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Moussaka



One of our favorite restaurants is the Happy Greek in Columbus -- just ask any of our relatives who happened to visit us when we lived in the city. Their avgolemono soup (a lemony broth-based rice soup) is always amazing, as are their gyros. But our most-loved dish was their moussaka. Now that we live in Cleveland, we've been forced to get creative, and find our own recipe!

Moussaka is fairly similar to the Italian lasagna, only with vegetables replacing the lasagna noodles. There are countless variations on this dish, but we picked one that makes the most of a rampant summer vegetable -- zucchini. Moussaka is also usually topped with a creamy bechamel sauce that browns nicely in the oven. In this recipe, a lower-fat version of this sauce is used.

I have to confess that I don't really care for Parmesan cheese. I find the acidic taste it develops when it's aged too much (or has been sitting in the refrigerator too long) a little disgusting. Instead, we like to use Grana Padano cheese, which is prepared very similarly to Parmigiano Reggiano. We buy it at Whole Foods, but have found it at larger grocery stores before.

White Sauce:

2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup milk
dash of ground nutmeg
2 tbsp grated grana padano cheese
1 egg yolk

Whisk flour in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Slowly add the milk, whisking all the while, until the mixture is smooth. Add the nutmeg. Continue whisking the mixture until it thickens and comes to a boil (this will take about ten minutes). Take the pot off the heat, and add the nutmeg, cheese and the egg yolk. Set aside.


Moussaka:

olive oil
1 large eggplant, trimmed, peeled and sliced lengthwise (1/2" thick)
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and sliced into 1/4" thick rounds
1 large russet or red potato, peeled and sliced into 1/4" thick rounds

1 tsp olive oil
1 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 to 3/4 lb ground beef or lamb
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup plain dry white breadcrumbs
1 egg white
dash ground cinnamon
White Sauce
grated Grana Padano cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet or two small ones with parchment paper, brush with olive oil. Lay out eggplant, potato and zucchini slices on the baking sheets, allowing them to overlap slightly. Brush vegetables generously with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 375 degrees F.

While the vegetables are roasting, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add onions and garlic, and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ground beef and brown, breaking up the beef with the back of a wooden spoon. When the meat is completely brown, add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sauce is thickened. Add half the breadcrumbs, the cinnamon, and the egg white.

In a glass 8" x 8" x 2" dish, sprinkle breadcrumbs over the base of the pan. Arrange the potato slices in a layer over the bottom of the pan, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half of the tomato sauce over the potatoes. Arrange the eggplant in a layer on top of the tomato sauce, and spoon the remaining sauce over the eggplant. Finish off with a layer of zucchini. Pour the white sauce over the whole dish, and sprinkle with cheese.

Put the moussaka in the oven and bake for about half an hour, until the top is nicely browned. Let sit for 15 minutes after leaving the oven, then slice and serve.

Serves 3 or 4.

Bon App├ętit, February 1998

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