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Modern Greek Moussaka

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 Modern Greek Moussaka | Something New For Dinner

My friend George LOVES moussaka. On a recent group trip to Greece George must have ordered moussaka every other night. I vowed when I cam home I would develop a moussaka recipe for him. We just got together for dinner and reminisced on what a great trip it was and how much wonderful, healthy Mediterranean food we ate. Not to mention the gallons of wine we drank!

Traditional Moussaka is a Labor of Love

Modern Greek Moussaka | Something New For Dinner

The thing about traditional moussaka is it is a labor of love. It is not hard to make, but there are a lot of steps. You make the meat sauce, you salt the eggplant and let it stand, you fry the eggplant, you boil the potatoes, you make the béchamel sauce and then fold in egg yolks and whipped egg whites. You get the idea, you can plan on several hours in the kitchen.

My Modern Moussaka

My goal was to simplify the recipe and make it a tad bit healthier. Here are some changes I have made from traditional moussaka.
  1. I roast the eggplant instead of frying it. This allows you to use less oil and is a much cleaner, less hands-on process than frying it.
  2. When you roast eggplant slices you skip the need to salt and rest the eggplant before frying, saving a half hour or more. Salting eggplant was traditionally used to draw out bitter liquid from the eggplant. Today's eggplant are bred to be less bitter and if you are not frying eggplant you don't have to worry about drawing out excess liquid. Roasting eggplant uses much less oil and keeps the moussaka from being greasy.
  3. I roast the potatoes along with the eggplant instead of boiling the potatoes.
  4. I hit the meat sauce hard with a lot of herbs and spices. Next go round, I may amp up the spices even more.

Modern Greek Moussaka |Something New For Dinner

Even Modern Moussaka is a Labor of Love

Even this streamlined recipe will keep you in the kitchen for a few hours. The good news is you can make the meat sauce and even roast the veggies a day in advance if you wish. Then the day you plan to serve simply layer the vegetables and meat sauce, make the béchamel sauce for the final layer and bake. Remember to let the moussaka rest for about 20 minutes after it comes out of the oven and before slicing to prevent the cut squares from falling apart when you serve. Moussaka is generally served warm.

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  Making moussaka is a labor of love that results in an ultimate comfort dish. So when you or someone you know needs some comforting, break out the eggplant and get the moussaka going.

Moussaka Makes Awesome Leftovers

Modern Greek Moussaka | Something New For Dinner

This recipe makes enough for 12 people. Don't worry if you are serving fewer people, the leftovers are to die for. Allow the leftover moussaka to cool, then cut it into serving portions. Wrap each serving in plastic wrap and then foil and freeze. You will be so grateful to have this delicious meal already prepared and waiting for you in the freezer.  

Tomatoes and Tomato Paste

My favorite tomato products | Something New For Dinner

These are my favorite packaged tomato products. I prefer Pomi tomatoes over canned tomatoes. Why? They are made with nothing but tomatoes, have delicious flavor and there is no BpA in the packaging. Canned tomatoes have BpA in their lining and the acid provides the right environment for leaching the chemical into your food.

How to date your opened food ingredients | Something New For Dinner

TJ's tomato paste is terrific too. I like it because you can use just a little and store in the fridge for your next recipe that calls for tomatoes. Shelf life after the tube is opened is 15 days so I mark the outside with the after-opened expiration date.  

Moussaka Variations

Moussaka is made differently in Greece, Turkey, Egypt and other Levant countries. What we generally think of moussaka in the west, layers of eggplant, meat and béchamel sauce,  was developed by a french-trained Greek chef, Nikolaos Tselementes in the 1920's.   You may substitute other vegetables in the dish -- consider zucchini, Brussels sprouts, spinach, peppers or mushrooms. You can use parmesan cheese, pecorino or Greek mizithra cheese. Bobby Flay has a version of moussaka that he folds goat cheese into the béchamel. Now that sounds good! Likewise you can make a meatless sauce or substitute beef, chicken or even ground turkey for the lamb. I'm considering making a moussaka with a layer of sweet potato instead of russets. Doesn't that sound delicious?  

