Two amateur cooks explore the world of cooking for a Crohn's and Colitis diet

Greek Moussaka

One of the first things you might notice from this blog is our propensity to try dishes we have never cooked before, and to experiment with different cuisines.  Similar to the Shepherd’s Pie from two weeks ago, we decided to cook another culture’s traditional dish.  This week, we once again ventured outside of our comfort zone and cooked the most widely known variation of a traditional eggplant casserole dish – Greek Moussaka.  This eggplant based dish can be found in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, but the most popular version is the Greek version, which traditionally has three layers: a bottom layer of sautéed/roasted eggplant slices; a middle layer of ground lamb cooked with onion, garlic, chopped tomatoes, herbs, and spices; and a top layer of béchamel sauce or egg custard.  Obviously those ingredients are inherently not kosher (mixing milk and meat), and so as usual we made some substitutions.  We hardly had to modify the dish to accommodate Marnina, but for those of you who have trouble digesting veggie skins and/or veggie seeds, we will explain how to make this dish more IBD-friendly.  The end result? An egg, meat and dairy-free conglomeration of healthy foods.

Moussaka is similar to lasagna because the layers that make up the casserole are prepared separately, piled on top of each other, and then baked until the top layer is browned.  We love making lasagna-type dishes because they are filling, nutritious, and are big enough to last 2-3 meals (our dishes rarely lasts more than 1-2 days, especially after my nutritionist advised me to consume 3,500-4,000 calories a day to gain some weight).

This dish is relatively labor-intensive because cutting the veggies into “1/4 slices is a painstaking process because of the sheer amount of veggies that are required.  The recipe we used called for lots of veggies.  Slicing 1 lb. of eggplant, 1 lb. of zucchini, and 1.5 lbs. of potatoes was a bit of a process, especially when using a $7 dull knife from Target. Nonetheless we succeeded!  While roasting the veggies for 15-20 minutes in our tiny ’15 inch oven, we prepared the other two layers – the tomato sauce and the pine nut cream sauce.  The only source of protein in this dish is the silken tofu used in the cream sauce, and the sauce had a texture similar to a béchamel sauce.

For those with trouble digesting veggie-skins and/or veggie seeds (even when they are well-cooked), you can peel the zucchinis before slicing them, and even de-seed them.   We do not recommend peeling the eggplant because that is a different endeavor, but you can de-seed them after slicing them, and then after they are roasted, it is easy to peel the skin off before layering them in the Moussaka.  All the other ingredients are well-cooked in this dish (the veggies are roasted first and then baked), and the pine nuts are pureed into a paste.  One last note:  The recipe calls for crushed tomato, and for those who have trouble digesting tomato skin, we recommend using the following method to de-skin a tomato: 1) Boil some water and then drop the tomatoes into the boiling water, 2) After 1-2 minutes, remove the tomatoes from the boiling water, and 3) Quickly run the tomatoes under cold water to stop the cooking process and peel the skin off with your fingers.

Overall, we were not overly impressed with this dish.  This particular recipe did not have enough ‘oomph;’ we would have preferred more herbs and spices.  As we quickly learned, roasted eggplant, zucchini, and potatoes need to be paired with stronger flavors if they are going to serve as the main dish.  The tomato sauce added some moisture, and the shallots are a nice change-up from onions, but neither the sauce nor the cream was powerful enough to add enough flavoring.    If we were to repeat this dish, we would probably add many more spices and perhaps some cheese as well!

As usual, pictures are below, followed by the recipe.

Zucchinis and eggplants ready to be sliced

Eggplant ready to be roasted in the oven

Zucchini ready to be roasted in the oven

Tower of peeled potatoes (No skin=IBD friendly!)

 The potatoes are headed into the oven.

Adding the shallots to the wine

Adding the tomatoes!

Making the vegan sauce to go on top.  Silken tofu, YUM

Layering everything in the pan

The last layer of zucchini and eggplant

Adding the pine nut and tofu cream (the last layer)

The finished product!!! (We added some low fiber brown rice on the side)

Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream
Vegetable Layer:
1 lb eggplant
1 lb zucchini
1 1/2 lbs Russet potatoes
1/8 cup olive oil

1/8 cup olive oil
4 large shallots, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup red wine
2 15-oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf

Pine Nut Cream:
1 lb soft silken tofu
1/2 cup pine nuts, plus additional for garnish
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp arrowroot powder
1 clove garlic
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
white pepper

1/2 cup dry, fine white bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Lightly oil two baking sheets, line a third with parchment paper, and spray with cooking oil.
Wash the eggplant and zucchini, and trim the stems. Scrub and peel the potatoes. Slice the eggplant, zucchini, and potatoes lengthwise, into approximately 1/4″ thick slices. This is a pain, but worth it. 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 drain. Briefly rinse with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.

Place each vegetable on a separate baking sheet. Distribute the 1/8 cup of oil among the three sheets and sprinkle vegetables with salt (except the eggplant if salted already). Toss to coat the vegetables on each sheet. Making sure each piece is completely coated with oil. Spread out the vegetables on each sheet; some overlapping is okay. Roast the pans of zucchini and eggplant for 15 minutes, or until tender. Roast the potatoes for about 20 to 22 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Allow the vegetables to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the tomato sauce:
Combine the remaining 1/8 cup olive oil and minced garlic in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium heat and let the garlic sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until slightly reduced, another 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, ground cinnamon, and bay leaf. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and adjust the salt.

Make the pine nut cream:
In a food processor, blend the pine nuts and lemon juice, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until a creamy paste forms. Add the tofu, garlic, arrowroot, nutmeg, salt, and white pepper. Blend until creamy and smooth.

Lightly oil a 9 x 13 inch pan and preheat the oven again to 400˚F, if necessary. Spread 1/4 cup of sauce on the pan, then add successive layers in order of eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and half of the bread crumbs. Spread all the zucchini on top of this. Top with a final layer each of eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and breadcrumbs. Use a rubber spatula to evenly spread the pine nut cream over the entire top layer. Scatter a few pine nuts on top, if desired.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and a few cracks have formed in the topping. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

4-6 Servings

Adapted from:

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