I returned home from Winnipeg to find a clean kitchen and an empty fridge, and a sky full of dark clouds ominous with the threat of rain. It felt like an appropriate time for some comfort food, for the both of us. After too many days of fast food, we both craved vegetables and a meal prepared at home.
And while I was in Winnipeg, I thought about moussaka, though I am not sure why. I don’t really care for much of what I’ve tasted of Greek food – maybe it’s because almost every restaurant is identical out here, and I don’t really like oregano or whatever is done to the rice or that particular colour blue.
I fantasize about Greece, however, and imagine that the food there is fantastic – not like every Taverna along Broadway or on every corner in every small town in the world. I imagine lemons and fresh herbs and sea salt and perfectly roasted lamb and big, fat, meaty olives. Everything with the sheen of fresh olive oil.
So we invited over Steve and Sooin, and Paul, who gets me in Nick’s will if Nick dies, and served up a hot pan of moussaka. And it was good. Except that it was a tad too salty, so I’ve tweaked this recipe some. It’s much better now.
- 1 Japanese eggplant
- 2 medium zucchini
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 lb. ground beef or lamb
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 small (5 1/2 oz.) can of tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 3 tbsp. flour
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- zest of 1/2 lemon (or about 1 teaspoon)
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta
- 1 cup bread crumbs (preferably panko)
- 1 cup crumbled feta
- 1 finely minced clove of garlic
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
Preheat your oven to 375°F.
Thinly slice your eggplant and zucchini, about 1/4 inch thick. Grease an 9″x13″ pan with olive oil.
In a large skillet, sauté your onions until translucent. Add the ground beef and garlic, and cook until browned. Add your oregano, pepper, thyme, and cinnamon, and tomato paste, and wine or chicken stock, stir until everything’s all mixed together and it smells really good, and then remove from heat.
In a small pot over medium-high heat, melt your butter. Let it get foamy, then add the flour, and stir to blend.
Whisk in your milk, and reduce heat to medium. Add your pepper and nutmeg, garlic, lemon zest (not too much!), and stir in the feta. Let this simmer until the feta has melted and the sauce has thickened, three to five minutes. Remove from heat.
Line the bottom of your prepared pan with slices of zucchini and eggplant, not too thick, but until you can’t see the bottom.
Drizzle the layer with olive oil, and then add half of the meat mixture over the top, spreading to cover. Drizzle this with about 1/3 of the white sauce. Repeat, adding another layer in this order.
Add the final layer of zucchini and eggplant (there will be three layers of vegetables in total). Drizzle your remaining white sauce over the top layer.
In a small bowl, mix up the panko (or regular bread crumbs), parsley, garlic, and feta. Top the moussaka with the crumb topping, and then drizzle with olive oil, and the juice of the lemon.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and you see bubbling along the sides.
Serve with a salad of cucumber and tomato, tossed with parsley and fresh mint, and topped with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.
And bask in the joy of vegetables, even if you are wondering where summer went. It’s still raining, so tonight we are going to eat as if we are elsewhere, like India. Or Mexico. Or both?