Moussaka is a wonderfully inclusive dish; there are countless versions of this much-loved recipe.
My version is vegan and maintains the simplicity and richness of flavor that make this dish so popular. We ate it frequently during my childhood, since feeding a large family meant we rarely ate meat due to its expense. I offer here a modern twist on the traditional Lebanese preparation. A guaranteed crowd-pleaser, it can be served as a main course or as a part of a mezze spread.
Preheat the oven to 400 ̊F (200 ̊C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Slice the eggplants into 1⁄2-inch (1-cm) disks. Mix the our, spices and a pinch of salt and pepper on a large plate. Dab each side of the eggplant slices in the spiced our mixture to lightly coat. Lay them on the prepared pan, drizzle with the olive oil and bake for 10 minutes. Flip the pieces over, then bake for an additional 10 minutes or until browned and cooked through. Remove and set aside to cool, leaving the oven on.
In the meantime, make the tomato sauce: In a large skillet or frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onion for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the cumin and bay leaf and cook for another 1–2 minutes. Add the fresh tomatoes, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Add the sundried tomatoes, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, water, pomegranate molasses and lemon juice and cook for another 20–30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you have a rich thick sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf.
Layer the eggplant disks in the base of a roasting pan or large casserole dish. Add a layer of tomato sauce, followed by a layer of chickpeas. Repeat until you have used all of your ingredients (about 3–4 layers), ideally finishing with a layer of tomato sauce. Return to the oven for 40 minutes. Set aside to cool. This dish is served at room temperature, when all the flavors are at their best.
Reprinted with permission from The Immigrant Cookbook
Leyla Moushabeck, ed. 2018, Interlink Books, 978-1-56656-038-2, $35 hb, www.interlinkbooks.com.
is a James Beard Awards winner and best-selling author of two Middle Eastern cookbooks. Her The Lebanese Kitchen
is considered the definitive book on Lebanese home cooking. Growing up in Mazarat Tiffah (Apple Hamlet), in the mountains of the Kadisha Valley in North Lebanon, she learned to cook from her mother, mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. Having helped bring up her nine brothers and two sisters, she grew up cooking for the entire family. She has pursued this love for cooking throughout her life, working for many years as a professional cook.