Moussaka - My Favorite Eggplant Dish
My introduction to eggplant
Eggplant happens to be one of my favorite veggie, given that it is cooked properly. I was introduced to it in college while I was in England. Yes, in England, although it is not a common English vegetable.
As the story goes, like most students I was busy with my studies, and didn't watch what i was eating. Snickers bar was always there to rescue me when the hunger pain struck at lunch time. Very convenient, filling, and always satisfying! A college student, what did we Know about nutrition!
A friend of mine, I guess, felt sorry for me, dragged me to the cafeteria with her. Her excuse, there were some new chefs from Greece, Cyprus to be precise, and we have to try their food! So I went along with her my mind still on the project I was working on, constantly checking my watch.... Time is precious!
I didn't really care what she was ordering and what was being put in front of me, I was just letting letting her think that she was the boss! The first thing that hit me was the wonderful aroma that filled my nostril. My mind was finally waking up to the surrounding around me. I saw this beautiful plate of moussaka, with white rice, green salad, and pita bread, edging me to dive in. I was introduced to eggplant, cooked in a most succulent way, and the taste that I could never forget.
Since then I have tried quite a few different versions of this dish, and I have come up with this easy, and healthier recipe that my family and friends love! With the ingredients that are already on hand, the dish can't get any easier!
The variations that I have made to this dish is to make this dish healthier; you can change or add as you like:
- The original moussaka is made with lamb. I like making it with half beef, and half chicken. You can replace the beef with any lean meat you like.
- some cooks use cinnamon, and allspice, I don't always use them.
- I make my béchamel without butter, and it is still pretty good.
- I don't use eggs to glacé the top.
- and I don't fry the eggplants!
(The cooking time is an approximation. It can vary from individual to individual. I have added the cooking time for eggplant and the béchamel to the actual cooking time listed above.)
- 1 1/2 lbs Lean ground beef
- 1 1/2 lbs Lean ground chicken
- 2 to 4 Eggplants, Medium size
- 1 Large onion, Diced
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 1/2 tsp Garlic powder
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- 2 tbsp Tomato paste
- Salt and pepper, To taste
- 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, For the meat
- 2 to 3 tbsp Olive oil, For the eggplant
- For The White Sauce .........
- 2 cups Low fat milk
- 1/2 a can Light evaporated milk
- 2 to 3 tbsp Flour, Or as needed
- Salt and Pepper, To taste
In Three simple steps:
Slice the eggplants thin, about 1/4 inch thick. Wash them and soak them in water with little salt. Let it sit for 5 to 10 min.
Strain the eggplants and pat dry with paper towel. Pour the rest of the olive oil in a large baking dish, toss the eggplants in it, and put it in a preheated oven (375 F) uncovered. Bake the eggplants until there look cooked, and the top ones are slightly brown.
Do this while the eggplants are in the oven.
Pour two tbsp of olive oil in a shallow pan over medium heat. Add the diced onions, and stir to coat the onions. Fry the onions until translucent, then add the spices and the tomato paste. Stir quickly and add little water at a time to fry the spices. Once you see the spices bubbling add the meat to it and stir them all together. Lower the heat a little and cover. Cook the meat on its own juice. If it seems too dry, add just a little water and cover. Cook until the meat looks cooked for about 15 min. Set it aside.
Put all the ingredients for the white sauce in a medium pot, and put it over medium heat. Stir constantly while it is heating. I find the whisk to be the best tool for mixing the white sauce....
Once it has thicken take it off the heat, and you are ready to assemble the moussaka. Take the baking dish with the eggplant and put the meat sauce on top of that in an even layer. Pour the béchamel over the meat. Put it in the oven uncovered for about 1/2 an hour at 375 F. Or until it's golden brown. Once it is done take it out and let it sit for about 10 to 15 min before serving.
It goes best with fresh bread, white rice, and green salad. Serve it for lunch or dinner, and enjoy!