Do I follow a Paleo diet? No, not really. But I am quite open-minded when it comes to food, and love a recipe that turns something a bit on the heavy side into a lighter but still delicious version. I have zero interest in lighter food that loses a ton in the flavor department. Or texture. This is another gem of a recipe I found at Mike’s site, The Iron You, made and loved. It is amazing how versatile cauliflower can be, in this preparation it doubles as a pseudo-bechamel sauce, and I guarantee you won’t miss the real thing. Plus, instead of having a hard time getting up from your dining chair because your stomach acts as if it’s trying to digest 14 bricks, you’ll be light as a feather slowly dangling through the air. Ok, not quite as light. But close enough.
(slightly adapted from The Iron You)
for the eggplant layers:
2 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick rounds
ground black pepper
for the meat sauce:
1 lb ground beef (or ground lamb, more authentic)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can 28 oz diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 handfuls fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon red vinegar
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
A pinch of ground black pepper
for the Paleo bechamel sauce:
¾ cup almond milk (I used half milk, half almond milk)
2 cups (7 oz) cauliflower florets (best to weigh it)
dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
A pinch of ground black pepper
Heat oven to 400°F.
Whisk a little olive oil with lemon juice. On a baking sheet brush eggplant slices with the oil/lemon mixture and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer and roast in the oven until soft and golden about 25 to 30 minutes. While the eggplant is roasting make the meat sauce.
In a large saucepan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat, add shallots and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add meat and cook, stirring to prevent sticking, until meat is browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, oregano, cinnamon, vinegar, salt and pepper and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
In the meantime make the paleo bechamel sauce. In a saucepan add cauliflower florets, milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Add a pinch of nutmeg. Remove from the heat and with an immersion blender, blend until smooth, or use a food processor. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl, add a little of the warm sauce to temper them, then slowly add them to the sauce.
To assemble the moussaka, lightly grease baking dish large appropriate to make two layers of eggplant slices. I used a round, 10-inch diameter baking dish. Arrange eggplant slices to form a uniform layer. Cover the eggplant evenly with half of the meat mixture. Repeat to make a second layer. Carefully spoon the cauliflower bechamel sauce over the meat mixture and spread evenly to the edges. Try not to disturb the meat mixture too much.
Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes, until the top is nicely puffed and browned. Let rest 10 minutes, and serve warm.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: I like to peel my eggplant slices after roasting, but if you prefer to peel before, or to leave the slices unpeeled, go for it. I am not too fond of the bitter taste of the peel and find its texture unappealing, so I definitely remove it before assembling the moussaka. For dishes such as this one, I am happy to remove the peel on my plate, as the presentation is nicer with the intact Solanum melongena.
I love the meat sauce with its touch of cinnamon. The smell as it simmered was to die for! And I must share this picture, because it’s a rare occasion: I managed to catch a photo of steam rising from the pan… how sexy is that? I was impressed by Karen’s achievement in her post a while ago, and managed to get there too….
Since it was my first time making pseudo-bechamel with cauliflower, I decided to be precise and weighed the florets. I suppose eyeballing 2 cups would work too, but I felt like playing safe. The best part of the dish? Leftovers were even better than on the first day. In fact, I would almost advise you to make this dish a couple of days before showtime. The flavors mingled together perfectly, the dish had a more wholesome feel. Awesome.
When I served this moussaka, I did not tell Phil the modifications to make it Paleo. He could hardly believe when I divulged the dirty secret to involve cauliflower. It works so well, it’s kind of surprising. Don’t be put off by it, give this method a try, it is so much lighter than the real thing, but it still feels like comfort food. A gastronomic win-win situation.
Mike, thanks again for the great recipe, your blog is a constant source of inspiration!
Dinner is served!
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