One of Stephen's favorite foods is usually something Greek so we made Moussaka. Now, no one knows why he loves Greek food so much, but then so did his beloved grandfather, "Poppy." So, I just consider it one of his genetic traits. It's because of him that I learned how to make Greek food at all because he asked me to as my repertoire for many years consisted of mostly Chinese or Pennsylvania Dutch food from my heritage. Anyway, I decided this time that he should learn how to make Moussaka with me since he is now living on his own and he became my Sous Chef. I think he actually has quite a talent for cooking! Or at the very leas,t he is very good with a sharp knife and he cut up lots of vegetables! We made Moussaka with lamb, eggplant, zucchini and potato. It's really quite a light dish even with the cream topping and we all ate too much. We served it with a Greek olives as an appetizer and a salad that included chopped cabbage, yellow peppers, tomatoes, red onions and cucumbers in a lemon, olive oil and honey dressing. It was a crisp and refreshing counterbalance to the creamy, soft textures of the Moussaka. We had fresh figs for desert and were all stuffed, but happy. Here's our recipes:
2 pounds lean ground lamb
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large or 2 small onions chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
3/4 cup white wine
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Heat oil in a large pot and add garlic and onions. Cook until onions become translucent and add ground lamb. Stir and cook until no longer pink. Drain fat if necessary. Add wine, tomato sauce, sugar and herbs. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook covered for 30 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Stir in bread crumbs and let cool. (Can be made ahead and refrigerated.)
5 Tablespoons butter
5 Tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1 cup Parmesan Cheese (reserve 1/2 for topping)
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Melt Butter in a large frying pan and add in flour. Whisk until mixed and pour in milk. Continue to whisk until blended. Add the bay leaf and stir until thickened. Take off heat and add 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and remove the bay leaf. Leave to cool until ready to assemble the Moussaka (can be made ahead and refrigerated)
1 pound of Eggplant (I used 2)
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium zucchini
2 medium potatoes boiled in their skin and cooled
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (or more)
Cut off top stem and the very bottom of the eggplants. With a peeler, slice some of the peel off the eggplants about every inch around in stripes. Cut into 1/3 inch round slices. Place eggplant slices in a colander in the sink and sprinkle both sides with salt. Leave for 20 minutes then rinse and place on paper towels until ready to cook. Cut off tops and bottoms of zucchini and cut into 1/3 inch slices. Cut potato into 1/3 inch slices and remove peel.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add in zucchini and cook until one side is lightly browned. Turn and brown the other side. Remove to a plate. Then add additional 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and put in potato pieces. Brown lightly on both sides and remove to a plate. Add remaining oil and panfry eggplant until lightly browned. You may need to add a little extra oil if you are frying in two batches as eggplants soak up a lot of oil. Then remove to a plate.
Butter a 9 x 12 " baking dish or two 8x8 glass baking dishes. Lay eggplant slices on the bottom of the pan - squish them until they fit together. Cover with 1/2 of the Meat Sauce. Lay out zucchini and potato alternately over the meat sauce below then cover with the rest of the meat sauce. Very carefully cover the meat sauce with the cream sauce and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of reserved Parmesan Cheese. Sprinkle nutmeg lightly over the top.
Put into a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbling. Cool for 15 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with a wide spatula.
Five Element Analysis
Eggplant is such a lovely dark purple color with lots of little seeds inside so you know it has to be from the Water Element. Lamb is a Fire Food and so is the tomato sauce. The zucchini and potato add the Earth Element and the herbs and cream sauce and Parmesan Cheese with it's wonderful Umami flavor bring in the Metal Element. It looks like the Wood Element might be deficient but all that wonderful olive oil contributes that element. Moussaka ends up being a very balanced dish! Then the Chopped Greek Salad certainly added Earth from the cabbage and cucumbers, Fire from the tomatoes and peppers, Metal from the red onion and Wood from the olive oil and lemon juice. The only thing missing was the Water Element and the figs for dessert brought that element in. This turned out to be a doubly balanced Five Element meal!