Greek Moussaka

The best Greek moussaka I ever had was at a banquet in Giza, Egypt, hosted by the governor.  I was still in law school and had managed, along with a classmate and friend, to snag the ultimate boondoggle:  a scholarship to attend an international law convention in Cairo.  This banquet was beyond amazing.  In the shadow of the ancient pyramids, on the banks of the Nile, there were 17 banquet buffet tables, no two with the same dishes, featuring cuisines from all over the world.  Four tables alone were devoted to desserts.  They brought a date palm in, so we could pick dates off the trees.  This being an official affair in a Muslim country there was no alcohol or pork anywhere.  But who cared with food like this?  At any rate, being two of only a handful of single women there (and young ones at that) we had numerous invitations to all sorts of post-soiree functions.  We accepted an offer for late (i.e. 1 a.m.) after-dinner drinks at the Spanish Embassy in Cairo with a pair of handsome 30-something Spanish law professors – Pedro y Ramiro.  But that’s another story.  The governor also graciously sent the flower arrangement floating in the swimming pool to us as a gift.  He didn’t even ask our names, but somehow it ended up all the way in Cairo in our hotel room.

  • 1 large eggplant, stemmed and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
  • Salt
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 onion and 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup dry red wine (my non-halal version of moussaka)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • Non-stick spray
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk (I used 1 cup non fat half and half and 1 cup skim milk)
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Generously salt eggplant slices and place them in a colander in the sink (salting eggplant removes the puckery taste).  While eggplant is draining make the meat sauce:

In a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat, crumble ground lamb and cook it with the onions and garlic.  When lamb is lightly browned, add wine.  Continue cooking until wine has evaporated.  Add sauce, oregano and cinnamon.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes or until sauce is thick.  Turn off heat and stir in chopped parsley.

Place oven shelf just below the broiler.  Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.  Rinse the eggplant slices and blot them dry with paper towels.  Lay the eggplant slices on the cookie sheet in a single layer.  Spray the tops with non-stick cooking spray.  Broil eggplant for about 10 minutes, or until the eggplant is lightly browned.  Flip the slices over, spray the tops with non-stick cooking spray and broil for about another 7 minutes, until eggplant is lightly browned and soft.  Remove cookie sheet from the oven and set the oven at bake to 350 degrees.

While eggplant is broiling, prepare the béchamel (white) sauce.  Melt butter over medium high heat in a sauce pan.  Add flour and whisk constantly with a wire whisk until you have a thick paste that is just starting to turn color.  Turn the heat down to medium and slowly add milk and nutmeg.  Stir constantly as mixture comes to a boil.  Cook for about one minute.  You will have medium-thick white sauce.   Remove pot from heat.  Crack eggs into a medium sized bowl.  Discard shells.  Beat eggs.  Add white sauce to the beaten eggs, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly (if you add all the sauce at once, the eggs will curdle).  After you have incorporated all of the sauce into the eggs, pour/scrape the sauce back into the saucepan and return it to the heat.  Stir over medium heat for one minute.  Add ¾ cup parmesan cheese and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.  Remove the sauce pan from heat and set aside.

Spray a 8X8 casserole dish (about 3 in deep) with nonstick spray.  Layer half the eggplant slices on the bottom.  Spread the meat sauce evenly on top of the eggplant.  Top the meat sauce with another layer of eggplant slices.  Pour the white sauce on top of the eggplant and spread it evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese on top.  Bake in the 350 degree oven for 50 minutes.

Remove moussaka  from the oven.  Let it cool about 10 minutes and then cut it into squares and serve.  Serve with bread and salad.  Makes four servings.

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