January brings quiet after a month of holidays. It’s a time to recalibrate your lifestyle, perhaps with a month without meat.
Long a proponent of a more vegetable-forward diet, British author and restaurateur Jamie Oliver has just released “Ultimate Veg,” a vegetarian cookbook with the special advantage of converting popular meat dishes, like the moussaka below. Whether you’re a longtime vegetarian or just trying something new in 2020, you’ll find it fresh and inspiring. Flatiron Books $35.
My Veggie Moussaka
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Ultimate Veg” cookbook
1½ ounces dried porcini mushrooms
8 cloves of garlic
½ cinnamon stick
Leaves from 1 bunch of fresh oregano (1 ounce)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 large eggplants (14-ounces each)
2 pounds potatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans of quality plum tomatoes
7 ounces feta cheese
2 large eggs
2 cups reduced-fat (2 percent) milk
1 whole nutmeg, for grating
Cover the porcini with 2 cups of boiling water. Peel and finely slice the onions and garlic. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large casserole pan over a medium-low heat, add the cinnamon and fry for 1 minute, then add the onions and garlic. Add the oregano leaves and vinegar, then simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes, or until soft and lightly golden, stirring regularly. Meanwhile, slice the eggplants lengthways ½ inch thick, then chargrill in batches on a grill pan.
Scrub the potatoes and slice ½ inch thick, then add to the casserole pan with just the porcini water, reserving the mushrooms. Scrunch the tomatoes into the pan, then pour in 1 can’s worth of water and leave to simmer on a medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring regularly.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the mushrooms in a blender with half the feta and the eggs. Pour in the milk, finely grate in half the nutmeg, then blend until smooth. Season the tomato sauce with sea salt and black pepper, then spoon half into a 14 x 10-inch baking dish. Cover with half the eggplants, drizzle over ¼ cup of creamy sauce, then repeat, finishing with the remaining creamy sauce. Crumble over the rest of the feta, then bake for 40 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.
Delicious served with a simple lemony dressed green salad.
Sometimes I swap the feta for grated halloumi. Ribbons of zucchini grilled with the eggplant are very nice, too.