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Moussaka (Part 2 of the Big Fat Greek Mother’s Day Party)
May 11th, 2011 by

Maggie holds a plate of Moussaka and Greek salad.

Maggie holds a plate of Moussaka and Greek salad.

This is an untraditional moussaka recipe from Julia Child. I changed it slightly. It’s a bit time consuming to make but worth the effort. And unlike eggplant parmesan, you don’t have the tedious chore of dipping the eggplant in egg and breadcrumbs.

Ingredients:

  • Eggplant (2. Make sure they’re firm, shiny and a dark purple. This is key, as I don’t believe in salting eggplant and draining it to get out the bitterness. If you buy a perfectly ripe eggplant without bruises, it won’t be bitter.)
  • Olive oil and Salt (Enough to brush each eggplant slice.)
  • Dried herbs (I used a very small amount of oregano, thyme, and mint.)

For the lamb mixture:

  • Ground lamb (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Fresh parsley (1/2 cup, pressed down)
  • Onions (2 medium, to make about 1 1/2 cups, minced)
  • Garlic (2 cloves, minced)
  • Canned Italian plum tomatoes (2 cups, strained and drained)
  • Red wine (3/4 cup)
  • Allspice (1/8 tsp.)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • Egg (1 large, beaten)

For the topping:

  • Butter (3 tbsp.)
  • Flour (1/4 cup)
  • Hot milk (2 cups)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Mozzarella cheese (1 cup, grated)
  • Nutmeg (1 small pinch)
  • Swiss cheese (1/2 cup, grated, to top the topping)

It comes out of the oven bubbling hot, but wait a few minutes until it cools a little before serving.

It comes out of the oven bubbling hot, but wait a few minutes until it cools a little before serving.

What I did:

Wash and peel the eggplant vertically, leaving vertical, purple stripes.

Cut thin (About 1/4 of an inch) round disks of the eggplant.

Brush on olive oil and salt on both sides and lightly sprinkle with the dried herbs. Bake in a 400-degree oven on a cookie sheet. Brown on one side and then turn over. You can cover the cookie sheet with aluminum foil during baking. This should take about 15 minutes for each tray of eggplant. Set aside.

Chop the parsley in a food processor, remove and reserve.

Add the onions and chop with on/off pulses; remove and saute in a frying pan with 2 tbsp. of olive oil; add the minced garlic.

When onions are tender, add the ground lamb. Brown very lightly.

Fold in tomatoes, wine, parsley and allspice, salt, pepper. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring frequently for about a half hour or until the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape in a spoon. Taste periodically and adjust seasoning.

Remove from heat and stir in the beaten egg.

Lightly oil a baking dish (one the size of a good lasagna will do) and line it with a layer of eggplant.

Spoon half the lamb mixture over it and then add another layer of eggplant. Add the rest of the lamb mixture and end with another layer of eggplant.

To make the topping, do the following:

Cook the butter and flour together for about 2 minutes without coloring, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Remove from heat and pour in all but 1/2 cup of the hot milk. Whisk vigorously to blend thoroughly.

Put it back on moderately high heat and whisk slowly until it comes to a simmer. Add in the rest of the milk in drips and drabs. Be careful to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon.

Whisk in salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat and stir in mozzarella cheese.

Spoon the hot sauce over the top of the eggplant. Shake the baking dish to allow it to sink down.

Sprinkle the swiss cheese evenly on top. Bake for 45 minutes in a 350-degree oven until the top is a light brown and bubbling.

Serve warm or tepid, but not too hot. It’s good cold, too.

Check out the other “Big Fat Greek Mother’s Day Party” recipes.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

My Big Fat Greek Mother’s Day Party: Tzatziki
May 9th, 2011 by

Mothers, daughters, cousins, and nieces all celebrated Greek food in the RootsLiving kitchen.

Mothers, daughters, cousins, and nieces all celebrated Greek food in the RootsLiving kitchen.

After an amazing trip to Greece last month, Trish asked for a “Big Fat Greek Mother’s Day” party for herself and her cousins and our niece, Jenno. So I whipped out the Greek cookbook I bought and with a little extra help from Julia Child came up with this menu.

