Monday, January 23, 2012

Moussaka

My family loves eggplant.

This is my first time making Moussaka. We usually have eggplant grilled on the barbecue or pan fried adding a bit of teriyaki sauce at the end that gives it a nice flavor. Since eggplant can soak up a lot of oil, we brush it with a little olive oil on each side before cooking to control the amount of oil it absorbs, which seems to work for us--very simple. Moussaka takes a bit more work, but I think it's well worth it!

This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light with the addition of a puff pastry crust, an idea from my son Rick, reminiscent of the moussaka he ate on vacation a few years ago in Greece. The puff pastry makes the casserole pretty, too.

 This recipe is also vegetarian, but can easily be adapted for omnivores by the addition of ground meat. The bulgur wheat in the recipe gives the casserole the appearance of containing ground meat, and the same mouth-feel. I think I'll be trying different recipes using it--my first thought is to add it to meatloaf to save  money as a meat extender, and also for added nutrition.

 The puff pastry was really good--so flaky.

Vegetarian Moussaka
Adapted from Cooking Light--the recipe says it serves 4, but could serve 6 easily

Ingredients:
3 peeled large eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
cooking spray
2 cups chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch ground nutmeg
2 cups organic vegetable broth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh Romano cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

 Peel and slice the eggplants, putting the slices into a large bowl of water. My husband's grandmother told me to always soak the eggplant in water with a pinch of salt to extract any bitterness. I think it also makes it so the eggplant doesn't absorb as much oil.

Preheat the broiler to high, adjusting the rack so the eggplant will be about 5 inches from the heat.

Brush the eggplant lightly with olive oil on both sides, place onto a baking sheet and broil for about 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Set aside.

 Zip the fresh oregano leaves off the stems and roughly chop. Measure 1/2 cup bulgur wheat. It doesn't look like much, but it will expand. My husband thought the casserole contained ground turkey since it tasted light.

 Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add onions and saute until the onions are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a minute more, stir in bulgur and cook 3 minutes or until bulgur is lightly toasted, combine well. Add cinnamon, cloves and pinch nutmeg, cook 1 minute more stirring constantly. Add broth, oregano and tomatoes. chopping the tomatoes with spoon if necessary. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until bulgur absorbs the broth, stirring occasionally.

 The recipe in Cooking Light has a topping of béchamel sauce--a creamy white sauce made with butter, flour and milk. According to Wikipedia, this is the traditional Greek version, but when my son visited Greece, he thought he had it with a pastry crust. I put the crust on top of the white sauce.

Make the white sauce by melting a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons flour and combine well with a whisk. While constantly stirring, add 1 cup milk, a little at a time. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 5 minutes until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally. Stir in grated Romano cheese and salt.

 Let the white sauce cool a little, then add the lightly beaten egg and mix well.

 Preheat oven to 350ºF and assemble the casserole by arranging 1/2 the broiled eggplant on the bottom of a casserole dish sprayed with non-stick spray. Spread bulgur-tomato mixture over eggplant and repeat for a second layer. Top with white sauce and spread evenly. I used a 9 x 11 inch dish, the recipe in Cooking Light uses an 11 x 7 dish. If using 9 x 11, you may want to double the white sauce if you're not using the puff pastry top,  you'll want the white sauce to be thick, but more about that later.

 Roll out one sheet of thawed frozen puff pastry on a well floured surface until about the size of your casserole dish. Place pastry on top, folding under edges to fit if necessary. Cut 4 small slits in the crust with a sharp knife and brush pastry with a lightly beaten egg or milk so the crust will brown nicely. 

Bake at 350ºF for 40 minutes, or until top is nicely browned.

 Let the casserole stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 Garnish with oregano leaves or flat-leafed parsley.

 I just may need to keep a box of puff pastry in my freezer at all times!


Itadakimasu!


Rick's randomly choosing the Giveaway winners today, they'll be posted tomorrow!

Happy Lunar New Year--Year of the Dragon!


***


 This is the Moussaka Rick ate in Greece.

 To me, it looks like the 'crust' could be a thick layer of the traditional Greek white sauce mixed with eggs to make it like a custard, then browned. That makes sense because that would be the traditional Greek way of preparing it, not with a pastry crust. Now that I know more about Moussaka, the layer of white sauce on top should be thick--maybe I'll triple the amount in the recipe next time. But then--the puff pastry was so good, maybe leave the white sauce out altogether--Ahhh, decisions, decisions!

