My plan was to dedicate November to dishes that would be great to serve on Thanksgiving. However, the response to the pictures I posted on Facebook to my Moussaka Burger was huge and I promised to post the recipe as soon as VeganMoFo was over.
I’m a few days late but as you know, Hurricane Sandy took out the power of millions of people. We were lucky – just a few days without power, then no cable or Internet. Last year the floods led to us being evacuated twice so we were relieved to be spared this year. Still our hearts go out to all the people and animals whose lives have been devastated by the storm.
Now that I have the Internet back, I can fulfill my promise to my followers. I bought some eggplant to make more Eggplant Burgers which I love. They are my new favorite vegan burger. But then I got to thinking about Moussaka – the eggplant casserole dish of the Balkans, Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Moussaka is made differently depending on the country – the Greek version usually has layers of meat and eggplant topped with a Bechamel sauce, kind of like a lasagna. In Serbia and Bulgaria, they use potatoes instead of eggplant. There are even vegan versions that substitute mushrooms for the meat.
Years ago before I was vegan, I used to go to a Greek restaurant in Tribeca and I would get the moussaka. There they made it with meat, eggplant and potatoes so that’s how I’ve always known it – sort of a Greek Shepherd’s Pie, if you will.
So I was thinking of making my own vegan version of moussaka with just eggplants and potatoes but I still wanted a burger. Then I thought, why not a Moussaka burger?? So I combined the eggplant and the mashed potatoes into one delicious burger and then topped it with a cheesy Bechamel sauce. Yum! You can taste the deep flavor of the eggplant mixed with the smooth creamy potatoes. And the cheesy sauce is rich and decadent. The burger and the sauce are gluten-free so long as you use a gluten-free bun.
Since the burger is so rich, my Greek Salad is the perfect side dish. Fresh greens and crispy vegetables, tangy vegan feta and briny Kalamata olives are topped with a very simple vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and oregano. All the flavors of Greece are represented.
Together this is a Greek feast that can at least make us pretend we are in beautiful, sunny Greece. Opa! Enjoy!
2 Tbs. canola oil, divided
2 eggplants, peeled and cubed
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 ½ cup mashed potatoes
2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ – 1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant cubes and sauté until they are browned and very soft, about 10 minutes. Make sure they are super-soft because they need to be mashed.
Transfer the eggplant to a large bowl. Mash the eggplant up until there are no whole pieces left. I use a potato masher to do this. Once you have a big bowl of mush, add the scallions, tomato paste, mashed potatoes, parsley, garlic and spices. Mix it into the eggplant. Add the bread crumbs. Don’t add them all at once; you want to feel the mix and see whether you need a whole cup. I add 1/2 cup of bread crumbs and mix it. The best way to mix it is wet your hands and use one hand (keep the other hand clean) to gently mix the crumbs into the eggplant. You will probably need more crumbs so add another ¼ cup and mix it again. You want the consistency to feel firm, like it will hold up as a burger. I usually end up putting the whole cup of crumbs in.
Put the eggplant-potato mixture into the fridge for about 30 minutes. Take the bowl out of the fridge and with your hand, divide the mixture into 4 parts. To form the burgers, I use a 3 ½ inch cookie cutter. I spray it with a bit of cooking oil spray and then pack the eggplant mixture into the cookie cutter. Pat it down, let it sit for about 20 seconds and then gently lift the cookie cutter off. Let your perfect burger sit for a few minutes undisturbed while you make the other 3 burgers.
In the same skillet that you sautéed the eggplant in (but cleaned), heat the other Tbs. of oil over medium-high heat and add the burgers to the pan. Let cook until slightly browned on one side and (this is very important) you can lift the burger with a spatula without breaking it. I use 2 thin spatulas to gently turn the burgers. Flip them and let them cook on the other side. When the 2nd side gets golden brown, flip them back over and let the first side cook until golden brown.
For the Béchamel Cheese Sauce
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. chickpea flour
1 cup non-dairy milk
½ cup mozzarella cheese shreds
2 Tbs. vegan grated parmesan or nutritional yeast
A pinch of nutmeg
Salt and black pepper to taste
Over medium-low heat, heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the flour and whisk until the flour is completely incorporated. Let the flour cook out for a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk. Let the sauce cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cheeses and whisk until they are melted. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Let cook until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
To serve: Put the burgers onto toasted buns. Top with the béchamel cheese sauce and the bun top. Add lettuce, if desired. Serve with the Greek Salad below.
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
1 cucumber, diced
½ red onion, diced
8-10 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
4 oz. vegan feta cheese, crumbled
1 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
Scallion greens and lemon slices for garnish
For the dressing:
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. dried oregano