My big fat vegan moussaka

moussaka

So we’re turning the clocks back an hour this weekend. What are you going to do with this extra time?? Make vegan moussaka!! This dish is made up of layers of roasted eggplant, potato and zucchini in a lightly cinnamon-scented tomato sauce and a creamy “béchamel” topping. It’s all comforting and delicious without being heavy.

This isn’t a difficult recipe, but there is a time commitment of about 90 minutes from start to finish. It’s worth it though!

You can make this dish the day before, right up to the baking stage.

This recipe is heavily based on Isa Chandra’s recipe. She must have a large food budget because she recommends some rather costly ingredients such as pine nuts instead of ground almonds in the béchamel. I’ll bet that’s lovely, but since I still have a mortgage, I went with more affordable ingredients throughout.

You will need a food processor or sturdy blender for to make the béchamel sauce.

Ingredients

For the vegetable layer

1 large eggplant

3 large white potatoes

1 very large or 2 average-sized zucchinis

Enough olive oil to oil 3 cookie sheets

For the sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small onion diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup vegetable broth or red wine

23 oz jar or 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes (I use Italian crushed tomatoes that come in a jar – the taste is far superior for the extra dollar it costs).

2 teaspoons oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Bechamel topping

A 12 oz block of tofu

½ cup ground almonds

3 Tablespoons lemon juice (about ½ of a juicy lemon)

1 teaspoon arrowroot powder or tapioca powder

1 clove garlic

pinch nutmeg

1 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

pepper to taste

Other ingredients

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Enough oil to oil a 9”x13” baking or casserole dish

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Directions

Preheat the oven to 400. Lightly oil three baking sheets or shallow pans.

Roast the vegetables

Trim the stems from the eggplant and zucchini(s). Remove any eyes from the potatoes, but there’s no need to peel them. Slice the eggplant, zucchini and potato, lengthwise, into approximately 1/4 inch thick slices. Rub the eggplant slices with a little salt and set aside in a colander in the sink or in a big bowl for about 15 minutes to soften and sweat (yes, you will see the eggplant sweating!). The salt helps lift out any bitter taste in the eggplant. Lightly rinse off the eggplant after it’s had time to sweat.

Use a separate baking sheet for each type of vegetable. Spread the vegetable slices out in a single layer. Give the potatoes and zucchini a light sprinkle of salt.

Roast the zucchini and eggplant for 15 minutes and the potatoes for 20. Remove from the oven and allow the vegetables to cool.

Leave the oven on!

While the vegetables are roasting make the sauce.

Add the ¼ cup olive oil to a large pot and heat on medium high. Sauté the onion and garlic until they are translucent. Add the other ingredients and bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and set the pot of sauce aside.

Make the béchamel sauce

Add all the ingredients to a food processor or strong blender. Blend until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed. I add up to ½ cup of water as I’m blending to get a creamier sauce… it really depends on the tofu you use.

Assemble and bake

Oil a 9 x 13 pan. Spread a big spoonful of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan. Layer in the eggplant, then the potato, then a thin layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle with half the bread crumbs. Add the layer of zucchini. Add the next layer of eggplant and potatoes and the remainder of the breadcrumbs. Layer the remainder of the tomato sauce over it all. Then spread the béchamel sauce as the top layer and smooth it out. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and it’s formed a few cracks. Allow the dish to cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Spicy pickled zucchini slices

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Everyone is humblebragging about their surprisingly massive zucchinis and fauxmoaning on what to do with this summer’s harvest. And we’ve all made suggestions. Now here’s something completely different. I grabbed this recipe from the Bon Appetit website and have been making Szechuan zucchini slices for a few summers.

These zucchini slices are pickled but require no special equipment, no canning savvy and pose no threat of weird botulism spores (real canning freaks me out just a little).

Hot, sweet and salty, these slices will last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge and make a pretty hostess gift.

Watch for these slices to appear in an upcoming blog post accompanying an Asian slaw and  orange-peanut sweet potato burgers.

Note you need to make these slices at least 24 hours before you plan to eat them.

Ingredients

1 zucchini – either green or yellow – washed and sliced into thin coins

2 Tbsp granulated sugar (make sure the brand you buy is vegan*)

1 Tbsp salt

1 tsp chili flakes

2 whole pieces star anise

½ cup water

½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar (do NOT use seasoned rice vinegar – it’ll over-flavour and salt the brine).

Directions

Put the sliced zucchini into a 2 cup (500 ml) canning jar. Drop in the star anise and the chili flakes.

Mix the sugar, salt, vinegar and water in a cup or jar until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour this brine over the slices, seal the jar and store in the fridge. Let the slices sit for at least 24 hours before eating. They will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

*What? What’s this about white sugar not being vegan?? Yup. That’s right. Many manufacturers of granulated white sugar filter the product through animal bone char to create snowy white sugar. Ugh. If you don’t want death at your door, check out the manufacturing process for the brand you buy (in Canada, Redpath is a vegan brand). Now you know why vegans with a sweet tooth love their agave, dates and maple syrup so much.

 

 

Pumpkin zucchini bread

PumpkinbreadI make this bread or variations of it almost every week to have for breakfast. This is a quick bread, but it’s not sweet. It’s intended to be eaten with a nut butter or nut cheese.

This bread is super simple to make and versatile. I’ve substituted applesauce or mashed banana for the pumpkin and mixed up what other fruits and nuts I add. Use your imagination; just don’t mess with the chemistry – the basic mix of flours, baking soda and milk!

Lately I’ve been adding chickpea flour (a/k/a besan or gram flour) to amp up the protein content.

Ingredients

Dry ingredients

2/3 cup regular flour

1/3 cup chickpea flour

½ cup cornmeal

1 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp chopped walnuts

1 Tbsp pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1 Tbsp raisins

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp allspice

½ tsp cloves

Wet ingredients

1 cup plant milk

1 tsp vanilla

¼ cup molasses

½ – 2/3 cup pureed fruit (in this case pumpkin, but try apple sauce or mashed banana)

½ cup fresh fruit (e.g. here I used grated zucchini, but try berries, diced apples or pears etc)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together.

In a smaller bowl, mix the wet ingredients together.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to incorporate but no need to mix well. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes. A fork inserted in the loaf should come out clean.

TIP: Pumpkin tends to come in big cans. I dole out 1/2 cup portions of pumpkin in freezer bags and store it in the freezer for up to 4 months. This way, you waste nothing and always have pumpkin when you need it. Ditto zucchini – that grated zucchini in this loaf is from September’s harvest.