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The Hand Off: Tomato Leek Moussaka

2010 September 9

by Brianna Bain

This week I took on  a multi-layered  culinary challenge, rooted in my selection  of leeks from Sarah’s Risotto with Gold Coins and the 5 lbs of tomatoes resting loudly in bright red, shouting from the shelf in my refrigerator: “use me or rot”!  The challenge, driven by the increasing number of friends, family and our readers here at RecipeRelay who are in need of more gluten and dairy free recipes. Accessing the ingredients to transform this dish wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. I took some creative liberties resulting in a completely different topping than your typical  Moussaka. This dish is totally worthy of seconds, whatever you end up calling it!

While this dish is gluten and dairy free, I choose to add meat to this recipe. I did consider going for the trifecta meal: dairy, gluten and meat free- but decided that including ground beef would allow me to satisfy my rare craving and introduce a new sustainable meat source for my fellow Californian’s. I am not  a frequent red meat eater but  do occasionally enjoy the addition of some grass fed ground beef to some of my dishes, more as a tasty treat than  as a mainstay of a meal.  I sourced the beef for this dish from my local Henry’s Farmers Market, which carries  Pacific Pastures‘ premium beef products. Located in  Santa Rosa CA, Pacific Pastures is a small family owned business committed  not only to providing  grass fed beef raised by small, independent ranchers, but also to supporting sustainable land use, animal welfare, efficient energy usage, and conservation of wildlife and the environment.   The quality, price and  business practices behind the scenes  all fit the bill, I will  definitely buy from them again.  You can learn more about Pacific Pastures here. Want to find grass fed beef in your area? Click here.

Not into the beef? Never fear my vegetarian friends! This dish can easily be made veg friendly. Just replace the beef with your own favorite veggie protein like lentils, black beans, tempeh, or tofu… let your stomach guide you!

Tomato Leek Moussaka

Prep time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 20 to 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour and 5 to 15 minutes

Yield: 8 servings


  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 10 ripe, juicy tomatoes (I used a combination of what was in my CSA box)
  • 5 to 6 leeks, trimmed, well washed, and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 6 ounces tomato paste (optional, but does make for a thicker tomato layer)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 pound grass-fed beer of other meat choice (optional)
  • 6 tablespoons Earth Balance ( I used the soy free variety) or butter
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Warm the oil in a saucepan over a low-medium heat. Add the onions, pop the lid on and sweat, lifting the lid to stir occasionally, ~5 minutes.
  2. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to a pan, along with a little salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cook at a steady pace, stirring often, until tomatoes have broken down ~ 20 minutes.
  3. Heat grape-seed oil in another large saucepan. Add leeks, turn the heat to low and cover. Sweat, lifting the lid to stir occasionally, until the leeks are soft. Then set aside
  4. In a pan, brown ground beef until medium. Drain some of the fatty juices and the add wine, tomato paste, parsley, and cinnamon. Salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for 2-3 min then turn off heat.
  5. Add the meat mixture to tomato/onion mixture, mix well and set aside.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  7. Mix rice flour, 1 Tbls parsley, nutmeg, egg, softened Earth Balance, almond milk together in a bowl. Mix till smooth and creamy.
  8. Spread leeks into bottom of an ovenproof dish with the back of a spoon. Pour the tomato meat sauce on top, spreading it out to the edges, then top evenly with the rice flour batter mixture.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 min.


What  really sets this variation of Moussaka apart from its original recipe is the topping. I  have created a thick crust topping  with a cornbread like consistency rich in nutmeg flavor.  In traditional Moussaka the topping is a creamy and soft béchamel sauce made of egg yolks, milk,  butter, a teaspoon of flour and a pinch of nutmeg.  Inspired by it the béchamel sauce but wary of trying to mimic too closely without dairy or gluten, I have turned up the volume on the flour and nutmeg and even added a little parsley for what I think turned out to be unexpectedly tasty addition addition.  Hope you enjoy my Tomato Leek Moussaka. I look forward to hearing your comments and other Moussaka tales!