Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mediterranean Travel: Without the Grease

These punny titles are more and more of a stretch with each post but I know you guys LOVE THEM, so don't worry, I won't stop!

All right, so, did you know that I have been known to travel around to different continents (i.e. kitchens in Seattle, sometimes Portland and my hometown of Billings, Montana) and cook food for my friends and family? It's true. Would you like me to come to your house? Just comment below and we'll figure something out.

Last weekend my brother and I decided to have a Mediterranean Extravaganza! Originally we had planned on having a BBQ (also fun) but Seattle hasn't been very summery lately, so looking at the cloudy forecast we decided: Why not use the oven?! (Sorry East Coast, I know that sounds like Hell---pun, pun, pu-un).

A Mediterranean theme was chosen because Jared loves hummus and because I wanted to make The Veganomicon's (feel free to take a moment and purchase if you haven't already) Eggplant-Potato Moussaka. The more we discussed the larger the menu grew until we had the following:

1. Tahini Sauce
2. Black Bean Quinoa Salad (changed from a couscous salad for the added bonus of quinoa being AWESOME)
3. Spanakopita
4. Eggplant/Yam Moussaka (because we didn't have potatoes)

Spotlight on our Mediterranean Feast!
The evening began the way most wonderful evenings begin, with Dylan opening a bottle of champagne.

Well, Dylan opening a bottle of champagne and it doing that crazy POP FIZZZSHWAH thing everywhere. That is okay though, this was a celebration! Jared and Reese had just gotten a new dining room table!(see above photograph).

I would also like to take this time to apologize AGAIN for the cell phone photos. Someday you will have the fancy photographic stylings of Jessica O. to gaze upon again.Until then, please enjoy my cell phone pictures which I have edited to look "retro" in the hopes that you won't notice how pixelated they are. IT'S WORKING, RIGHT?

Dylan made some fantastic Mediterranean themed cocktails that included champagne, guava juice, and pear infused vodka. They were crisp and delicious and although I am not sure how exactly they were Mediterranean themed it really didn't matter. Pear is sort of like cucumber and cucumber is Mediterranean-ish. Maybe?


The first step to making this delectable Moussaka is to roast your vegetables. Because Jared's oven only has one rack he roasted some the night before and then we finished the roasting day-of. We had to get a little creative with the oven placement so that it wouldn't take us 9 hours to make dinner. 

We ended up roasting 6 yams, 3 zucchini and 2 large eggplants to ensure that we had enough veggies for the moussaka.

While Jared made the savory pine nut cream sauce to top the Moussaka with as well as his sesame tahini sauce (which would not go on top of the Moussaka), I began the spanakopita filling which consisted of: 16 oz of frozen spinach, 1/2 a block of firm tofu, 3 TBS of nutritional yeast, 1/4 cup of fresh parsley AND fresh dill, 1 bunch of green onions, and the rest of my pepper-jack Daiya which was like, 1/8 of a cup. 

Making the filling was fast and simple. I sauteed the green onion for a few minutes, added the spinach (which should be well-squeezed, but SHHHHH mine wasn't at all and still turned out great) parsley and dill and cooked for 5 minutes. Add tofu, Daiya (if using), nutritional yeast and salt/pepper if needed. Stir to combine. That's it. It's done. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Aegean, Jared finished the pine nut cream and abandoned the kitchen. Just kidding! He was still helping, but I can't remember what he was doing, probably mixing me another Mediterranean Cocktail! Still just kidding! I remember now: he was making the Moussaka sauce. I now invite you to repeat the words 'Moussaka Sauce' over and over again. It will make you feel WONDERFUL!

Then comes the fun and exciting process of layering the Moussaka. It goes like this: sauce, roasted vegetables, bread crumbs, sauce, roasted vegetables, breadcrumbs, sauce (more veggies if you still have them but we'd run out) and the pine nut cream sauce. Sprinkle some pine nuts on the very top. Nice! 

Now is a good time to soak your quinoa in cold water. It needs to soak for about 30 minutes, which gives you time to finish all this other crap before you start your salad.

With the Moussaka ready to bake and your quinoa soaking, it is time create the spanakopita. Using the ever-fragile Phyllo Dough, cut all 18 sheets in half and set a damp paper towel on top of them to keep them nice and moooiiiiiissst. Brush olive oil on one strip, layer another strip on top and add a TBS of filling into the corner. I decided to fold them using the traditional "flag method". The end result? Triangles. 

The Spanakopita Flags were then placed on a lightly Greeced (hah!!) (I know I said no grease, so let me emphasize the LIGHTLY) baking sheet and set near the Moussaka until we could re-configure how to bake two things at once in the one-racked hobbit oven. (For the record, we put the Moussaka in lengthwise and stacked the sheet of Spanakopita on top). The Spanakopita cooked for 20 minutes and came out crispy, golden and delicious! But, I am getting ahead of myself.

While those baked, I got started on the Black Bean Quinoa Salad. 

Toss 1 cup of quinoa in a saucepan with1 cup of broth and 1/2 cup of water. Once it starts boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover tightly and cook for 15 minutes. 

At this point your Moussaka should have about 20 minutes left and your Spanakopita should be almost done, if they aren't already. 

While the quinoa is cooking, saute some diced carrots and celery and garlic in a pan with a little bit of olive oil. 

Cook the vegetables until softened. Some people hate onions and green peppers, but if you don't those are some other lovely veggies to add!

After they have softened add a tsp each of cumin and coriander and cook for another 3-5 minutes. 

Dice a tomato, chop some green onion and slice some Greek olives for the next 3-5 minutes. Remove your veggies from the heat, fluff your quinoa with a fork and transfer it to its serving bowl to cool.

While the quinoa cools, make your salad dressing: 2 TBS lime juice, 4 TBS olive oil, 1 tsp salt, fresh ground pepper and a pinch of chili powder. If it still tastes a little funny, which mine did, try adding some other things from this foreign kitchen's fridge. I added, a splash of balsamic, a splash of some salad dressing I found in the door, garlic salt, and some enchilada sauce. (I wish I were kidding, but I'm not and it doesn't matter because the salad turned out GREAT! A little pixelated, maybe, but tasty!!)

Throw your fresh diced veggies into the quinoa and stir, add the sauteed veggies to the mix and stir, pour your dressing in and stir. TADA!

At this point in time your Moussaka should be ready to come out of the oven. It needs to bake for about 40-45 minutes. You'll know it's done when the top is slightly browned and cracked. 

I know. You want me to come to your kitchen and make you something SPECTACULAR! And you probably want Dylan to make some cocktails, too. I don't blame you.

The rest of the evening was spent playing the 20-whatever Pop Culture Version of Trivial Pursuit where Jared and Matt proceeded to rig the game to their benefit. At least dinner was a definite win!

(and I am not joking, invite me over! let's cook! and eat! and play board games or Wii tennis! I swear I'm not crazy!)


  1. What time are you coming...we have a craving for some vegan delights...oh and cocktails of course!

  2. @Jack and Cat, I DISTINCTLY remember you forbidding me from ever visiting you. Therefore, get that Airstream and come live in my yard! We can have dinner EVERY NIGHT!

  3. Ellen, I'm browsing your blog and am TOTALLY inspired to try this Mediterranian feast! It would be much better, of course, if you were here to make it for/with me, but soon enough! Dylan is also welcome to come along and make cocktails!