This has become one of my favorite summer dishes.
While most folks in the US are familiar with the heavier Greek version – moussaka – few are aware that it is originally an Arab dish, still popular in Palestine. While I know that talking about the origins of things is a dangerous business, especially in former Ottoman lands, in this case the etymology seems pretty clear: musaqaa, from the Arabic for chilled or cooled. As its name indicates, the dish is served cold, a perfect slice of summer.
This is a vegetarian version which substitutes potatoes for the more traditional meat layer. In Gaza,the most typical recipe uses finely chopped beef or lamb stewed with spices and then layered between the eggplants and tomatoes, though for a quicker version one can also use fried ground meat. Personally I like this simple vegetarian version best.
2 medium eggplants
3 medium potatoes
2 large tomatoes
1 red onion
1 cup oil (olive or vegetable)
½ T. oregano
½ fresh green chili pepper (if desired)
Peel eggplants and slice lengthwise. Soak in cold salted water.
Slice potatoes, tomatoes and onions into thin slices. The onion slices especially should be very thin. If using, also slice the hot pepper in very thin slices.
Dry the eggplant slices well and fry them a few at a time in oil until quite golden. Remove from oil and place on paper to drain. For a lighter version, the eggplant slices may be roasted in the oven.
In a shallow casserole dish, place one layer of eggplant strips followed by a layer of potatoes, a layer of tomatoes and a scattering of onion slices, as well as a scattering of hot pepper slices (if using). Add salt and oregano and repeat. Add salt and oregano to the final layer and cover casserole with aluminum foil.
Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes, then remove the foil. Bake for another 15 minutes and remove from oven to cool.
Dish should be served cooled or at room temperature.