Category Archives: Ethnicity

Moussaka

Do you remember the Disney movie Hercules? I do. It was one of my favorites growing up. This dish is brought to you by the Greek god of the underworld–none other than Hades himself. One of the most memorable quotes (for me) was when he says dismissively:

Hades Disney Hercules

How sentimental. You know, I haven't been this choked up since I got a hunk of moussaka caught in my throat.

What? What was that? Moussaka? If there was a food that I’d like to choke on so I could eat it for longer, it would be moussaka. It’s amazing. Think Greek lasagna. Only with more flavor, originality, and nutritional value than its Italian counterpart. I tried it on a whim and now I’m completely hooked.

Here we go!

Warning: this recipe is not for the faint of heart. It takes from start to finish about three hours. It’s worth it to me, but be ready. Commit. You can do it.

moussaka
Ingredients:

  • 3-4 eggplants, about 4 lbs. total
  • 1 lb. potatoes
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (or lamb)
  • 2 large onions, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 cup tomato puree (or crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
  • 8 egg whites, lightly beaten (reserve yolks for bechamel)
  • 1 cup grated Feta or Parmesan cheese
Bechamel Sauce:

  • 1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk, warmed
  • 8 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg

 

First, slice the eggplant in to 1/2 inch slices. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with an inverted plate that is weighted down by a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink so that excess moisture can be drawn out. They will need to sit for at least 15-20 minutes, preferably an hour. The salt also helps to remove some of the bitterness of the eggplant.

Take your oven up to 400 degrees

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Add a splash of water to the egg whites and beat them lightly with a fork. Add breadcrumbs to a flat plate.

Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Dip the eggplant slices in the beaten egg whites and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Place breaded eggplant slices on baking sheets and bake at 400 degrees for 1/2 an hour, turning them over once during cooking.

Lower your oven down to 350 degrees

Now, for the meat:

In a large sauté pan, brown the ground beef (or lamb) until the pink color disappears. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, cumin, coriander, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and sugar. Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for approximately 15 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. It should be a drier, chunkier, tomato sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the meat is cooking, work on the potatoes. Multi-task people. multi-task!

Peel the potatoes and boil them whole until they are just done. They should not get too soft, just cooked enough so that they no longer crunch. Drain, cool and slice them in 1/4 inch slices. Set aside.

Now, for the sauce. It’s seriously one of the best parts of this meal.

Melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Allow the flour to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously.

Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil.

Remove from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks and pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until

ASSEMBLE!

Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (lasagna pan). Sprinkle the bottom of pan with breadcrumbs. Leaving a 1/4 inch space around the edges of the pan, place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Top with a layer of eggplant slices.

Add meat sauce on top of eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese.

Pour the béchamel sauce over the eggplant and be sure to allow sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

You can make this dish ahead up until the béchamel sauce and refrigerate. Make the béchamel sauce right before you intend to bake it.

 

 

 

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Ravioli with pumpkin sauce

Fall is here! Actually, fall has been here for quite some time now–winter is edging in on the weather and your meal options. Enjoy one last taste of fall with this delicious, easy recipe.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup solid-pack pumpkin
  • 2 packages (9 ounces each) uncooked refrigerated ravioli (beef or cheese recommended)
  • grated parmesan cheese

 

Heat the oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir scallions, garlic, and fennel seeds 3 minutes or until scallions are tender.

Combine evaporated milk, flour, salt and pepper in small bowl until smooth; stir into saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil until thickened, stirring constantly. Sit in pumpkin; reduce heat to low.

Meanwhile, cook ravioli according to package directions; drain. Top ravioli with pumpkin sauce; sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like I said–simple, quick, and easy. To make it a full meal I recommend cutting a zucchini into strips and packing it into a small glass baking pan alongside some asparagus. Add one clove of garlic, minced, a dollop of butter or margarine and your choice of spices. I would recommend paprika or ginger.  Cook in an oven at 350 degrees, or until the vegetables are tender to your liking. Side this with some ciabatta bread with pesto. Enjoy!

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