Mussaka

by on July 14, 2007
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When I moved to Jackson about 6 1/2 years ago, there was only one real Middle Eastern restaurant, and it was actually a grocery store with a few tables where people could eat the hummus, tabouli, and other delicacies available in take-out containers. It was a small place, but their baba ganoush and tabouli were the best I’d ever tasted. Since then, the Mediterranean Grocery has expanded and is now the Mediterranean Café, with plenty of seating and a wide selection of menu items. In the last few years, two other Middle Eastern restaurants have opened, one just in the last couple of months, so we’re definitely beginning to get more variety in Middle Eastern food around here.

Mussaka (Lebanese Moussaka) or Musaka

Though we’re very devoted to the Mediterranean Café, D. and I recently decided to check out the newest restaurant, Jerusalem, which specializes in Lebanese food. The one dish that stood out (and that isn’t on the menu at our favorite restaurant) was Mussaka, an eggplant appetizer that was aromatically seasoned and delicious (no burned eggplant here!) As I ate it I tried to decipher just exactly what was in it so that I could recreate it at home. After all, my garden is producing a record number of Japanese eggplants, and I’m constantly looking for new things to do with them.

When I got home, I did an internet search and didn’t find much under “mussaka” or “musaka.” Finally, using the spelling “moussaka,” I found an often-repeated recipe of Nigella Lawson’s for Lebanese Moussaka that looked similar to what I’d eaten, though it contains chickpeas while the dish I had at Jerusalem did not. I decided to give it a go, with some changes of course, but leaving in the chickpeas so that it would be heartier and more of a main dish. It turned out to be delicious, and with my simplified recipe, very easy to make.

Mussaka (Lebanese Moussaka) or Musaka

Mussaka

(click for printer-friendly version)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound eggplants (3 long Japanese eggplants or 1 large globe)
  • olive oil spray
  • 1 large onion, sliced thin
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (see comments for substitutes or use pom juice mixed with agave or sugar)
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • generous pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • salt, to taste
  • fresh mint leaves for garnish

Instructions

  1. If you’re using regular eggplant, you can cut it into 1-inch cubes. I used the long Japanese kind and cut them into 1 1/2-inch pieces which I then quartered lengthwise, so that my slices were long and thin.
  2. Spray a large, non-stick pot with olive oil and sauté the onion on medium-high until translucent. Add the garlic and the eggplant, and sauté for about 3 minutes more. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the mint, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 30-40 minutes, until the eggplants are tender.
  3. Serve sprinkled with chopped fresh mint. I served it as a main dish over couscous, but you could serve it with a whole grain or pita bread or alone as an appetizer.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s) | Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Nutrition Info

Makes 4 servings, each containing 199 Calories (kcal); 2g Total Fat; (7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 512mg Sodium; 9g Fiber.


About that drink in the background, it looks like iced tea, but it isn’t. While I had out the pomegranate molasses, I thought I’d create an original mixed drink. Since it looked so much like iced tea, and since I was making Lebanese moussaka, I decided to call it Lebanese Iced Tea (like Long Island Iced Tea, you know?) Well, I thought it tasted good, but D. took one sip and practically spit it out, sputtering “Lebanese Iced Tea? More like Lebanese Raw Sewage!” So, since I don’t want to insult the people of Lebanon with a drink that 50% of the testers thought was horrible, I’ve decided to rename it Pomegranate Raw Sewage, and I present the recipe here. But don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Pomegranate Raw Sewage

1 1/2 ounces vodka
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
ice
club soda
mint leaves for garnish

Mix the vodka and pom. molasses in a glass. Add the ice and fill with club soda. Serve garnished with fresh mint leaves. Enjoy! Or not!

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SusanV August 1, 2009 at 8:52 am

Here are the original comments posted before the blog was moved:

Ladybug said…

Love your site. Never heard of pomegranate mollasses? Is ther a sub. We really enjoy your miso eggplant. We also have an over supply of eggplant. Thanks for all your delicious recipes.

5:36 PM, July 14, 2007
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Maya Papaya said…

If not for the pomegranate molasses, I’d be making this tomorrow!

Can’t wait to make it.

7:03 PM, July 14, 2007
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urus said…

If you boil down pomegranate juice to about 1/4 it’s original volume, it may substitute for the molasses.
That “sewage” recipe reminded me of a high school science project I’d heard of, consisting of trying to make various animal products (ear wax, nasal mucous, blood, etc.) from materials of non-animal origins.

8:53 PM, July 14, 2007
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James said…

I’m making this tonight. It’s not done yet so I can’t comment on the whole recipe but I made my own molasses using this recipe

http://www.recipezaar.com/86849

10:55 PM, July 14, 2007
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Anonymous said…

Yep, that sounds like the traditional Lebanese dish- chickpeas and all…
Actually, Lebanese iced tea consists of rose water and pine nuts!
Pomegranate molasses is used in certain chicken recipes in the Middle East, as a marinade.
Hopefully you find more uses for the pomegranate molasses! I used to use syrups like that to flavor fresh squeezed orange juice.

