Moussaka Recipe with Aubergine (Eggplant)

Varieties of Eggplant courtesy of MorguefileMy friend Emily's grandmother was Greek and taught her some great Greek dishes which she's shared with me over the years. She's actually partly responsible for my interest in herbs and spices. One of her best recipes is for Moussaka. I've updated some things, grilling the eggplant and using sun dried tomatoes instead of tomato paste, but otherwise it's pretty close to her grandmother's recipe.

Follow the link for ingredients and instructions on making bechamel sauce.

Eggplant (aubergine) has a naturally spicy flavor that is a real treat. If you haven't added it to your cooking repertoire yet, you really should. Even if you just grill it with a little Parmesan cheese and some balsamic vinegar, it's delicious.

Moussaka Ingredients

1 ½ lbs of ground beef (lean)
3 large eggplant, peeled and sliced ½ thick
Olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
1 ½ cups peeled, chopped Roma or plumb tomatoes (Blanch them to make removing the skins easier.)
¼ cup of red wine (dry)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves of garlic, minced fine
1 large bay leaf
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. minced sun dried tomatoes (reconstituted in the red wine)
1 tbsp. fresh parsley chopped fine
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch ground allspice
Pinch ground cumin
½ cup of cracker crumbs (You can also use breadcrumbs.)
B├ęchamel sauce (Follow the link to the recipe. You will need about two cups.)

Moussaka Directions

Brush eggplant slices with olive oil, salt lightly, and grill or broil until tender. Cool.

In a large skillet, cook onions in olive oil until they begin to caramelize. Add ground beef and saute until all pink is gone. Add cracker crumbs (reserving 2 tablespoons), sun dried tomatoes with wine, spices (except for parsley), and fresh tomatoes.

Simmer mixture until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. The drier it is, the better. Find and discard the bay leaf.

Prepare a baking dish by oiling or spraying it with cooking spray and lining it with the remaining cracker crumbs. Layer with eggplant slices and meat mixture as you would for lasagna, starting and ending with eggplant slices. Three layers should be enough. Spread b├ęchamel sauce over the top and bake at 325°F uncovered until bubbling – about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and cheese and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serves four.

For an interesting change, serve your moussaka with Retsina, Greek white wine. It's a bit of an acquired taste, but Greek night won't be the same without it.

Moussaka Cooking Tips: Grilling rather than broiling the sliced eggplant adds flavor and great color.

Since you will be simmering the meat mixture for a while in order to eliminate liquid, be sure to use a heavy, insulated pan.

Some cooks like to salt and rinse the raw, sliced eggplant to remove any bitterness. I haven't had a problem, but Cathy's grandmother always rinsed hers.

When you make your white sauce, be sure to add some nutmeg and thyme to the mixture. A little Parmesan cheese is great too.

Some people like to use ground lamb instead of beef. When I tried making moussaka this way, I discovered that the wonderfully delicate flavor of the lamb was lost, so I just stick with ground beef now. It's cheaper and makes a robust and flavorful dish.

I like to peel my eggplant. If I leave the skin on, sometimes it's tough. I'm not sure what the problem is. It may be the variety of eggplant I'm using. Then again, sometimes the eggplant may be too mature to have a tender skin. I don't know.

Cut the cooked eggplant lengthwise in order to get it to fit well in your baking dish.

To learn more about herbs for Greek cooking, take a look at my blog: Greek Herbs and Spices.

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