I probably should not be posting about food right now. The only thing I've consumed today has been a mug of coffee flavored with ungodly amounts of delicious caramel macchiato creamer.
I blame my friend Christy for the creamer, but the lack of eating is entirely my fault. Oz has been sent to remedy this problem with copious amounts of take-out. I'll be back to my fat and happy self before too long.
In the meantime, though, I thought I'd share this gem of a recipe. Moussaka. I make the Greek version, and it is heavenly. Time-consuming but heavenly. And Oz won't eat it because he despises eggplant in any form. The kids count the days till he leaves on trips and they get to have moussaka. They have been known to consume an entire 10x14" pan of moussaka in one sitting.
Start by peeling and slicing the eggplant. Lay out a length of paper towel and sprinkle salt on the towels, then lay down the eggplant, and sprinkle more salt on top. The purpose of this is to draw out as much liquid as possible.
And believe me, eggplants contain a *lot* of water. You have to let them sit for about half an hour but longer won't hurt. Blot the tops, switch out the paper towels, whatever you have to do. Just get the water out. Salt is a wondeful eggplant diuretic. If only it worked that way for me...
Once you have all the water out, you fry the eggplant up in a saucepan with some olive oil. I have to keep the pan moving or they'll soak up tons of oil to replace the water, which I think would defeat the purpose. On the other hand, the slices become beautifully soft when the oil gets into them.
I just tell myself at least it's olive oil and not, say, coconut. There are worse things in the world, right?
After the slices are fried, they can rest on more paper towels till you're ready for them again.
The next step is to get the meat part ready. The recipe says to use 1/2 lb. of ground beef or lamb. My family eats like there's no tomorrow, so I go ahead and use a whole pound sometimes. That's what I did here. There's salt, pepper, onion and garlic in this pan, too.
After you drain the meat, you add in the flavors. I love the smell of herbs and spices cooking in my kitchen. The recipe calls for fines herbes. I don't keep chervil in my kitchen, so I make do with chives, tarragon, and thyme. I've never had any complaints.
You also throw in some tomato sauce and red wine. Stir it all together, put the lid on that, and let it simmer for 20 minutes while you're working on the béchamel sauce. Before it's all finished, you'll let this cool just an oonch and stir in a beaten egg to help hold it all together. Or you can temper the egg and then stir it in, if you're in a hurry like I usually am.
Now... if I could read directions correctly, I'd know that I'm supposed to make a roux and THEN put in scalded milk. But I am a horrid person who can't follow a recipe properly to save her own life, so I put the milk in the pan to scald...
... and then, when the milk is scalded, toss in the butter, whisk while it melts, and then whisk in the flour.
I'm probably crazy with luck, but I've never had a sauce turn out lumpy this way. I'm not sure what I'm doing to deserve such great luck. I'm sure next time it'll be a miserable failure. And yes, I use black pepper. I know a true béchamel contains white pepper so that you don't mar the beauty of the sauce, BUT... I don't keep white pepper and this is going into something that's going to be topped with a spice, anyway, so I personally doesn't feel it matters.
Oh, and folks... don't use skim milk or margarine. Splurge on the good stuff. You won't regret it.
Once your sauce is ready, it's time to layer. Eggplant slices, the meat sauce, and some Parmesan cheese go into a well-greased pan. Top it with the rest of the eggplant and the béchamel. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Don't be shy. Use fresh nutmeg, too. It's a good reason to get some.
Why, yes, I am a food freak. Why do you ask?
After an hour in a 350-degree oven, you have this beauty on your hands. It won't last long, but if there are leftovers, they're also delicious cold after a night in the fridge. I don't make this often, and now you know why - who has time for meals that take hours to prepare? - but it is sooooo worth it.
2 large eggplants, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/2”-thick slices
1-1/2 tsp. butter
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. fines herbes
1 T. dried parsley
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 c. red wine
1 egg, beaten
2 c. milk
1/4 c. butter
3 T. all-purpose flour
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
3/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1. Lay the slices of eggplant on paper towels, sprinkle lightly with salt, and set aside for 30 minutes or more to draw out the moisture. Then in a skillet over high heat, heat 2 T. olive oil. Quickly fry the eggplant until browned, adding more oil if needed. Set aside on paper towels to drain.
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the ground beef, salt and pepper to taste, onion and garlic. After beef is browned, sprinkle in the cinnamon, nutmeg, fines herbes and parsley. Pour in tomato sauce and wine and mix well. Simmer 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and stir in beaten egg.
3. To make béchamel sauce, scald milk in saucepan. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Lower heat; gradually pour in hot milk, whisking constantly until it thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Arrange half of eggplant in a greased 9x13 baking dish. Cover with all of meat mixture and 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese. Cover with remaining eggplant and remaining Parmesan. Pour béchamel sauce over the top and sprinkle with nutmeg.
5. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
6. Drool and enjoy.