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

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