 Rick said Gary and I would like to visit Santorini.

 Whenever I see Santorini in movies, I think of Rick and his travel there.
 I liked this photo he took so much, I had it printed on canvas.

 This photo is one of my favorites too.

 I used it for the cover of a photo book I made of his trip.

 Here's the page with the picture of the moussaka.

Rick kept a journal of his travels and I included excerpts of his observations in the book. Reading the journal made me feel like I got to go along too, he wrote so many small details of the sights, sounds and foods of Europe, as well as his feelings along the way.

"For dinner we went to the recommended Naoussa. I ordered Moussaka because Karen wants me to go outside my box. I'm not quite sure if that qualifies, but it's a start."

 I really liked this photo because my Uncle Kats used to do this in pictures too. You can see it in my Creamed Eggs on Toast post after the recipe.

Rick took some amazing photos with a point-and-shoot camera. I think he's got a good eye for composition.

A journal entry: 

"Tonight's dinner was wonderful. Maybe the best I've had thus far. We walked away from San Marcos & found a few restaurants. I ordered spaghetti with seafood. Delicious. The stock market is having a really rough time back home. I'm not as much nervous about it as I miss it. I miss baseball a bunch too. Not so much my fantasy team, I just want to watch a Red Sox game on TV."

 I really like this one because it reminds me of the time Rick and I went to the Getty Museum and sat in front of a beautiful painting of Venice's Grand Canal for a long time and admired its beauty.

 Rick took lots of photos of food--sometimes he would be hungry and start eating only to stop and take a picture to show us at home.

I really liked this map feature iPhoto books had when I made the book in 2009. Throughout the book, as he entered another country, I could include a small map of that day's travel, and then this big map at the end.

Here's Rick with Karen and his cousins welcoming him home.
Someone at the airport asked Beeto if they could rent her sign since they were also welcoming home someone named Rick.

This is the journal Rick took on his trip to Europe.
Karen gave it to him with an inscription so he could record:

"... THE MOST AMAZING sights in the entire world...
The little details are what will make the memories last your whole life."


***

Vegetarian Moussaka
Adapted from Cooking Light--the recipe says it serves 4

Ingredients:
3 peeled large eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
cooking spray
2 cups chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch ground nutmeg
2 cups organic vegetable broth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh Romano cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

Peel and slice the eggplants, putting the slices into a large bowl of water. Preheat the broiler to high, adjusting the rack to the highest level, so it's about 5 inches from the heat. Brush the eggplant lightly with olive oil on both sides, place onto a baking sheet and broil for about 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Set aside.

 Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add onions and saute until the onions are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a minute more, stir in bulgur and cook 3 minutes or until bulgur is lightly toasted, combine well. Add cinnamon, cloves and pinch nutmeg, cook 1 minute more stirring constantly. Add broth, oregano and tomatoes. chopping the tomatoes with spoon if necessary. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until bulgur absorbs the broth, stirring occasionally.
Make the white sauce by melting a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons flour and combine well with a whisk. While constantly stirring, add 1 cup milk, a little at a time. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 5 minutes until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally. Stir in grated Romano cheese and salt.  Let the white sauce cool a little, then add the lightly beaten egg and mix well.

Preheat oven to 350ºF and assemble the casserole by arranging 1/2 the broiled eggplant on the bottom of a casserole dish sprayed with non-stick spray. Spread bulgur-tomato mixture over eggplant and repeat for a second layer. Top with white sauce and spread evenly.

Roll out one sheet of thawed frozen puff pastry on a well floured surface until about the size of your casserole dish. Place pastry on top, folding under edges to fit if necessary. Cut 4 small slits in the crust with a sharp knife and brush pastry with a lightly beaten egg or milk so the crust will brown nicely.

Bake at 350ºF for 40 minutes or until top is nicely browned. Let the casserole stand for 10 minutes before serving.

3 comments:

  1. What a wonderful trip!!! Beautiful pictures!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yum! :) I'm one of Karen's friends in Palo Alto and also happen to be Greek. My grandmother usually tops the moussaka with a bechamel sauce. But I also like the idea of the puff pastry. Nice variation. Looks tasty!

    ReplyDelete