Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Baked Eggplant and Spinach Moussaka, a Vegetarian Creation by Christine Datian

As you might recall, Christine Datian often has her recipes published on The Armenian Kitchen website, and in other online publications such as the Armenian Mirror Spectator, Sunset and Cooking Light magazines, and the Fresno Bee Flavors Magazine.

She sent me her latest creation which features eggplant, and since that’s been a ‘hot ingredient’ around here lately, I’m happy to pass this recipe along to you.

Vegetable Moussaka (Image from www.epicureous.com)
As of this posting, this dish has not been tested in our kitchen. Since a photo did not accompany her recipe, I found a suitable image from www.epicureous.com. 

Without further ado, I present Christine Datian’s …

Baked Eggplant and Spinach Moussaka
Yields 9 generous, or 12 smaller portions

2 cups shredded or grated Parmesan, Jack, Mozzarella or mizithra cheese (or a combination)
2-3 eggs, beaten
Chopped flat-leaf parsley and mint, about 1/4 cup each
1 teaspoon sea salt or Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black or white pepper
1 teaspoon dried crushed oregano
1/2 teaspoon each crushed red pepper flakes and paprika
1/4 teaspoon allspice (or cinnamon)
2 medium onions or shallots, finely chopped
1 green or red bell pepper or 2 Anaheim peppers, seeded and diced
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
2 cups low sodium tomato sauce, marinara sauce, or tomato puree
2 medium eggplants, washed, sliced about ¼” thick
3-4 cups fresh baby spinach (or kale), cleaned and chopped
2 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
Olive oil and unsalted butter
2 tablespoons each chopped walnuts and pine nuts
Garnishes: Greek yogurt, lebne, or ricotta cheese, lemon zest and juice of one large lemon         

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
 1.      In a medium bowl, combine the 2 cups of cheese with the beaten eggs, parsley, mint, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes, paprika and allspice (or cinnamon, if using); mix and set aside.
2.      Sauté the onions, garlic, and bell pepper in a few tablespoons of olive oil until the onions are translucent, about 6-8 minutes.  
3.      Spread about a half cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a buttered or oiled 
9" X13" baking dish.
4. Arrange the eggplant slices on top of the sauce, cutting slices if necessary to fit spacing; repeat and alternate in layers with the chopped spinach, sliced tomatoes, sautéed onion mixture, the eggplant, and the remaining tomato sauce for all the eggplant slices. 
 5.      Pour the cheese and beaten egg mixture evenly over the top of the moussaka, and spread with a knife; drizzle with a little olive oil and top with some chopped walnuts and pine nuts.  Add a few dabs of butter on the top of the moussaka, if desired.
6.      Bake, uncovered, until the eggplant is tender, for about one hour.  Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.  Serve the moussaka warm or cold, topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt, lebne, or ricotta cheese; sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest as garnish.

*For the non-vegetarian, traditional version of this moussaka, brown 1/2 pound of ground lamb (or ground beef) in a tablespoon or two of unsalted butter, drain completely, and alternate the lamb in with the layers of eggplant and vegetables, etc.
 *You can make assorted sandwiches for lunch, dinner or picnics with leftover moussaka on Italian, sourdough, pita bread, lavash, or flat bread, and serve with roasted peppers, sliced cheeses, pickles, tomatoes, onions, and lettuce, etc.

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