Vegetarian Moussaka & Parmesan Polenta Fries

Tonight’s date night was accompanied by two food items that I have never prepared before.  Moussaka and polenta.   Although I must say they were super easy to prepare which is the only way I roll.  I have actually never had any kind of moussaka but awhile ago I say a yummy looking post on another vegetarian version but I have made it even easier.  Its origins are in Greece where it is traditionally served with a layer of eggplant then meat and vegetables and either tomato sauce or bechemal.

As for the polenta I must thank my new best friend Joe, actually he goes by the name Trader Joe.  I just can’t seem to get enough of him since I first saw him last week.  This is because I got a “tube” of premade polenta (not that it’s difficult to make) but hey if someone wants to do my dirty work for me why not every once in awhile?  That made preparing those fries take about 3.5 minutes-maybe? I love taking credit for amazing date night dinners like it took all day 😉

This dish is actually almost vegan except I added in some real parmesan cheese (I’ll never leave you. ) This is because I used a homemade cashew herb cheese which is so easy to make and so tasty.  The nutty-ness of the cheese pairs incredibly well with the meaty-ness of the mushrooms.  And the bf even described this dish as “hearty”-which is saying a lot for a ribeye loving man.

This is a lovely family style meal that can definitely be prepared in less than thirty minutes (I hope I don’t sound like Rachael Ray because I can’t stand her, no offense) and will more than satisfy those around the table.  Plus your getting lots of veggies, healthy fats and won’t bust your calorie budget.

Ingredients:

1 Eggplant, sliced thick with mandolin

1 onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 container mushrooms, I prefer baby bella

2 large handfuls baby spinach

2 cups cashews, soaked in water at least 4 hours, up to 12

2 servings polenta, I used little less than 1/2 store bought tube

1/8 cup parmesan cheese

lots of fresh thyme

2 tbsp fresh chives

*optional fresh rosemary

splash of lemon juice

Directions:

Cashew Cheese

-Soak cashews at least 4 hours and up to 12.  Drain, rinse and throw in food processor/blender.  Only add a few drops of water to get it moving.  You want “ricotta cheese” like consistency.  Continue blending and adding small bits of water till you get the right “spreadable” consistency.  Add lots of fresh thyme, lemon juice and optionally chives and rosemary.  —Season to taste.

Polenta Fries

-Take 1/2 the tube of premade polenta and cut in half, you are aiming for a “fry” like shape.  I used 1/4 of the entire tube for 2 people.

-Once you have your slices, dredge in egg and place on baking sheet lined with tin foil and sprayed with non-stick.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Bake on 375 for 15 minutes or until crisp to your liking.  I did not feel like waiting that’s why mine are not “stiff” {“that’s what she said”-die hard office fan-before Michael left}.

Moussaka

-Once eggplant is sliced, put in coliander and salt generously.  Let it drain for at least 30 minutes.

-Meanwhile dice your onion and saute on med-high heat.  Throw your mushrooms in a blender to get minced consistency, similar to that of ground beef.  Throw in pan with diced onions.  Saute 2-3 minutes and add 2 garlic cloves.

-Add 2 tbsp fresh thyme and saute 1-2 minutes more.  Quickly saute 2 large handfuls (half 70z bag) of baby spinach until just wilting, should only take 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat.

-I used the same pan to do a quick saute with eggplant.  I used a non-stick and used non-stick spray otherwise eggplant will suck up oil better than any hoover vacuum cleaner.  Just saute for roughly 3 minutes each side till it tenderizes slightly without getting mushy.

-Grab a 8×8 baking dish, spray the bottom and start assembling.  I did eggplant, then “cheese”, then “meat” and then repeat once more.  I did not use an additional sauce, I didn’t think it was needed but you could use tomato sauce or bechamel.

-Bake for about 10 minutes on 350.  Serves 4, or for us it served 2, 1 piece for me and 2 for a very hungry person 😉

No one said it won any beauty contests-just taste buds 🙂

{The little side sauce is a cauliflower based garlic aioli I made.  It is my go to “cheat” and I love to use it for chicken salad/veg salad base but I just haven’t gotten around to posting it.}

– Use 1 cup cauliflower, 1 tbsp sour cream, 2 tbsp vegan mayo and 1-2tsp minced garlic and blend together adding water as needed to get “mayo” like consistency.  I love adding fresh herbs like chives and rosemary or whatever I have on hand.   Try this on your chicken salad next time-it has the mayo-y flavor without the calories and junk.

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4 thoughts on “Vegetarian Moussaka & Parmesan Polenta Fries

  1. mjskit April 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm Reply

    What a delicious meal! I’m a huge moussaka fan and this one looks delicious! Love your addition of the polenta fries.

  2. comowater.com April 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm Reply

    These polenta fries are calling my name! And the cashew cheese?!?!? Mamma mia! 😀

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