Vegetarian Moussaka For One (or two), a meatless version of the classic Greek dish. A flavorful and aromatic sauce surrounding layers of sliced eggplant, yellow squash and carrots. Topped with a creamy and delicious Béchamel sauce, Parmesan and Feta cheese.
When I travel, one of my favorite things to do is to explore the cuisine that is popular in the city I am visiting. I love to immerse myself in a city and discover places that are off the beaten path and enjoyed by local residents. In mid-December, my husband and I traveled to England for ten days. We spent two long, glorious weekends in London and spent the week in the countryside. We mixed a little business with pleasure and had a wonderful time. The company that my husband works for has an office in England, so I get to tag along from time to time. This time we chose to explore the city like a local would, visiting various markets and wandering through neighborhoods. While we were there, we found a wonderful restaurant called Sofra which was in an area called St. Christopher’s Place, just off of Oxford Street.
We had just arrived in London earlier that morning and after checking into our hotel, we decided to walk a bit to shake off the fatigue which was beginning to set in after a long flight. Just outside our hotel was Oxford Street, a perfect area to explore. You can’t help but feel the incredible energy on Oxford Street. We found ourselves quickly revived and ready for the rest of the day. Just down the street from Selfridges Department Store, where we saw the beautiful Christmas displays in the department store windows, was a tiny alley that could easily be missed if you weren’t looking for it. They alleyway opens up to a magical area called St. Christopher’s Place and it is truly a hidden gem in the middle of a hustling, bustling city.
Around St. Christopher’s Place were numerous restaurants, pubs, cafés and shops but what caught our eye was the heated patio dining area at Sofras. A glass of wine and a good meal were calling to us and at that point, we were ready to slow down. The sweet owner was standing outside motioning for us to come over. The aroma from the kitchen combined with the atmosphere of the restaurant sealed the deal and he quickly ushered us to our table. The food at Sofras was fantastic and the prices were reasonable. I ordered the Vegetarian Moussaka and it was so good, I think I could have eaten another bowl of it even though I was stuffed.
I love Moussaka but had never tried the vegetarian version before. Traditionally, Moussaka is made with meat as well as vegetables. It’s actually a layered casserole dish, very similar to lasagna. Most often, Moussaka is made with slices of eggplant, sometimes with slices of potato and is usually topped with a milk-based sauce, such as a béchamel sauce. Typically Moussaka takes hours to prepare, my version of Vegetarian Moussaka comes together fairly quickly.
I had actually never made Moussaka before but I loved the dish so much in London, I was inspired to create it on my own. Moussaka is a simple dish and for my version I chose to leave out the potatoes and use only eggplant, yellow squash and carrots for my layered vegetables. I sliced the vegetables, tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them in the oven.
While the vegetables were roasting, I made a wonderful ragout with onions, garlic and mushrooms which were sautéed in olive oil and a mixture of dried oregano, rosemary, basil and a pinch of salt and pepper. After the vegetables softened, I added in red wine and let it reduce while it simmered, then I added in a can of crushed tomatoes and chickpeas. While the ragout continued to simmer and fill my kitchen with the most incredible aroma, I removed the vegetables from the oven to cool.
With the roasted vegetables cooling, I made the sauce. Béchamel Sauce is perhaps one of the easiest sauces to make. It’s a basic sauce made with butter, flour and milk and takes about 5 minutes to make. At the end, I add a pinch of nutmeg to my béchamel and season it with salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble our Vegetarian Moussaka For One, I arranged half of the vegetables in an even layer in the bottom of my casserole dish. I spooned half of the ragout over the top and spread it out in an even layer. Then, I added the rest of the vegetables and topped them with the rest of the ragout. Finally, I poured the creamy béchamel sauce over the top and added crumbled feta cheese and shredded parmesan.
The casserole baked in the oven for about 30-35 minutes.
This recipe is the perfect size if you are cooking for one or two people. It can be assembled ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake it and serve it. If you have any leftover, it’s lovely the next day too.
The baking dish that I used for this recipe is the one featured below. It’s 8″ x 6″ and it’s a great size when cooking for one or two people.
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Vegetarian Moussaka, a meatless version of the classic Greek dish. A flavorful and aromatic sauce surrounding layers of sliced eggplant, yellow squash and carrots. Topped with a creamy and delicious Béchamel sauce, Parmesan and Feta cheese.
- 2 small eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/2" rounds
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 small yellow squash, sliced lengthwise
- 2 large carrots, sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups milk, heated
- pinch of nutmeg
- 3/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Lay out the eggplant on an even layer on a baking sheet. Season the slices of eggplant on both sides with salt. Let them sit for 10 minutes, until the moisture starts to come out. Blot dry on paper towels.
- Add the sliced squash and carrots to the baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Using your hands, mix the eggplant, squash and carrots together so they are completely coated with the oil. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
- Place a sauce pot over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan along with the onion, garlic, mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
- Stir in the oregano, basil and chili flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, 5-8 minutes.
- Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Let the wine reduce for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes and chickpeas. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove sauce from heat and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat.
- Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly until the butter and flour bubble slightly, about 2 minutes.
- Add the heated milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Increase the heat to medium and stir (or whisk) until the sauce comes to a gentle boil. Add a pinch of nutmeg and salt and pepper, to taste. Continue to cook for 1 minute more. Reduce heat to low, cook and stir for 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Set aside.
- TO ASSEMBLE THE MOUSSAKA
- Lay half of the vegetables in an even layer in the bottom of a casserole dish. Spoon half of the ragout over the top and spread in an even layer.
- Add the remaining vegetable slices to the casserole and top with the remaining ragout.
- Pour the Bechamel Sauce over the top.
- Add the Feta and Parmesan cheeses to the top of the casserole.
- Bake uncovered for 35 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
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