So here is to Greece and all its tax evaders!
6 large eggplant (I actually use 4)
Oil for frying
1 1/2 lbs. Ground beef
1 1/2 lbs. Ground lamb
1/4 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp. of Cinnamon
2 Tbsp. of pine nuts
1 Tbsp of Paprika
1/2 cup of parsley, chopped
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 1/2 to 2 cups Bechamel Sauce (recipe to follow)
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Peel eggplant and slice 1/4 inch thick lengthwise. Place in colander add about one tablespoons of salt and let sit for one hour of draining. Wash eggplant well in cold water and dry thoroughly. Pour oil into a large skillet to cover bottom and fry eggplant slices on both sides, drain on paper towels. Add more oil as needed, eggplant soaks it up like a sponge. (this can and should be done ahead of time)
Season the meats with salt and pepper and braise in the water until the meat separates. Add onions and cook until onions become transparent, add all other ingredients except Parmesan cheese and cook for 5 minutes.
Lightly sprinkle the bottom of a baking pan (18x13x2) with bread crumbs, top with a layer of eggplant, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, add another layer of eggplant, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, spread the meat mixture over the eggplant, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and add a last layer of eggplant. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese evenly over the eggplant. Pour the bechamel sauce evenly over the dish. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes until light brown. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.
4 tbsp of butter
4 tbsp of flour
3 to 4 cups of milk
salt and pepper to taste
In a saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat, add the flour and whisk until the flour is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Add the milk slowly while whisking until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Add Salt & pepper to taste.
It actually tastes better the next day when all those lovely seasonings have taken their time in mixing in...and it can be made ahead at a whole bunch of different levels. Like for instance, the eggplant can be prepared ahead and refrigerated, so can the meat. The bechamel is best made right before since it tends to thicken quite a bit; but the whole thing can be prepared and built covered and refrigerated and cooked the following day. There are endless possibilities. Then it can be served on the terrace overlooking the aqua colored sea after popping some kalamata olives from the orchard and having some homemade hummus and tzatzaki, etc. etc etc. We can all dream, right?