Photos and recipe by Abby Wiseman
I got my restaurant chops in Greek restaurants where I learned that olive oil should definitely be put on everything, wine can be consumed in a rocks glass, getting yelled at means you’re part of the family and a shot of homemade ouzo will make you blind drunk. During that time I worked with some amazing young women and created a sort of sisterhood that continues nearly a decade later.
At one point or another we have all gone our separate ways; chasing careers, chasing men and chasing dreams, but no matter how much time has passed we can all get together and feel reconnected like it was just yesterday that we were sipping sangria on a patio.
I think food- and drink- has a lot to do with this bond. At Cosmos, the Greek restaurant on White Rock beach- we would get all our work done, order a massive feast and sit down for a chat. This isn’t something that’s afforded to employees in most restaurants. Most of the time you have to chow down on your barely chewed food and get back on the floor. Conversation is in little snippets and social time is limited. I believe this makes a huge difference on how people work together because in no other restaurant have I ever felt that cohesiveness.
Over that time I developed a Greek food addiction and have attempted to make a few dishes on my own. I think this veggie moussaka, which is kind of like Greek lasagna, is pretty close to the one I used to gorge on all those years ago. Give it a try and remember, we all burn toast!
Veggie Moussaka- serves 12 (I usually half it)
3-4 russet potatoes
4 large zuccini
4 medium eggplants
For the sauce:
2 pounds sliced mushrooms
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 onions, sliced
2 Bay leaves
2 tbsp chopped parsley (I also added fresh thyme, sage, oregano and a touch of cumin)
1 28 oz tin diced tomatoes
1 cup of bulgur or buckwheat, cooked
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 litre homo milk
1 cup of flour
200g parmesan (or some sharp cheese to save $)
You will be cooking this at 400F.
Peel and boil potatoes and then let cool. When cool slice into medallions. Meanwhile, turn you oven on broil, slice zucchini and eggplant lengthwise, then lay them out on a baking sheet and brush with oil. Broil vegetables until brown. Alternatively, you can fry the vegetable in a pan, but I have a roommate and that makes a really oily smell in the place.
In a saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for approx. 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and let brown. Add herbs, salt and pepper, tomatoes then let simmer on low heat for 15 minutes or more. The longer you simmer the more the flavours come together. Five minutes before taking sauce off heat add bulgur or buckwheat and combine.
In the meantime get the bechamel ready (this is the tastiest part). In a saucepan (or pot, which is what I call it), melt butter under medium-low heat– have patience, this takes a minute– and then add flour and stir. Once combined add half the milk and whisk together until it thickens. Once combined add the rest and let thicken again. Add cheese then take off heat.
Cover the bottom of rectangular baking dish with potatoes slices. Cover potatoes with a layer of sauce, then layer zucchini and another layer of sauce. Eggplant comes next and then more sauce. Continue layering until you run out of veggies. Pour the bechamel sauce on the top and bake for 40 minutes or until top is browned.
Abby Wiseman writes about being young, female and probably broke in Vancouver