Last night I tried something completely new for dinner: mushroom moussaka. I got the recipe from a cookbook called “Vegetarian: Tasty Recipes for Every Day” that I picked up on a whim a few years ago when I decided to be a vegetarian. The vegetarian diet only lasted for about a year, but I’m happy to say the vegetarian recipes are still with me. I recently watched “Forks over Knives,” and if you know the documentary, you know that it won’t leave you craving a steak any time soon.
So vegetarian dinner it was.
A moussaka is a Mediterranean sort of casserole, traditionally with eggplant or potato. They are layered in a dish with a tomato mixture and topped with a cheesy crust. The recipe I used called for both eggplant and potato layers, and the tomato mixture included onion and mushroom. When I first looked over this recipe, I thought it would be really easy – a casserole! How hard could that be? Well, let’s just say I have learned the value of a prep bowl. The recipe itself really was not very difficult. You bake the eggplant and potato, saute the onion, tomato, and mushrooms, and make a bechemel. Then you layer everything together and bake it for half an hour. Not bad.
Not bad if you have everything measured and ready to go.
I know – I KNOW – how important prep bowls are. But last night, I got cocky and thought I didn’t need to pre-measure everything. Wrong! If you learn nothing else from me, learn this: use prep bowls. Pre-measuring all of your ingredients and having them ready to go is essential to cooking well, especially when you need to add an ingredient as soon as you take something off of the heat, for instance. Pre-measuring ingredients will also make the cooking process much less stressful for you. Seriously. Put it on a bumper sticker. Practice it. Prep.
My lack of adequate prepping aside, the dish turned out pretty well. The only problem was that it was a bit soupier than I thought it should be, even after it had baked. Given the ingredients, I knew there would be some juice, but I found myself draining a bit off even at the end. (Any insight on this? Should it be soupy?) The only really unhealthy ingredients were the flour, sugar, and – debatable – Parmesan. In an effort to clean up the recipe a bit, I used multigrain flour and organic sugar. Pretty much everything else was a vegetable.
One thing I would really like to do is try a moussaka at a restaurant, just to experience what it’s really supposed to be like. Luckily, we have a great little Greek restaurant at home (Hi, Alexander’s!) that my mom said serves this. Having a perfected moussaka might help me perfect mine.
As always, my ultimate test for new recipes is Steve. He took all of the leftovers to work today for lunch, so I guess, despite the little hiccups along the way, I can officially call this a success.
This is definitely a dish I’ll be making again. I look forward to that blog post:
“Mushroom Moussaka: Mastered.”