Moussaka originated in the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. Like many ancient dishes, it has a number of regional variations and one of them is this delicious vegetarian moussaka. Alan Davidson explains these various approaches in his Oxford Companion to Food: “Moussaka or musaka, often written as musakka, is a meat and vegetable stew, originally made from sliced aubergine (eggplant), meat, and tomatoes, and preferably cooked in an oven. This is the version current among the Turks and Arabs, who may also substitute zucchini for the aubergines. The Greeks cover the stew with a layer of beaten egg or béchamel sauce. Elsewhere in the Balkans mussaka has become a much more various oven-baked casserole, admitting many more vegetables than aubergine or courgette, often dropping tomatoes and even meat. Bulgarian and Yugoslav versions emphasize eggs, and a given recipe may consist of eggs, cheese, potatoes, and spinach, or eggs, cheese, sauerkraut, and rice. In Romania, which considers musaca a national dish, the vegetables may be potatoes, celery, cabbage, or cauliflower–or may be replaced by noodles.” I’m pretty sure you will love this vegetarian moussaka, it has so much taste but it’s lighter than the classic version.
1 eggplant, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil, or more as needed
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
2 potatoes, thinly sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 (14.5 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
1/2 (14.5 ounce) can lentils, drained with liquid reserved
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups milk
ground black pepper to taste
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Rinse and pat eggplant dry. Cook eggplant and zucchini in hot oil until lightly browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side; remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel-lined plate, reserving as much oil as possible in the skillet. Adding more oil to skillet as needed and let it get hot. Cook potato slices in hot oil until browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side; remove with slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate, again reserving oil in the skillet.
Saute onion and garlic in reserved oil until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour in vinegar, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium-low; cook until liquid is reduced in volume and thick. Stir in tomatoes, lentils, 1/2 the juice from lentils, oregano and parsley. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes. Layer about 1/3 of the eggplant, 1/3 of the zucchini, 1/2 the potatoes, 1/2 the onions, and 1/2 the feta into a 13×9-inch baking dish. Pour tomato mixture over vegetables; repeat layering, finishing with a layer of eggplant and zucchini.
Cover and bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Stir butter, flour, and milk together in a small saucepan; bring to a slow boil, whisking constantly until thick and smooth. Season with pepper and nutmeg; stir. Remove from heat, cool for 5 minutes, and stir in beaten egg. Pour sauce over vegetables and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for another 25 to 30 minutes, then serve vegetarian moussaka warm.