Sometimes, my heartstrings get pulled and tugged as all I can think about is Greece and how much I miss living there. Good thing my soul is so easily soothed by a delicious meal, full of happy-memory-inducing tastes.
One of my favorite dishes in Greece (that I sadly did not get enough of) was moussaka. This is a casserole-type dish made out of eggplant, ground meat and spices and topped with béchamel sauce. It's oh so hearty and has a wonderful, creamy texture, making for the perfect comfort food.
a water and salt solution
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
For the meat:
1/2 pound ground meat (I used ground meat substitute, but lamb or beef are most traditional)
1/2 chopped onion
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
1 can of chopped tomatoes
For the béchamel:
4 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
2 egg yolks
A dash of nutmeg
Salt to taste
Peal and slice the eggplant into rounds and place in the salt solution for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, brown the meat in the olive oil. Once browned, add the onions, spices and tomatoes and let simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside once done.
Once the eggplant has been soaked, take it out of the solution and dry it on paper towels. Broil, grill or
sauté the rounds on both sides until somewhat tender.
While the eggplant is cooking, start the sauce. Melt the butter at medium heat and whisk in the flour, letting simmer for a few minutes, without letting the mixture get too dark. Add the milk and whisk over medium while it thickens. Add the nutmeg and salt. Once thickened, temper the yolks by pouring a couple ladles of the sauce into a bowl with the already whisked yolks, whisking the whole time, then pour the egg mixture into the sauce, still whisking until it is all incorporated.
Now it's time to assemble. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Layer the bottom of a 9x9 inch pan with the grilled eggplant. Top with the meat mixture. Cover with half of the cheese and then the béchamel sauce. Finish off with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the cheese is nicely browned. Take out of the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
I can't believe that this dish turned out so well. It tasted just like the moussaka I fell in love with in Greece. It's so comforting to be able to recreate my favorite dishes from such an incredible summer. It's a simple way to sooth my travel withdrawals.