Eggplant was on sale last week so I picked up 3 of the purple beauties at our South Austin Fiesta International Foods Store (great place for specialty ingredients). The eggplant had been waiting patiently for me to do something with them since last Sunday--and it was time. I love Greek food. I have already tried my hand at dolmades and those turned out pretty good, so last night's experiment was Moussaka. The only time we ever tried Moussaka was about 13 years ago when we went skiing at Whistler/Blackcomb, BC and ate dinner twice at Zeus' Restaurant. I don't think it is still there however.
As usual I compared several recipes because I'm just not going to follow one and I need to get a feel for the dish that I'm making. One of the recipes was the Moussaka recipe from my Mediterranean cookbook called Mezze Modern by Maria Khalifé. This is a beautiful 128 page cookbook with lots of great pictures and wonderful recipes from Greece, Turkey and Lebanon. (I order all of my cookbooks through www.thegoodcook.com, which is a book club--easy to get in and out of. They are not pushy at all, but maybe that's because I buy so many darn cookbooks.)
I didn't have zucchini, but I did have potatoes, so I found a couple of Moussaka recipes on FN (Emeril and FN Kitchens). One used potatoes and eggplant so figured I could use my potatoes instead of zucchini. I also checked out the Eating Out Loud blog and another food blog he suggested, Kalofagas. Eating Out Loud had a good low cal version of Moussaka but I never could find Kolafagas' recipe. Anyway, I compared several versions and decided to mash and merge based on what I had in the kitchen.
I think I took on a little too much for a weeknight meal--we didn't end up eating until about 8:45--but we filled the time waiting for the Moussaka with glasses of red wine and conversation. Recently, we found some great buys at Cost Plus World Market. Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red was on sale for $4.99! Yes, I said $4.99. The red is a little lighter in style than we usually drink, but it was nice, a little tart, but it cut through the richness of the Moussaka. I used it in the veal/lamb sauce for the Moussaka. We also had another $4.99 bottle of Tempranillo. (We are into cheap these days.)
Back to the Moussaka. The recipes I had perused called for frying the potato slices and dredging the eggplant slices in flour and then frying those too. So I did all of that while trying to juggle cooking the meat sauce. I used a 50:50 mix of veal and lamb and added chopped onions and garlic, Greek oregano, red wine, tomato paste and half of a large can of San Marzano tomatoes that I hand crushed. Oh, I threw in about a cup of water and let the mix cook down to a nice thick meat sauce.
I put together about 3 cups of Béchamel and mixed in 1 egg + 1 egg yolk and some grated salty Greek cheese called Mizithra and began to layer the ingredients. I really backed off on salting the other parts of the dish because I knew this cheese was very salty. Good idea, because it all came out tasting well seasoned. (Check out the Greek Cheese Page.)
I really thought that my eggplant and potatoes soaked up too much oil, but other than that problem (which I can solve by grilling my eggplant and potato slices) the dish was very tasty.
I'm unsure of whether or not I'll make this dish again--at least not on a weeknight and I won't be frying anything either. All in all it was a very good night. We tried a new dish, new wines, and I didn't have to clean up the fry mess!
Skiing the Whistler side of the mountain.
From Center Left: Jeff and David (Himself)
We were on top of the world--still 30-something instead of 40-what?