Musing with Max

Musing with Max

February 21, 2011

Greek chorus

We've been talking a lot about Greece lately. Don't know why really, maybe that episode from House hunters International where the couple that lived in Athens wanted to buy a Summer home in the beach town of Stoupa. The places they saw were amazing and the prices were even more amazing, so of course our little heads start going and Frank starts checking real estate sites. Now, are we moving to Greece? Heavens no, I've never even been there let alone speak or understand one single solitary word of the Greek they say, it's Greek to me, Ha! We can still dream, can't we? Looking at all those beautiful stone houses on the Mediterranean which are probably money pits but who cares we can see ourselves there sitting on the terrace sipping some lovely wine, snacking on some lovely homemade hummus and tzatzaki, popping kalamata olives from our orchard while we gaze out at the aqua hued sea....Oh well, since we won't be doing that, at least not for the foreseeable future, what's the next best thing? Yep, Greek food to put us in the mood. And when I think of Greek food the first thing that usually pops into my little head is Moussaka, the Greek lasagna. I has so many things I love, eggplant, lamb, cinnamon, pine nuts and lovely delicate bechamel sauce.
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.

Bechamel sauce.

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?


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