Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Moussaka

Moussaka is a Greek oven casserole made of ground lamb or beef sauteed in garlic, onions, and tomatoes, layered with eggplants, cheese,  and topped with Bechamel sauce.  Some cooks add potatoes to make moussaka's foundation firm and and not limp.

To make it more authentic, I used Halloumi cheese which has the texture of mozzarella and the brine moisture of a feta. It's amazingly delicious. But if you can't find Halloumi cheese in your grocery store, you can use Mozzarella or Cheddar, and Parmesan cheese.

There are three basic layers in this dish; the vegetables, the ground meat, and the Bechamel sauce.  I prefer to make just three layers.

Since making healthy meals is my priority, the procedures used were substituted with ways to lessen the use of too much oil and salt. 

For example, instead of frying the vegetables, they were grilled with very little oil in a grill pan. The eggplants were soaked in water with little salt instead of individually sprinkling them with salt so they do not turn dark in color, and to remove the bitter taste.

Here's how I made my Moussaka:

Meat Sauce
1 1/2 pound ground lamb
1 1/2 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 big finely chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
4 finely chopped Roma tomatoes (cooked on medium-low to simmer for 5 minutes)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons oregano powder
salt and pepper 
1/2 cup red wine
3 beaten egg whites
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley 

Heat a pan with the olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the onions. Add the garlic and cook until onions are transparent. Add the ground beef or ground lamb or a combination of both and cook until brown or no longer pink. Add the red wine and cook a few minutes more. Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper according to taste. Add the oregano powder. Cook for about 5 more minutes to let the flavors mix together. Set aside to cool.

When cooled, pass through a colander to remove liquid.  Add egg whites to the meat mixture and mix well.

Vegetables
2 big eggplants, sliced 
6 medium-sized gold Yukon potatoes, sliced
1 tablespoon olive spray oil
3 tablespoons bread crumbs

Slice both eggplants and potatoes about 1/4" thick. Soak separately in water with salt and let sit for about 10 minutes.  Wipe dry with paper towels.

Heat a grill pan over high and add the oil. Grill eggplants and potatoes until lightly brown. Set aside.

Bechamel Sauce
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 egg yolks
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup Halloumi cheese for sprinkling on top (Mozzarella or cheddar, and Parmesan)

Heat a sauce pan on medium and melt the butter.  When completely melted, add the flour beating with a whisk until blended. Add the milk and beat faster with a whisk so no lumps are formed. Consistency should be creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. Strain the Bechamel sauce through a sieve and press with a rubber spatula to remove lumps.

When cooled, fold the beaten egg yolks in until mixed together.

Layer your Moussaka

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease a big rectangular baking dish, and sprinkle generously with bread crumbs. Layer the potatoes (overlapping each other), then the eggplants. Top generously with breadcrumbs and then with the cheeses. Layer the ground meat mixture evenly on top. Sprinkle with parsley and top with the cheeses. Last but not least, pour the Bechamel sauce on top covering all the ground meat mixture layers underneath.  Add freshly grated nutmeg on top. Finally,  top with the cheeses generously. Bake in the oven for one hour.  Let it rest for 15 or more  minutes before serving.

You can make this dish in advance for dinner parties. Keep in the refrigerator and reheat the whole baking dish in a preheated oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.

* Serve with Greek salad
* Serves about 10 to 12 or more
* Tested and tried at Chris' kitchen 05/23/2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

How To Cook Turkey


Depending on how many pounds your turkey is, here's how I do it without stuffing:

Ingredients

12 pounds  turkey
Salt and pepper

*Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.


Procedure

Rub your turkey generously with salt and pepper inside and out.  Put the turkey on a baking pan. Cover breast and wings of turkey with aluminum foil.

Bake your turkey for 30 minutes and then lower the heat to 350 degrees F and cook each pound for 12 minutes until thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 160* Fahrenheit.


Bring out of the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before slicing. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Beef Empanada




1 1/2 pounds  lean ground beef 
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup diced potatoes 1/4"
1 cup green peas
1 small packet raisins
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 or 3 splashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pastry, room temperature (made earlier)

Saute the garlic in a medium pan over medium heat in oil for 1 minute, then add the onion and cook until translucent. Saute in the beef and cook until no longer pink or for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and raisins. Splash worcestershire sauce 2 times stirring and mixing everything together. Thicken the sauce with the cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water.  

To form dough 
Put pastry on a lightly floured board.  Cut into 16 pieces. With the palm of your hands, shape each piece into a small ball.  Roll each small ball with a rolling pin into a round thin flat dough until about 5" in diameter. Repeat the process.

Make Empanadas
Fill the center of the flat dough with 1 tablespoon beef filling. Bring one side of the dough to the other side of the pastry and start pressing both edges together to seal them.  Now you either can either crimp the edge with the tines of a fork or fold with your fingers. Repeat the process.  With practice you can master the sealing and folding with your hands or crimping with the tines of a fork, whichever you prefer.

Bake
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. On a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet, arrange  empanadas  about an inch apart. Brush the top with egg wash.  Poke each Empanada with a fork to create a vents. Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes, then  lower the temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for 15 minutes more. Let cool.

Yields  24 or more Empanadas
Tried and tested at Chris kitchen 05/11/2011

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