Moussaka + search term hijinks

Moussaka

What search terms brought people to this blog in the last month or so?  I’ll tell you:

  • what fat people eat
  • leek and turkey soup
  • potato and kale soup
  • fat people eat corporate food
  • turnip mash apple
  • garlic shrimp broccoli and pasta
  • does oberweis milk make you poop green
  • spinach and feta tart
  • greek pork and potatoes
  • crustless quiche lorraine

I hope everyone found the answers they were looking for.  And I have a feeling it’s not the milk, in that one case.

This is the view from my office window right now:

I hear they make movies in a place called Los Angeles

So I’m extra glad to have good, hearty leftovers in the house.  The other night I made a giant casserole out of lamb and eggplant and ricotta and eggs and onions and garlic from Joyce Goldstein’s enormous and amazing Mediterranean The Beautiful cookbook, snagged for $5.00 in the bargain bin at Borders after Christmas one year, and which, HOLY SHIT, pardon the interruption, seems to be selling (new) for between $160 and $270 on Amazon right now.  What?  Can someone explain?  I mean, this is the cookbook that has the vegetarian dolma recipe that all local friends drool over (rice, dill, mint, tomatoes, pine nuts, onion, a little allspice – there you go), but I do not understand.  I’ll skip to the recipe.

Moussaka is a Greek or Turkish dish that combines eggplant in a rich tomato sauce under a bechamel/custard layer of dairy/eggs/flour.  You can make it vegetarian or with lamb or beef.  Turks add potatoes, sauteeing them when they cook the eggplant.  You can make it ahead and bake it right before serving.  It takes a while to make it.  I got it into my head to cook it around 6:30 the other night, and did not eat it until about 10:30, so plan ahead. Okay, back up, let me explain.  Greek and Turkish food, especially casseroles and stews, were designed to be made by tiny old ladies like my Yia Yia who live to feed their families and who do not understand about “quick weeknight suppers!” and especially do not understand about vegetarianism, counting calories, and diets.  Meals like this take hours. They cannot be rushed.  They have a lot of ingredients.  They require you to dirty every pot and pan in your home. They make enough for an army – this recipe serves 8 easily as a main course and makes sublime leftovers – so your labor is not wasted.  But it’s a project, make no mistake. I regret now not taking a photograph of my kitchen counters, strewn with discarded skillets, saucepans, and baking sheets for eggplant.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 eggplants (about 2 lbs)
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil

For the Meat Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter OR 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 cup tomato puree or 2-3 large fresh tomatoes peeled, seeded, and diced (Note to the sane:  Just use the can.  Seriously.  You will have enough going on that you probably don’t want to seed and peel tomatoes.)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf (Italian) parlsey
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Cream Sauce:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz butter) – do not substitute olive oil here
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (8 oz) ricotta
  • 1/3 cup grated kasseri or parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup fine dried bread crumbs

Method:

  1. Peel the eggplants completely, or peel them lengthwise in a striped pattern (or don’t peel them, I didn’t.) Cut into slices about 1/3 of an inch thick.  Salt them and set them in a large colander for an hour or so.  Pat them dry with paper towels and squeeze out any excess moisture when you do.
  2. Working in batches, in a large saute pan over medium heat, fry the eggplant in olive oil until lightly brown on both sides.  Place them on a paper towel to drain.  Alternately, brush the eggplants with oil, sprinkle with pepper and bake in a 400 degree oven until golden, 10-15 minutes.
  3. Fortunately you can chop your other ingredients and start working on the meat sauce while the salted eggplant hangs out.   To make the sauce, in a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter or heat the oil.   Add the onions and garlic and cook until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the lamb, breaking it up, and cook until it loses its red color, about 10 minutes.  Add the cinnamon, oregano, tomato puree, tomato paste, and wine.  Simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Add the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. To make the cream sauce, warm the milk in a small saucepan over low heat.  In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes (this is known as making a roux).  Slowly stir in the hot milk, and continue stirring until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.  Beat in eggs and ricotta, set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Combine the grated cheese and bread crumbs in a bowl.
  6. Lightly oil a 4 quart ovenproof casserole dish.  Sprinkle the bottom with a little of the crumb/cheese mixture.  Arrange 1/3 of the eggplant slices in a laywer on top.  Pour on 1/2 of the meat sauce.  Sprinkle evenly with the remaining crumbs and top with more eggplant. Pour on the remaining meat sauce and top with the rest of the eggplant.  Pour the cream sauce evenly over all.  Bake until golden and the top is set but still slightly quivery, about 45-60 minutes.  if the top is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil.
  7. Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes, then cut into squares to serve.

Okay, some notes –

I like to toss the 1/3 cup of grated kasseri straight into the cream sauce with the milk and skip the bread crumbs.  It gives the custard a slightly saltier, funkier taste.  I also like to shake a bit of crushed red pepper into the meat sauce for a sharper bite.  I’ve never made it with potatoes, but I bet it would be really delicious but might also sit like lead in your stomach after eating it.

If you make this, I’d love to know how it goes, and I’d also love a photograph of your destroyed kitchen.

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One response to “Moussaka + search term hijinks

  1. Pingback: Habas alla Catalana (Bean and sausage stew with mint) « The Girl Who Ate Everything

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