Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MOUSSAKA


I think every tourist who visits Greece tastes a dish of moussaka. It's a popular Greek summer dish made with layers of eggplant and ground meat, topped with a bechamel sauce and baked until golden. I like making it for company. This recipe is my adaptation of Craig Claiborne's "Moussaka a la Greque" from the New York Time's Cook Book © 1961. It's one of my favorite versions of moussaka to make because of the bechamel sauce, which is absolutely delicious. Moussaka can be prepared in advance, and served lukewarm or at room temperature, making it an ideal candidate for buffets. The flavor of this dish improves on standing one day. Just reheat before serving.

Ingredients:


4 medium eggplants
6 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds lean ground beef
14 oz can of tomatoes
1 1/2 cup red wine
1 cup of chopped parsley, divided in half
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, or double the amount if using fresh

For the bechamel:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, heated
2 eggs, beaten
Tiny pinch cinnamon (optional)
1 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
  • Wash the eggplant and cut off both ends. With a vegetable peeler remove 1/2-inch strips of skin from the eggplant. The end result will be that your eggplant will have a striped appearance, showing stripes of purple skin and white flesh.



  • Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds. Season it with salt and pepper on both sides and let it drain for 30 minutes. Rinse and dry.
  • Bake the eggplant: Preheat the oven to 475° F. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with some canola oil and lay a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Season lightly with salt and pepper and bake until the eggplant is soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Many recipes call for the eggplant to be fried, but I think baking is a healthier way to cook the eggplant. Even the flavor is better. No heavy oily eggplant. Keep an eye on your eggplant while it's baking. You don't want to overcook it. The time in the oven depends on the type of eggplant that you purchase.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is soft.
  • Add the ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink. (Some recipes call for ground lamb, but as far as I know, most Greeks use ground beef. My mother makes a healthier version, God bless her, using ground turkey). Combine the tomato with the wine, oregano, marjoram and 1/2 cup of chopped parsley. Reserve the other 1/2 cup of parsley for later use.. Add this mixture to the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and simmer over low heat, stirring often, until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat.


  • In a sauce pan, over low heat, melt the butter, add the flour and whisk for 5 minutes. Turn up the heat to moderate and add the heated milk in a slow stream, whisking all the while. Simmer for 5 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste, and remove from the heat. The mixture should be thick. Cool slightly and stir in the eggs, the pinch of cinnamon if using, and feta and ricotta cheeses.



  • Grease an 11 by 16-inch pan and sprinkle the bottom lightly with bread crumbs. Arrange alternating layers of eggplant and meat sauce in the pan, sprinkling each layer with grated Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and the reserved parsley.



  • Pour the white sauce over the top, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for one hour in a preheat 350° F oven, or until the top is golden.



  • Let cool twenty minutes before slicing.

2 comments:

  1. I have never made moussaka in my life although I I love all the ingredients. I am copying your recipe and shall let you know how it went.

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  2. Ana, what a wonderful and tasty dish!
    I learned this recipe from my Armenian friend before 20 years.
    It's a great dish . i like it very much

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