Saturday, December 15, 2012

Make Ahead Moussaka

I think I might have been Greek in a past life. I love Greek food. Authentic and Americanized, the merry-go-round of flavors never cease to amaze me. A & G Restaurant in the little southwestern town of Creston, Iowa is near and dear to my heart. It was one of the very few places that offered Greek food. The owner, Tony, never let you leave work without a meal, on the house none the less. One of my favorite dishes Tony made on very special occasions was his Moussaka. This was usually only available after Tony had traveled back to Greece to visit his family. My version reminds me of those wonderful flavors and warms my heart with fond memories.

Moussaka is a Greek version of the Italian lasagna. Layers of roasted eggplant substitute noodles topped with a hearty tomato and meat sauce, cheese, and a final layer of bechamel sauce. This recipe, like a lasagna, requires a little assembly; however, can be made ahead and stored until you are ready to bake and serve. And the leftovers, are out of this world.

Make Ahead Moussaka

Non-stick cooking spray
2 eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
8 oz. lean ground beef
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 dash cinnamon
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 dash ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat your broiler to high heat. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange the eggplant the eggplant on the baking sheets and broil for 5 minutes on each side or until the eggplant is golden brown. Set aside.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Add the onion and saute for 6-8 minutes or until the onion begins to appear translucent in color. Add the garlic and ground beef. Stir to loosen the meat. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up the meat, for another 8 minutes or until the beef is cooked through and browned. Add the oregano, cinnamon, and diced tomatoes. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Pour the milk into a sauce pan. Add the corn starch, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and garlic powder. Whisk together until smooth. Heat over medium-low heat and continue whisking until the sauce thickens (about 8 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.

Spray a 9' x 9' casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Layer the eggplant into the bottom of the dish. Top with the meat and tomato sauce and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat for the second layer. Top the second layer with the remaining eggplant and mozzarella cheese. Pour the milk mixture over the final layer of eggplant and cheese. At this point you can cover and store the moussaka until you are ready to serve. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. When ready to serve, uncover and let the moussaka stand for 10-15 minutes at room temperature while the oven preheats. Then, bake for 40 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbly. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving. Makes 4 large and hearty servings.


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