Thursday, August 5, 2010

Have eggplant, make moussaka

MOUSSAKA was my favorite dish while visiting Greece.  Although claimed
by the Greeks as a national food, its origin is Turkish.  I like it
best served warm, with Greek salad and French bread.

Preparation time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Yield: approximately 8 servings

Pots, Pans, Utensils

large, heavy-bottomed frying pan or skillet with cover
1 medium saucepan (for béchamel)
2 wooden spoons
1 medium whisk (for béchamel)
1 baking / roasting pan approximately 8 x 12 x 3 inches


2 large eggplants
sea salt
olive oil
1 medium onions, chopped
1 pounds of ground beef or lamb
1 1/2 cups of chopped ripe tomatoes with juice (or canned tomatoes)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or a small stick (break off around 1 inch long)
1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice
1 bay leaves
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese (or other white cheese)
2 slices of toasted bread for breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons of tomatopaste
freshly ground pepper
béchamel with cheese


Wash the eggplants and trim off stems. Cut off 1/2-inch wide strips of
the skin lengthwise, leaving about an inch in between, all around the
eggplant, then cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices.

Put the slices in a large bowl or on a tray, sprinkle liberally with
salt and let them sit for 30 minutes. Rinse well, drain, and pat dry.

Brush slices lightly on both sides with olive oil and run them under
the broiler on an ungreased cookie sheet until lightly browned and
soft. Remove and set aside to cool.

Note: If you've never fixed this before, there are two reasons often
given for salting the eggplant: (1) to remove any bitterness, and (2)
to absorb some of the natural liquids.


Preheat the frying pan or skillet over low heat.

When the pan is hot, add a tablespoon of oil and increase the heat to
medium low. Sauté the onions with a wooden spoon until they are
translucent, add the meat and continue to sauté until lightly browned.
Add tomatoes, 1/2 the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic, cinnamon, bay
leaves, allspice, and tomato paste and mix well. Reduce heat, cover,
and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, about the time for
making the béchamel sauce. If there is still liquid in the pan,
continue to simmer uncovered until the mixture is as dry as possible,
stirring to prevent sticking. When dry, remove the bay leaves and
cinnamon stick (if used), and set sauce aside uncovered until ready to


3 tablespoons of flour
3 cups of milk
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese (or kefalotyri or pecorino)
¼ cup butter
Salt to taste
pinch of grated nutmeg

In a large saucepan, set the heat to medium to melt the butter. Stir
the flour into the melted butter and add salt. Add milk slowly and
continue to whisk until the sauce thickens. Add the beaten eggs and
nutmeg, whisking very quickly (so the eggs don't cook) until well
blended. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese, mix well and set
aside, covered, until ready to use.


Lightly oil the baking pan and sprinkle the bottom with the remaining
breadcrumbs. Place a layer of eggplant slices on the breadcrumbs (it's
ok to overlap) and spread the meat mixture evenly on top. Cover with
the remaining eggplant slices, and carefully pour the béchamel sauce
evenly over the top.

Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 30 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese over
the top, and continue to cook for another 15 to 30 minutes, until
golden brown.

Remove the moussaka from the oven and allow to cool. Moussaka is
traditionally eaten warm, not hot, and can also be eaten at room
temperature. Moussaka is even better the next day.

Moussaka is traditionally served in very large pieces and it is a
heavy dish. Serve with a green salad, crusty bread, and a dry red
wine. If anyone has room for dessert, a fruit sorbet or cheese with
fruit is a light way to end on a sweet note.

Moussaka can be prepared up to the béchamel and refrigerated
overnight. The next day, make the bechamel, pour over the top, and
cook as directed. It can also be completely cooked and cooled, then
frozen. Defrost and and reheat in a 350° (175-180°C) oven.

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