This month’s dinner also happened to be my birthday dinner, so I made one of my favorite dishes: moussaka. I’d considered making it several times before, mostly after devouring the dish in a local restaurant, but never attempted it. It seemed complicated, and I’m not that secure in my cooking skills. Best to leave such things to the professionals. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. So, I tried my hand.
It took longer than I expected — it has to bake for an hour and I hadn’t done any prep work — but it wasn’t nearly as complicated as I thought it would be. I practically starved Ali, but then we ate the scrumptious peach pie Ali made for my birthday (my mouth still waters with the thought of this) while we waited, and all was good until dinnertime. And it was worth the wait.
- 2-3 eggplants, peeled and sliced
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled and sliced
- 1 lb ground meat (I used beef)
- 1 large yellow onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1 Tbsp parsley
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 4 cups milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 6 Tbsp flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- Lay the slices of eggplant on paper towels, sprinkle lightly with salt, and set aside for 30 minutes to draw out the moisture.
- Pat eggplant dry with paper towel and arrange in one layer on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
- Broil briefly, turning so that both sides become soft and golden brown. It's okay if they become a bit charred, just not burnt. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Boil the potato slices until they are soft and break apart easily. Drain and set aside.
- Cook the ground meat and drain.
- In a large skillet, saute onions. Add garlic.
- Add the ground meat and cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and parsley.
- Pour in the tomato sauce and wine, and mix well. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- To make the bechamel sauce, begin by scalding the milk in a saucepan. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Lower heat and gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly until it thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange a layer of eggplant in a greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Cover eggplant with all of the meat mixture, and then sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the meat.
- Layer on the potato slices, and pour the bechamel sauce over the top.
- Bake for one hour at 350 degrees. Allow to cool before cutting and serving.