Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Greek Life/Moussaka

I remember when I was applying to college, 'the list' was defined by finding schools that satisfied a few basic criteria. Big or small? Metropolitan or rural? And so on, until finally the most important question was asked, "Greek life?" From my perspective, eight years at a small all-girls school was the only taste of sorority life I ever needed. Other people saw the opportunity to pledge as a right of passage and a crucial part of a 'real' college experience. To be honest, I could care less about some pin that I will keep for the rest of my life until my daughter becomes a 'legacy' member of the same sorority as me. But hey, I am just being opinionated here, I know lovely and amazing women who are in sororities, so I shouldn't generalize.

If it's any comfort to all you sorority sisters and fraternity brothers out there, my love for Greek food most certainly makes up for my dislike of Greek life. Unfortunately, my only benchmarks for Greek food are in North America, which I assume is a somewhat bastardized version that would probably make any Greek person cry (similarly to how I feel about Italian food, but we'll save that topic for another day). So I apologetically say that based only on the Greek (or "greek") food I have had, I just love it. However, until this week, I had never made any Greek food myself, unless you count frozen spanakopita from Costco, which I fear is especially cringe-worthy. The plethora of Greek restaurants in Montreal and New York means that I can always go out for great Greek food and to be honest, I have never wanted to be the person bastardizing these delicious dishes. So, I had no intention of 'going Greek' this week, but when I asked my roommate to pick a recipe for me to make, she chose Moussaka. The jury had spoken and I could no longer shy away from making my own Greek food.

Well all I can say is, thanks roomie. It looks like her help is going to become an essential part of this blog, that girl sure knows how to pick a recipe. I can't promise that this Moussaka is authentic, but I can assure you that it is very good. The fragrant meat is amped-up by a creamy cheese sauce and rounds of slightly chewy broiled eggplant. With just a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg, this dish develops a warmth and heartiness that would be hard to find in any other setting. It is definitely very rich, not an everyday dinner, but for guests or even after a long day, this is an ideal choice. All I can say is, if "Greek life" is as good as this Moussaka, I may just have to reconsider.

adapted from Canadian Livings "Everyday Favourites"

1 large eggplant
1/2 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Meat Sauce:
1 lb. lean ground beef or lamb
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup red wine
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
2 (heaping) tbsp. tomato paste

Cheese Sauce:
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cream cheese

--> Cut eggplants into 1/4" thick slices, layer in a colander, sprinkling each layer with salt. Let stand for thirty mins.

Meat Sauce:
• fry meat over high heat breaking up with a spoon, until cooked through. Drain off the fat. Add onions, garlic, oregano, cinnamon and pepper; sautée over medium-high heat until the onions are softened. (abt. 5 mins.)
• Add wine, tomatoes, and tomato paste; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook until the mixture does not fill when a spoon is drawn through the pan, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

-->Rinse the eggplant; drain well and pat dry. In batches, brush it with oil and broil on baking sheet, turning once, until golden and translucent, 8 t0 12 minutes. Set aside.

Cheese Sauce:
• in a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; whisk in flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes, without browning. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook until just boiling and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Let stand to cool down a bit for 10 minutes.
• rinse feta and drain well, mix the drained feta and the cream cheese into the sauce.

• Spread half of the meat sauce in a 9-x9-inch glass baking dish. Spoon a little less than half of the cheese sauce on top, spreading evenly. Layer with half of the eggplant, overlapping if need be. Repeat layers once.
• Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until bubbling.

• You can make this ahead by skipping the baking part, covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating for up to 24 hours OR overwrap the dish with foil and freeze for up to 3 weeks. Thaw in the fridge for 48 hours before baking.


julia said...

Frenchie, this looks sooo yummy!! Greek life minus the girl drama sounds good to me :)

Anonymous said...

Better than what they serve in Greece, believe it or not!!

Erica said...

this looks really tasty - you're giving me some good one dish meal ideas!