:

  • 1/3 to 1/2¬†cup vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 1¬†medium eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 2¬†teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1/4¬†cup dry white wine
  • 1¬†cup chopped peeled tomatoes (I used 14.5 oz diced canned tomatoes)
  • 6 1/2¬†tablespoons water
  • 1/4¬†teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4¬†teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1¬†tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  1. Heat up the oil in a large saucepan and fry the eggplant on medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until nicely brown. Drain off as much oil as you can and discard it. (I decreased the oil and didn’t have excess oil to drain.)
  2. Add the tomato paste to the pan and stir with the eggplant. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, salt, sugar and oregano and cook for a further 5 minutes to get a deep-flavored sauce.
  4. Set aside; warm it up when needed.

For the Polenta:

  • 6¬†ears of corn
  • 2 1/4¬†cups water
  • 3¬†tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 7¬†ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1/4¬†teaspoon coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Remove the leaves and “silk” from each ear of corn, then chop off the pointed top and stalk. Use a sharp knife to shave off the kernels — either stand each ear upright on its base and shave downward, or lay each ear on its side on a cutting board to slice off the kernels. You want to have 1 1/4 pounds kernels.
  2. Place the kernels in a medium saucepan and barely cover them with the 2 1/4 cups water.
  3. Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer. Use a slotted spoon to lift the kernels from the water and into a food processor; reserve the cooking liquid. (I used a Vitamix.) Process them for quite a few minutes, to break as much of the kernel case as possible. Add some of the cooking liquid if the mixture becomes too dry to process.
  4. Now return the corn paste to the pan with the cooking liquid and cook, while stirring, on low heat for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the mixture thickens to mashed potato consistency.
  5. Fold in the butter, the feta, salt and some pepper and optionally cook for a further 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  6. Divide the polenta among shallow bowls and spoon some warm eggplant sauce in the center.

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Roasted Vegetable Moussaka

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I was inspired to make a¬†roasted vegetable moussaka after seeing a recipe on¬†El Chino Latino Cocina. It sounded like such a wonderful vegetarian version and had Greek yogurt in the topping to lighten the dish. I had made a similar, but non-vegetarian, light version for mom in the past because she LOVES Greek food. ūüôā When my mom was visiting us recently, I planned to make her a special birthday dinner. I decided that birthdays deserve indulgence- and special, labor-intensive meals…. so I chose to make this “less light” vegetarian moussaka adapted from Tori Avey. ūüôā

This dish was hearty and absolutely delicious. I loved the use of lentils instead of meat; I loved my choice of tiny black lentils too because they kept their shape. My mom really enjoyed it! We had carrot cake cupcakes (her favorite) for dessert as well. ūüôā Just when I thought that my mom couldn’t be more pleased, my kids outshined my efforts by buying my mom a birthday gift at our local historic General Store with their saved allowance money. So cute. Happy HAPPY Happy Birthday, Mama!! ‚̧

I’m bringing this dish to share with my blog friends at Fiesta Friday #42 this week at The Novice Gardener. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 1 1/2 lbs. zucchini (about 3 medium), sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes (about 3 large), peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 lbs. small eggplants
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • cooking oil spray
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup black lentils (about 1 1/2 ¬†to 2 cups cooked lentils)
  • 1 (12 oz) jar roasted red peppers or 1 large roasted red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 3 cups diced ripe red tomatoes or 1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 10 tbsp grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, divided
  • 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all purpose white flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg, or more to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

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  1. Place lentils in a sauce pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, lightly salt, and then lower heat to a simmer; cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Place racks on the upper and lower thirds of your oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees on convection roast. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray. Spread out the zucchini in a single layer across the baking sheets. Brush the exposed tops of the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and black pepper.
  3. Place one baking sheet on the upper rack of the oven and the other on the lower half. Roast veggies for 10 minutes. Remove sheets from oven and place them back in the oven, switching racks. Roast for about 5 to 10 more minutes, until veggies are tender and starting to turn golden brown (check the bottoms of the veggies for browning).
  4. Repeat this process with two additional parchment-lined baking sheets of sliced potatoes; include the garlic cloves.
  5. While potatoes and zucchini are roasting, remove the stem ends from the eggplants. Peel strips from the eggplants so that they have thin stripes of peel remaining down the sides (they will be half-peeled). Cut the eggplants into 1/2 inch slices, crosswise.
  6. When potatoes and zucchini are done roasting, remove them from the oven and set aside. Take the 3 roasted garlic cloves and chop them, reserve.
  7. Line two additional baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking oil. Spread eggplant slices into a single layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place the baking sheets in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, switching the baking sheets on upper and lower thirds halfway through cooking, until the slices are tender and lightly golden (check the bottom edges of slices for browning).
  8. While eggplant is roasting, place a sauté pan or sauce pan (I used a 4 quart sauce pan) on the stovetop. Warm up 2 tbsp olive oil in the pan over medium high heat. Sauté diced onion until softened and translucent. Add roasted bell pepper slices and chopped roasted garlic, saute for another 2 minutes. Add cooked lentils, diced tomatoes, fresh dill, oregano, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and 3/4 tsp salt to the pan; stir well. Reduce heat to medium and let mixture cook for about 5 more minutes until warmed through. If using fresh tomatoes, let the mixture cook for 10 minutes until tomatoes are soft.
  9. When eggplant is done roasting, remove it from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F (convection). Lightly grease your baking dish with cooking oil spray. Place a single layer of half of the roasted eggplant slices on the bottom of your dish.
  10. On top of that, place a layer of half the potatoes and half the zucchini.
  11. Spread the lentil mixture evenly in a single layer across the surface.
  12. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of grated pecorino or parmesan and ¬Ĺ cup crumbled feta across the top of the lentil mixture.
  13. Place the rest of the potatoes and zucchini in another layer on top of the cheese.
  14. Finish with a layer of the remaining roasted eggplant slices. Sprinkle top of the moussaka with 2 tbsp more of grated pecorino or parmesan cheese. (I refrigerated the pan at this point.)
  15. (Return the reserved pan to room temperature.) Place moussaka in the oven for 20 minutes to bake at 375 degrees F (convection).
  16. Meanwhile, while the moussaka is baking, make the béchamel sauce for the top of the moussaka. In a small pan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk flour into the melted butter till dissolved and thick. Continue to whisk for a few minutes until the flour/butter mixture turns a light sandy brown color.
  17. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium.
  18. Whisk in 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese. Continue whisking for a few minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from heat. Add ¬ĺ tsp salt, nutmeg, and black pepper to taste. Whisk the beaten egg slowly into the sauce (drizzle the egg while whisking constantly).
  19. Remove the moussaka from the oven. Pour sauce evenly across the top of the moussaka. Sprinkle ¬ľ cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese on top of the sauce.
  20. Put moussaka back in the oven. Cook for another 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the moussaka is cooked through.
  21. Serve hot. Don’t expect it all to hold together neatly when served; it will slice more cleanly and pieces will hold together better after it has cooled.

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