Eggplants are plentiful right now and I had two rather large ones needing some attention. A couple months ago I wrote of an almost vegetarian lasagna that used zucchini and eggplant in place of pasta. Peter of Kalofagas mentioned its construction was similar to that of Moussaka. Well, moussaka stuck in my head ever since.
Last night, I decided to make it. I wish the photos had turned out better because it tasted SO GOOD. I used a grill pan so they are not as nicely charred as they could have been. The grilling adds a nice extra bit of flavor.
Pour remaining olive oil into a heated skillet. Add onions, garlic and bay leaves. Cook until translucent then add meat. Continue cooking until meat is browned, season with salt and pepper.
Add pureed tomatoes, basil, and oregano. Cook until sauce reduces and thickens. Add cinnamon and remove bay leaves. Remove from heat.
1 cup fat-free plain Greek-style yogurt
1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated romano, separated
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
My goal was to replicate a thickened milky sauce which I would then infuse with flavorful cheese. Begin by combining the cottage cheese and yogurt into a mixing container. I used a stick blender to puree into a thick cream consistency. Add 1/4 cup of the romano and a pinch of nutmeg, then mix in the egg until thoroughly combined.
Once you have the eggplants grilled, the sauce prepared and the topping mixed, it’s a matter of assembling the moussaka.
In a baking dish, place half of the eggplant into an even layer. Cover with half of the meat mixture. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of the remaining romano cheese. Place the second layer of eggplant, followed by the final layer of meat.
Pour the bechamel topping over the top and spread to cover the entire dish. Sprinkle with remaining romano cheese and breadcrumbs. I added the breadcrumbs because I thought they would help add further crispiness to the topping. Ultimately, they didn’t do much and I would likely omit them next time.
Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.
Peter’s recipe will provide you with the full authentic recipe, since I have made a few changes. For example, in the meat mixture I omitted the use of white wine. I did this primarily for two reasons 1) removing the calories, 2) didn’t have any :(
I am thrilled with how well it turned out, especially the faux-bechamel. I’ve been experimenting with fat-free cottage cheese lately with some success. When you puree it, it becomes thick like sour cream and would be a perfect base for dips. The faux-bechamel turned out better than I expected — it was flavorful and thickened into a custardy topping. I feared it would melt away into a watery mess.
I immediately cut the moussaka and would suggest allowing it to rest for 15 minutes before serving. It appeared a little juicy at first but once it sat the juices disappeared.
The flavor is wonderful. The eggplants are soft and rich, and the meat mixture takes on a whole new flavor sensation with that little bit of cinnamon. The recipe is definetly a keeper and I can only imagine how good the original un-bastardized version must be. A big thank you to Peter for sharing his recipe!
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