vegetarian moussaka

so it’s been a second. since my post in may about cooking my way through joanne chang’s cookbooks, I have actually made some progress, but unfortunately, none of it has been documented. part of it is because I’ve been baking for office breakfasts and hiking snacks, which means I tend to bake late at night then pack everything up for quick and easy transport in the morning. the other, bigger reason is that I accidentally vacuumed my camera charger, shredding the charger’s electrical cord and splitting my vacuum head in two.

unfortunately, my digital camera is apparently so old that the charger is no longer manufactured. so it’s been a wild ride through the cheap, poorly-made camera charging products sold on amazon. I’ve discovered that these shady sellers often does not allow returns (which is not made clear at time of purchase), so I’m just stuck with a bunch of useless plastic. anyways, I finally found a universal charger that worked, though my battery looks ridiculous, barely hanging on at a perpendicular angle, attached to the charger by only its charging part.

rant about my camera aside, in the past two months, I’ve also fallen completely in love with a british cookbook, honey & co: the cookbook. I generally enjoy the personable, yet methodically competent tone of british cookbooks: some other favorites include nigel slater’s books and claire ptak’s violet bakery cookbook. I’ve had friends over and cooked entire meals using only honey & co’s cookbook, because the recipes are so simple, delicious, and perfect for groups. I’ve emailed recipes from this book to friends and family, I’ve made and consumed much too much pita bread because honey & co’s recipe makes it so easy.

here’s just one of my recent favorites, a homey, hearty moussaka perfect for potluck dinners, or for meal-prepping and stretching out over a busy week. I never tire of its umami tomato taste mixed with the textures of creamy goat cheese and silky soft eggplant.

makes 8•8-in pan

moussaka
3-4 large eggplants, trimmed
olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
100g (4oz) goat cheese
25g (2 tbsp) pecorino cheese, grated (or kashkaval, if you can find it!)
tomato sauce
1 large red onion, peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 thick slices of lemon
4 sprigs fresh oregano, picked (1 tsp dried oregano will do in a pinch)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 lb large plum tomatoes, diced (6-8 tomatoes)
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup water

sarit packer and itamar srulovich. honey & co: the cookbook. new york: little brown and co. 2015.

moussaka|1 preheat oven to 425ºF.
2 slice each eggplant into 4-5 thick slices lengthwise. brush a foil-lined baking tray with olive oil and place the slices flat on it. brush the eggplants with more oil and season with salt and pepper.
3 roast in oven for 12 minutes, then rotate the tray to cook eggplant slices evently. roast for another 8-12 minutes, until golden and soft. set aside to cool.
sauce|1 saute the onion, cinnamon stick, lemon slices, and oregano with oil and salt in a frying pan over medium heat until the onion and garlic start to soften, 5-6 minutes. add half the diced tomatoes and sugar, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes become very soft, 8-10 minutes.
2 add the remaining tomatoes and tomato paste, black pepper, and water, and continue cooking over high heat for another 6-8 minutes.
3 remove the cinnamon stick; you can leave the lemon slices if you’d like.
assembly|1 cover the base of an 8×8-in casserole dish or pan with a layer of eggplant, then spoon 1/3 of the tomato sauce on top. smooth it out and crumble half the goat cheese all over.
2 repeat the process with a second layer of eggplant slices, another 1/3 of the tomato sauce, and the rest of the goat cheese. cover with another layer of eggplants and the remaining 1/3 sauce, then sprinkle with the pecorino.*
3 bake in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese topping is melted and golden. place a sheet pan on the shelf underneath to catch any drippings.
 
*at this point, the moussaka can be chilled overnight; just take the moussaka to defrost for at least 30 minutes, then bake at 425ºF for 30-35 minutes.

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