Tag Archives: Eggplant

It’s Greek to Me – Moussaka

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
Plato

Moussaka
Moussaka

When Mark and I lived in England nearly 20 years ago, a neighbor always made Moussaka when we were invited to dinner. Greece was a popular English holiday destination and Greek food a popular choice for parties. 

I don’t know how it was that I ever tried making it myself (maybe I’d made it before I’d ever tasted hers) because hers always had hard bitter bites of eggplant (“aubergine”) in it, with big puddles of orange grease floating on the top. Maybe I’d already eaten it in a Greek restaurant in London, so I knew how delicious it could be. Maybe I just was better able to interpret the recipe in Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, THE cookbook of the day. 

Moussaka Patience

Or, maybe she was just in too much of a hurry. It’s a dish that takes time, even interpreted for the British home cook. Mary Platis, the California Greek Girl, told me that her family has a recipe that takes all day to make, and I’m sure it’s quite amazingly delicious. Delia’s is simpler than that, although it has three major steps that require some time and several pans and bowls.

Still, I recently had a taste for it. It’s been years since I’d made it, and I’d had leftovers from the leg of lamb we had at Easter. With moussaka in mind, I’d cut the medium-rare meat into 1/4-inch cubes and wrapped it airtight for the freezer.

The recipe calls for ground (“minced”) lamb or beef, but I figured  I could just lightly warm the already-cooked meat before it baked in the seasoning in the oven. I cooked the thinly sliced onions well, almost to golden, before adding the meat just to simmer for a minute.

Instead of cooking the garlic with the onions, I added it to the rest of the seasoning — red wine, tomato paste, cinnamon, fresh parsley, salt and pepper. The fragrance was heavenly: fruity and bright, with an exotic tingle from the cinnamon, the fresh-cut parsley, freshly ground black pepper.

The Eggplant

How you handle the eggplant is key to this recipe.

It doesn’t say so in Delia’s recipe, but I peeled the eggplant because I don’t like tough purple strings in my food. I had one large globe eggplant (her recipe calls for 3 medium ones)  that I cut into twelve 1/4 to 3/8-inch circular slices.

I sprinkled salt on top of each, then stacked them in a colander, topping the stacks with a plate and my alabaster mortar and pestle as a weight. I let the colander stand in the sink for 30 minutes to drain out excess moisture while I cooked the onions and mixed the seasonings. Then, I wiped them dry with paper towel before frying.

One thing you’ve gotta know about eggplant before frying it: it is unquenchable when it comes to oil. You should probably keep the full bottle out of its sight, but in any case, don’t use more than 2 Tablespoons per each 4-slice batch.

I heated the oil to shimmering, slid in the wiped-off eggplant slices, flipping each immediately so that each side got a little oil. I cooked them  until each side had brown markings on it, the eggplant had turned a pale green, and was soft. As a final measure against greasiness, I laid them between paper towels.

Meaty and Cheesy

I made a layer of eggplant in the bottom of a casserole dish (no greasing, please!), then topped that with half the seasoned meat and onions. Another layer of eggplant got topped with another layer of meat and onions.

I cooked up the cheese sauce, whisked in the eggs, and poured it over the meat and eggplant. On a whim, I sprinkled on some smoked paprika. All this goes into the oven for an hour, until the topping is high and puffy and a little browned. 

I took it out of the oven and let it cool a little to let the topping set and the bubbling to subside, but the fragrance was enticing. Finally, we had a taste (my mouth waters now as I think of it). It was magic — the eggplant had modestly melted into the mixture, leaving just a savory meat and cheese casserole with a lovely depth of flavor. 

The other day, my friend Patsy told me that I could never get her to eat eggplant. I’m not so sure that’s true.

For my interpretation of Delia’s recipe, see Moussaka.

Questions? Contact barbara@CulinaryOracle.com
©2017 Barbara Newton-Holmes
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Moussaka

Moussaka
Moussaka

 

 

 

My American interpretation of the recipe from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course.

4 Servings

 

 

 

  • 1 – 2 large globe eggplants, peeled and sliced into 3/8-inch rounds
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for cooking onions, then 4-6 Tablespoons more for cooking eggplant
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups finely diced leftover lamb, OR 1 lb. fresh ground lamb or beef

For the topping:

