In my experience as a chef I have concluded eggplant to be a girlie vegetable. Women love it, men don’t. I think it has something to do with texture. Of course, I know that there are exceptions to this rule but I haven’t met many along the way.
The best way to make a non-eggplantarian eat eggplant is to smother it with tomato sauce and top it with cheese. And clever Greek grandmothers figured out a long time ago that if you throw meat into the mixture, even the hairiest non-epplantarians will come running!
My husband is Exhibit A. Doesn’t love eggplant. Loves moussaka. Key to its success – Lamb. There aren’t many dishes that contain lamb that this handsome man raised in Wales does not love. So, you can imagine my hesitation in serving him a moussaka made with quinoa (Quin-what?) instead of lamb. A friend gave me the idea and it was just too good to pass up. So, way too late one Friday night (I started cooking at 8!!!) I made the exact recipe that he adores and the only change I made was to replace the lamb with that protein-packing, grain-like seed we hear so much about. And………….he liked it! (And not just because he was starving and half-asleep by the time we ate.)
- ¾ cup (135g) quinoa, rinsed well
- 1½ cups (355ml) water or vegetable broth
- 5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3½ pounds (1.6 kg) eggplant, cut into ⅓ inch slices
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 3 14 oz(400g) cans of chopped tomatoes
- 1½ teaspoons dried or 2 tablespoons fresh mint
- Salt and Pepper
- 2½ Tablespoons (33g) butter
- 3½ Tablespoons (50g) flour
- 1½ cups (355ml) milk
- ¼ pound (114g) feta
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 large egg yolk
- ⅓ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- Make the quinoa: Place the quinoa and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover for about 15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed and quinoa is cooked. Set aside.
- Preheat the grill/broiler. Place the eggplant slices on lightly oiled baking trays and rub the eggplant slices with 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill/broil the eggplant slices until they are golden brown. Flip the slices and brush the under sides with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Place back under the heat until they are cooked through and golden brown.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan and when hot add the onions. Sauté over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Add the cinnamon and allspice and toast the spices until just fragrant. Pour in the tomatoes and mint and bring mixture to a simmer. Gently simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes. Add the quinoa to the sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes. Set aside.
- To make the topping: Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and cook for about 2 minutes, whisking the whole time, to make a roux. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking, and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower heat and gently simmer for a couple minutes. Stir in the feta cheese and stir over low heat until the cheese has melted. Remove from heat and season with pepper. Cool the sauce for 5 minutes. Slowly pour the beaten eggs into the sauce, whisking to incorporate.
- To assemble the moussaka:
- Lower the heat on the oven to 200C/400F. Oil a large pyrex or other casserole dish. Line the bottom of the dish with half of the eggplant, slightly overlapping the slices. Pour the tomato-quinoa mixture over the eggplant. Layer the rest of the eggplant over the tomato mixture, overlapping as before. Pour the feta cheese sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle the top with the parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven until bubbly and golden, about 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.