11:48 AM, July 15, 2007
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Maya Papaya said…

Great! I am going to make the pomegranate molasses and then I’ll make this recipe on Friday when my brother and his girlfriend come to visit.

8:09 PM, July 15, 2007
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VeggieGirl said…

oh my goodness I haven’t had Mussaka since before going vegan!! I’m definitely going to make this meal for dinner next week, for my family.

8:40 PM, July 15, 2007
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Anonymous said…

Susan,

I make a Pom-tini with pomegranate molasses. Try adding a 1/2 ounce or so of Triple Sec instead of the club soda. Also, sometimes I do what I call “The antioxidant martini”. I use 1 1/2 – 2 oz green tea infused vodka, 1/2 ounce triple sec, and 1/2 ounce pomegranate molasses. Just a few fun ideas to help you use the molasses. ;)

Maureen

9:06 AM, July 16, 2007
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maybepigscanfly said…

Too bad about the restaurant. But your version of mussaka sounds like a winner. I’ve been buying the Japanese eggplants like crazy at the Farmer’s market so I’ll give this a try, but I don’t have any pomegranate molasses.

9:33 AM, July 16, 2007
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Mikaela said…

I just like that name, “mussaka.” It’s so fun to say… mussaka, mussaka, Mussaka! :D

10:51 AM, July 16, 2007
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Katherine said…

Hi, been lurking here a while but finally did one of your recipes tonight – this one. It was delicious and very easy to make. I’m vegetarian and have to watch my fat intake so I’ve been bookmarking lots of your recipes.

Thank you!

3:43 PM, July 16, 2007
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Crystal & Ryan – Café Cyan said…

Must try the mussaka when our eggplants start coming in! This looks so easy!

I’m not convinced I should try the drink though, so perhaps I’ll pass :)

-Crystal

9:47 AM, July 17, 2007
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Shannon said…

I made the mussaka this weekend and really enjoyed it. I get a lot out of your website and am very appreciative of the hard work that you put into creating and maintaining it. Thank you!

3:29 PM, July 17, 2007
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Anardana said…

Thanks for the comment, Susan! You’re my hero :)

12:11 PM, July 18, 2007
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Claire said…

Where is Mediterranean Cafe? We ate at Jerusalem tonight…talk about strong flavors! I was disappointed in the tabuleh. I have never had falafel but enjoyed theirs. Also enjoy Aladdins…I’m sure that’s one of the restaurants you were talking about!

11:29 PM, July 20, 2007
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SusanV said…

Claire, Mediterranean Cafe is technically in Ridgeland. It’s in the shopping center just past County Line Road on the right hand side of Old Canton Road.

Yes, Aladdins is the other restaurant I meant. I’ve only eaten there a couple of times, but it’s been good both of them. The Med. Cafe is closer to my house, though, so it’s very quick to run to for take out. They keep a lot of things in containers in a refrigerator case so that it’s quick to pick up dinner there.

I think it’s funny that Jerusalem and Aladdins are so close together!

8:43 AM, July 21, 2007
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Maya Papaya said…

I made this Friday night for my brother and his girlfriend. Everyone loved it. I used my homemade pomegranate molasses as mentioned above, though I halved that recipe. So I have a little jar of it in the fridge so I can make this again soon.

I didn’t make the Pomegranate Raw Sewage, but we did have some nice red wine to go with.

I’m not a giant eggplant fan but I can totally eat it in this tasty dish!

12:22 PM, July 22, 2007
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ParisBreakfasts said…

Now I know what to do with all the Japanese eggplants I see at my local foodstand!
I’m going to do a search for the molasses in one of the Indian stores too.
Can’t wait!

8:37 PM, July 23, 2007
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Morpheus said…

What an awesome dish! I made it tonight and thanks to Whole Foods Market they even had the Pom. Mollassas!! My base is a blend of whole grain brown rices (long grain brown/whole grain wehani/whole grain black joponica). Lundberg makes the pack in 16oz bags.

7:40 PM, August 28, 2007
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jessica~ said…

This looks absolutely delicious! I was going to ask you what else you can use the pomegranate molasses in (I don’t like to buy a product that only gets used in one recipe) but there are some great suggestions in your comments! I’ll look for it at the store this weekend and hopefully have some delicious Mussaka for dinner!! Thanks!

9:33 AM, October 17, 2007
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talula_fairie said…

This recipe was awesome. I made it on Sunday and I’ve been eating the recipes all week. Even my picky toddlers and husband loved it (I was shocked). It’s definitely one I’ll be making again and again!

I made it with Pomegranate juice (now I see Morpheus’ comment and wish I had looked harder for the Molasses because I was shopping at whole foods, I didn’t even bother to see if they’d have the molasses, I just assumed they wouldn’t) and a pinch of turbinado sugar. I didn’t even boil down the juice (I’m a busy mom!), it turned out fine.

1:17 PM, October 24, 2007
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melissa joy said…

I’m making this for thanksgiving.

