By Christine Vartanian Datian
2 cups shredded or grated Parmesan, Jack, Mozzarella or mizithra cheese (or a combination)
2 medium eggs, well beaten
Chopped flat-leaf parsley and mint, about 1/4 cup each
1 teaspoon sea salt or Kosher salt
1 teaspoon each dried crushed oregano and basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon allspice (or cinnamon)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large roasted red bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
2 cups low-sodium tomato sauce, marinara sauce, or tomato puree (more to taste)
2 medium eggplants, washed, sliced about ¼” thick
3 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 (optional)
Garnishes: Greek yogurt, lebne, or ricotta cheese, lemon zest and juice of one lemon
Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
- Combine the 2 cups of cheese with the beaten eggs, parsley, mint, salt, oregano, basil, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and allspice (or cinnamon) in a bowl and set aside.
- Sauté the onions, garlic, and roasted pepper in a few tablespoons of olive oil until the onions are translucent, about 5-8 minutes.
- Spread a half cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a buttered or oiled glass 9 X 13 baking dish.
- 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, eggplant, and the remaining tomato sauce for all the eggplant slices.
- 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 chopped walnuts and pine nuts. Add a few dabs of butter on the top of the moussaka, if desired.
- Bake until the eggplant is tender, uncovered, for about one hour. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.
- Serve moussaka topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt, lebne, or ricotta cheese; sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest as garnish, as desired.
*For the traditional version of this moussaka, brown 1/2 pound of ground lamb (or ground beef) in a tablespoon or two of unsalted butter, drain, and alternate the lamb in with the layers of eggplant and vegetables, etc. You can make assorted sandwiches with the leftover moussaka on Italian, sourdough, pita bread, lavosh, or flat bread, and serve with roasted peppers, sliced cheeses, pickles, tomatoes, onions, and lettuce, etc.
*Christine’s recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee, Sunset and Cooking Light Magazines, and athttp://www.thearmeniankitchen.com/
*For Christine’s recipes that have been published in Sunset and Cooking Light Magazines, go to: <http://www.myrecipes.com/search/site/Datian>