I could not get through a month of featuring an old-fashioned Greek cookbook without making one of the most traditional Greek recipes of all—the moussaka. An iconic dish, it is comprised of a number of layers that include beef, eggplant and a white sauce among other ingredients. Because of the layers, this classic recipe appears complicated and time-consuming. However, I have found that it can be prepared in stages: the beef, white sauce and potatoes can all be made in advance. I added my own twist to this dish in particular by adding zucchini to the moussaka; originally, it only includes eggplant. This being said, further adaptations can also be made. For example, to make this moussaka vegetarian, you can replace the ground beef with vegetarian mince or finely chopped mushrooms.
4 large eggplants
5 Yukon potatoes
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lb ground beef
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon black pepper
Vegetable oil to cook the eggplant
1/2 cup eggplant
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2-3 cups whole milk
A dash of ground nutmeg
Feta or Kourellas, crumbled
Yields: serving for 8
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 1hour and 30 minutes
Peel the eggplant lengthwise, alternating 1-inch strips peeled off and leaving 1-inch gaps in between each.
Cut the eggplant into 1/2 long strips. Place on a baking sheet and dust with salt. Set aside for 1 hour while you prep the other ingredients.
Peel the potatoes. Boil until tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Once cooled, cut into 1/4 inch slices.
Wash the zucchini. Cut into 1/2 inch slices and set aside.
In a saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Sauté the onions until translucent.
Add the ground beef.
Once the beef is cooked, add the tomato paste and red wine. Simmer until the liquid has evaporated.
Add the cinnamon and the seasonings. Set aside.
In a different saucepan, heat the vegetable oil.
Wipe the eggplants with a paper towel to remove the water.
Fry the eggplant slices in the oil. Once cooked place on a baking sheet lined with a paper towel to allow the oil to drain.
Make the cream sauce. In a small saucepan, heat the milk. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and mix to incorporate. Remove from the heat, and slowly mix in the hot milk. Add enough milk to achieve a thick sauce. It is important not to have a runny sauce. Return the mixture to the stovetop and continue cooking while stirring until the mixture is smooth. Add the nutmeg and a bit of salt.
Assemble the dish:
Preheat oven 350°F.
In a casserole dish, spread the bread crumbs.
Add some of the cooked eggplant, a layer of the zucchini and a layer of potatoes.
Top with half of the meat mixture.
Place another layer of eggplant (make sure you have enough for the final layer), zucchini and potatoes.
Top with the remaining meat.
Top with the final layer of eggplant.
Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven.
Cover the eggplant with the cream sauce.
Place foil on top and place the casserole in the oven to bake for 1 hour.
Remove from oven top with crumbled feta or Kourellas and bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and sizzling.
Serve with a salad.