This year, I’m the only non-turkey eater, so I wanted to find something that my meat-eating relatives would also eat, because they do an excellent job of making sure that I have something when I come to their home. (and they’re learning that vegetarian doesn’t mean twigs along the way!)

so, thank you very much!!!

10:18 PM, November 17, 2007
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Anonymous said…

You mentioned two Middle eastern REstaurants in Jackson and you forgot to main one, Aladdin on Lakeland. try it

2:28 PM, October 10, 2008
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SusanV said…

Since I was writing about the newest M.E. restaurant and comparing it to Jackson’s first (and my favorite) M.E. restaurant, Aladdin just didn’t come up. I’ve tried Aladdin several times and found it good.

3:10 PM, October 10, 2008
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Vanessa Carpenter said…

Okay lacking ingredients we improvised. Black beans for chick peas and balsamic truffle (just a dash) for pomegranate but it was beautiful, another win.

8:21 AM, January 17, 2010

Reply

2 Vanessa Carpenter January 17, 2010 at 9:21 am

Okay lacking ingredients we improvised. Black beans for chick peas and balsamic truffle (just a dash) for pomegranate but it was beautiful, another win.

Reply

3 Ria Organic Acai September 7, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I just love mussaka! Mediterranean dishes are one of my favorites. We have mosto fo the ingredients but I can’t seem to find pomegranate molasses around my area. I will try it with balsamic truffle though. Thanks!

Reply

4 Phoo-d August 23, 2011 at 9:15 pm

I made this for dinner swapping a squeeze of lemon juice and aged balsamic vinegar for the pomegranate molasses and it was lovely! A delicious vegan dinner.

Reply

5 Charlievegan August 24, 2011 at 10:42 am

Lol pomegranate Raw sewerage that’s gold :)

Reply

6 Christina August 25, 2011 at 3:18 am

I love your recipes and have trie a lot of them – I find tasting the different cultures in recipes fascinating. So maybe you will find the information about moussaka from someone for whom it is a traditional dish interesting too.

Moussaka is a traditional dish in my country and in all Balkan countries, actually. I am pretty sure it comes from the Turkish cuisine and I know there are some variations, but definitely no chickpeas or other legumes in it.

The most popular variety and maybe the best known to foreigners is the Greek musaka. Basically it is an eggplant-potato-minced meat layered dish. The minced meat is roasted with onions and tomatoes and seasoned with pepper, salt and a bit of cinnamon – and spread between each eggplant and potato layer. It is a very oily dish – the potato slices and the eggplant slices are pre-fryed. On top of the dish there is a thick fluffy crust, made of bechamel sauce mixed with eggs. The dish is backed in the oven in a ceramic dish.

There are some vegetarian variations, mostly with the minced meat substituted by a rice layer or no minced meat and just eggplant and potato. Eggplant, layers and crust are essential for a dish to be called musaka – I think it won’t be difficult to veganize the dish and make it a lot less oily, but it is really nothing like this recipe.

Reply

7 Kirsten August 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Hi Christina,

I grew up eating Lebanese food, and my father (along with a large Lebanese family) is one of the owners of the Lebanese Taverna restaurants in the metro-DC area. There’s a dish very similar to this that’s listed as m’saka on the menu, pronounced pretty much the same as moussaka. I’ve seen the Greek dish you mention at restaurants here, too, and agree it is really different. Seems like this is a case of different dishes from different cultures with very similar names.

Reply

8 Nataliya November 25, 2012 at 11:30 pm

This recipe is delicious! It is just the perfect combination of all of my favorite ingredients!

Reply

9 Leslie July 10, 2013 at 11:03 am

Your recipe sounds great, I make a similar dish, the only thing I would add is some cumin, it will give the dish a smokey earthy flavor and goes great with eggplant and chickpeas. I use cumin in almost all my middle eastern dishes :)

Reply

10 Joan July 11, 2013 at 3:18 am

Do you think it would be possible to put all these ingredients (except for the drink!!) into a slow cooker? We are renovating our kitchen and have no oven or hotplates for another week.

Reply

11 Susan Voisin July 11, 2013 at 7:48 am

I think it would work fine in a crockpot. Please let me know how it comes out. Enjoy your new kitchen!

Reply

12 JasonB August 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Made this last night with Japanese eggplants from my garden. Incredible! Finally found something to make use of the couscous I had around as well. This site will be one of my go-to sites now … so many interesting recipes. I was getting bored with what I was cooking and running out of ideas having only been a vegan since February of this year. BTW – I think the pom juice and agave nectar replacement worked well…not too overpowering.

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13 Brenda August 10, 2013 at 6:15 am

Byblos here in New Orleans serves this (with chickpeas, btw). I had it for my birthday lunch one year and desperately wanted to make it myself. Finding the recipe with all the name confusion seemed impossible. I was SO glad when I found your recipe here. Thanks SO much for piecing together the right ingredients! It’s one of my go-to recipes now. And I must say I much prefer your version, since the restaurant version is too heavy on the oil for my palate.

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