  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 eggs, well-beaten
  • A few grinds of nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • A sprinkle of smoked paprika
Preparation (Chef's hat)Preparation
  1. Sprinkle a little salt on top of each eggplant round, then stack them in a colander, topping the stacks with a plate and a weight. Let the colander stand in the sink for 30 minutes to drain out excess moisture from the eggplant. Then, wipe them dry with paper towel before frying.
  2. Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium high until shimmering. Add the onions with a sprinkle of salt. Cook a few minutes, stirring until soft and opaque, beginning to turn golden.
  3. Mix in the meat to the onions. If using fresh ground meat, cook for 3 – 5 minutes or until broken up and browned. If using leftover lamb roast, just mix in cubed meat to combine thoroughly with onions, but do not cook: go immediately to the next step.
  4. Whisk together the wine, tomato purée, cinnamon, garlic, and parsley, with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Pour onto meat and onion mixture. Turn off heat and set aside pan.
  5. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  6. Wipe dry the eggplant rounds. Cook in batches of four, adding 2 Tablespoons to the pan and heating it to shimmering over medium high heat before adding the eggplant. When oil shimmers, slide in 4 rounds of eggplant, turning immediately to coat both sides with oil. Cook until each side had brown markings on it, the eggplant had turned a pale green, and is soft. When cooked, lay them between paper towels as you cook the next batch.
  7. Using an ungreased casserole dish, make made a layer of cooked eggplant , then top that with half the seasoned meat and onions. Add another layer of eggplant and top with another layer of meat and onions. Let stand while you make the topping.
  8. For the sauce, melt the butter over medium heat and stir in the flour to make a roux. Whisk in the milk, little by little to make a smooth roux, then add the cheese, followed by a salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  9. Remove mixture from the stove and let stand for at 3 minutes to cool slightly. Then, whisk in the beaten eggs and pour over the meat and eggplant in the dish. Sprinkle on some smoked paprika. 
  10. Bake in the over for 1 hour. Remove the casserole from the over when the topping is puffy and a little browned. Let stand for 5-10 minutes until the bubbling has stopped and the topping is firm. Serve in shallow soup bowls with a green salad.

First posted by Barbara Newton-Holmes on www.CulinaryOracle.com on April 14, 2016. 

Questions? Contact barbara@CulinaryOracle.com
©2017 Barbara Newton-Holmes
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Tuscan Vegetables Stew (Vegan)

Using a good, aged Balsamic vinegar from Modena gives this a tangy flavor that marries well with the buttery white beans (cannellini), characteristic of Tuscan food. The eggplant (melanzana to Italians) gives another layer of robustness to this hardy stew.

4 – 6 servings

Tuscan Vegetables Stew (Vegan)
Tuscan Vegetables Stew (Vegan)

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sweet or yellow onion, small dice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and deveined, cut into 1/2 inch squares
  • 1 green bell pepper, deseeded and deveined, cut into 1/2 inch squares
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes, plus another, if desired
  • 1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar from Modena
  • 1 -28 oz. can organic diced tomatoes, including all juice
  • 1 – 15 oz. can white Tuscan beans (cannellini)
  • 1/2 cup roughly cut parsley, for garnish

Preparation

1 – In a heavy large kettle/Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat to shimmering i.

2 – Add onions and salt, stirring and cooking for 2 minutes, or until onions are translucent and softened.

3 – Mix in eggplant, plus red and green peppers.  Sauté and stir for 5 minutes.

4 – In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, the fennel seeds, the red pepper flakes, the thyme, and oregano. Sprinkle over the cooking vegetables and mix well to distribute the flour mixture. Sauté for 1 – 2 minutes.

5 – Stir in vinegar. Then, add tomatoes and sauce, mixing well to form a rich sauce. Stir in beans.

7 – Cover, reduce heat, and simmer over medium low heat for 10 minutes.

8 – Taste the sauce. Add a little more salt and a sprinkle on a little more red pepper flakes, to your liking.

9 – Serve immediately, garnished with parsley.

Questions? Contact barbara@CulinaryOracle.com

First seen on www.CulinaryOracle.com in January 2016, as published by Barbara Newton-Holmes

Questions? Contact barbara@CulinaryOracle.com
©2017 Barbara Newton-Holmes
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Baba Ganoush

Makes about 1 cup or so, depending on size of eggplants.

  • Use as dip with raw baby carrots or chips.
  • Use as stuffing for 2 servings of roast acorn squash.

Onion icon smallIngredients

1 generous cup of Chinese eggplant (about 2 long large ones), cut into 1/4 inch cubes. Using Chinese or Japanese eggplant, there is no need to peel.

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 – 3 Tablespoons tahini, well stirred so that oil is well incorporated

1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced

2 – 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)

1/4 – 1/2 jalapeño, deseeded and deveined, minced

4 or 5 grinds of black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 bunch parsley, roughly chopped

Chef's hat icon smallerPreparation

1 – Preheat oven to 400˚ F while you prepare the ingredients.

2 – Spread the eggplant cubes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Stir around to coat all with olive oil.

3 – Roast eggplant for 30 minutes at 400˚ F, stirring around a couple of times, or until eggplant cubes are soft and greenish.

4 – Into a small blender or food processor, put the cooked eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, jalapeño, salt, pepper, and most of the parsley. Pulse about 5 or 6 seconds, or until most is smooth, but there are still some small chunks of eggplant and parsley.

5 – Put into a bowl (for a dip) or divide between 2 roasted halves of an acorn squash. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, garnish with some more parsley.

Questions? Contact barbara@CulinaryOracle.com
©2017 Barbara Newton-Holmes
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