Our Moussaka Celebration

 Greek dinner party | Something New For Dinner

The nice thing about a meal centered on moussaka is that you don't need much else. A nice moussaka, a Greek salad, a healthy pour of wine and good friends and you have a wonderful meal and hopefully some leftovers for another night!   If you like this Modern Greek Moussaka, you may also like my Mom's Lasagna recipe. Like the moussaka, this lasagna is a simplified version of the traditional recipe.

Modern Greek Moussaka

Prep

Cook

Inactive

Total

Yield 12 Servings

Moussaka is both an ultimate comfort food and a labor of love to make. This recipe for modern Greek moussaka reduces the preparation steps and is a healthier version of traditional moussaka.

Ingredients

For the meat sauce:

  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 26-ounce container chopped tomatoes 
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 t allspice
  • 2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 T dried oregano
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 1/4 t fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

For the béchamel sauce: 

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 t fresh ground nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 3 eggs, separated

For the eggplant:

  • 3 globe eggplants
  • Olive oil

For the potatoes:

  • 2 - 3 medium to large russet potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

For assembling the moussaka: 

  • 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

For the meat sauce:

  1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot such as a Le Creuset Dutch oven, brown the lamb. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are soft. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, lemon juice and zest, spices, herbs, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and simmer on medium-low for about 40 minutes. Adjust seasoning and set aside. 
  2. While the meat sauce is cooking prepare the eggplant and potatoes.

For the eggplant:

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Slice the eggplant in 1/4" slices. Brush slices on both sides with olive oil and layout on a baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes, flipping after 10 minutes, until eggplant is soft and starts to take on some color. Don't overcook. Remove from oven and set aside. 

For the potatoes:

  1. Peel the potatoes and slice in 1/4" disks. Brush with olive oil and season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast for 12 - 15 minutes, flipping after about 7 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked al dente and beginning to take on a little color. Don't overcook. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the béchamel sauce: 

  1. Scald the milk in a pot, so the milk around the edges of the pan just begins to bubble. Do not let the milk come to a boil. 
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter is hot, whisk in the flour a couple tablespoons at a time, whisking continually. The mixture will form a paste. Cook a minute or two, but do not let the mixture brown. Add the hot milk slowly while continuing to whisk constantly until all the milk is incorporated and the sauce is smooth and thick. Cook a minute or two and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. 
  3. Remove from the heat and whisk in three egg yolks. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites to firm peaks and then fold into the béchamel sauce. Set aside.

To assemble the moussaka:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Rub a large a large ceramic or glass casserole dish with a thin coat of olive oil or butter. I use a 13 1/2 " x 12" x 3" ceramic dish. A 13" x 9" x 2" will be a little small. Alternatively, you can cook in two smaller bakers.
  2. Place the potatoes in the bottom of the casserole dish in a single layer. Put half of the eggplant slices on top of the potatoes and top with half of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the parmesan cheese. Layer on the remaining eggplant slices and cover with the remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the parmesan cheese.
  3. Cover the entire casserole with the béchamel sauce and sprinkle on the remaining parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the top of the moussaka is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest 20 minutes before serving. Cut into squares and serve. 

Notes

  1. You can reduce the total time it takes to make moussaka by starting with the meat sauce, then preparing the eggplant, potatoes and béchamel sauce while the meat cooks. 
  2. Alternatively you can prepare the meat sauce and roast the eggplant and potatoes a day in advance and then make the béchamel sauce right before you pop the moussaka in the oven. 

Cuisine Greek

4 COMMENTS

Comments

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you!!! I cannot wait to try this!

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Please let me know how you like it!

  2. Jennifer Mathews says:

    After my family had the Modern Greek Moussaka, they all agreed that this was a new family favorite! The recipe takes 3 hours, but it isn’t difficult. It was a perfect thing to have cooking while the family was watching football all afternoon. It smells delicious from the minute the lamb, onion, and garlic starts to brown. The hardest part of the recipe was waiting 3 hours to eat it! We had enough for 5 adults, some to send home with the kids, and some to freeze for the 2 of us. Loved it!

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Jennifer, Thank you so much for your review. Making moussaka is a labor of love, but a perfect meal to work on when you have your family home. Now you just have to figure out when to eat the treasured leftovers!

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