Appetizers:

  • Tzatziki
  • Spanakopita
  • Stuffed Grape Leaves

Main Course:

  • Country (Greek) Salad
  • Moussaka (non-traditional, a Julia Child recipe)

Dessert:

I made everything myself, except for the Spanakopita (spinach and cheese fillo appetizers) and (rice) stuffed grape leaves, which I bought at Christo’s Market in Arlington. Here is the recipe for the tzatziki (I’ll add more as the week goes on):

This Greek dip is healthier and less fattening than sour cream based dips, but tastes just as good, if not better.

This Greek dip is healthier and less fattening than sour cream based dips, but tastes just as good, if not better.

Tzatziki

This is a very addictive yogurt and cucumber dip and is served everywhere in Greece, including on Gyros you buy from street vendors. We like it as a dip for lightly toasted pita chips.

Ingredients:

  • Greek yogurt (16 oz.). It’s better with the whole fat Greek yogurt, but I’ve used the low-fat and non-fat Greek yogurts and it’s been great too. It just depends on whether you want to save a few calories or not. Whatever you choose, it’s less fattening and more healthy than any sour cream dip: and much tastier.
  • Cucumber (1 large)
  • Garlic cloves (3 cloves. The recipe I have calls for 5, but I found it too strong. And I love garlic.)
  • Dill (A small bunch. About 1-2 tbsp.)
  • Olive oil (1/8 to 1/4 cup. The recipe I have calls for a 1/2 cup, but I found less is best.)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
  • Lightly toasted pita chips

What I did:

Put salt, garlic, and dill in a food processor and mince fine.

Wash the cucumber and peel strips lengthwise so the cucumber looks like is has stripes. Then grate it and dump it into a colander to drain. You can press down on the small pieces to get more moisture out.

If the yogurt isn’t already strained, then dump it into a colander too to allow excess moisture to drain out.

Put yogurt, cucumber, garlic mixture, olive oil, salt and pepper into a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Several hours or overnight is even better.

Serve with lightly toasted pita chips. (Simply cut pita bread into triangles. Brush on olive oil and salt and bake in a 400 degree oven on a cookie sheet until lightly toasted.)

Find more recipes in the Food section.

Athens Grilled Chicken
Aug 26th, 2009 by

This grilled chicken is easy and quick to make on a hot summer night.

This grilled chicken is easy and quick to make on a hot summer night.

I enjoyed making and eating the St. Rocco Braciole so much I decided to improvise and create a similar dish using chicken and my Greek sensibilities.

The dish is easy to make and is perfect during the hot summer when you’d rather fire up the backyard grill than turn up the heat in the kitchen. A good side dish for this is grilled “Italian” corn-on-the-cob.

Ingredients:

  • Four chicken breasts, pounded and flattened thin. (Make sure the breasts are no more than a 1/4 inch thick.)
  • Greek salad dressing (If you don’t have any, olive oil will do in a pinch)
  • Greek seasoning mix (If you don’t have any, salt and freshly ground pepper will do alone or with dried basil, dried oregano and a pinch of garlic powder if you have it.)
  • 6 oz of crumbled feta cheese
  • Four tablespoons of chopped fresh baby spinach leaves
  • Two tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
  • Eight whole black pitted olives
  • Two red bell peppers

Preparation:

  • Cut the tops off the red peppers. Take the seeds out and slice vertically down the middle.
  • Mix the crumbled feta cheese, chopped spinach leaves and chopped parsley in a small bowl. Cut the eight whole olives into thin slices and add to feta mixture.

What I did:

Place pepper halves on the grill and cook until tender and black lines appear on the skin. Set aside.

Lay the chicken breasts flat on the hottest part of the grill. Sear for only a short time (about one minute) and then flip over.

Working quickly, spread about a tablespoon of Greek salad dressing on each breast and add a healthy sprinkling of Greek seasoning.

Spread the feta cheese mixture on each breast as it cooks.

Cover and grill for about four minutes. Test for doneness by cutting off a small piece and checking to make sure there are no pink parts.

When done, roll it up on a plate and serve it on top of a roasted red pepper half.

(Photo by Mark Micheli)

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