>> Friday, June 7, 2013


A few weeks ago, we asked our Facebook fans what recipes they'd like to try, or meals they'd like to learn how to make. My mom responded that she'd like a recipe for ground lamb. I thought, "Perfect! We'll try making moussaka!"

Moussaka (moo-sah-KA) is probably one of the best-known traditional Greek dishes, after spanakopita, a spinach and cheese pie I absolutely love. The dish has origins in Turkish and Egyptian cooking, and in all those cultures it's a hearty casserole of ground meat and vegetables, sometimes topped with a luscious custard-y cheese and egg sauce the French call bechamel. In Greek cooking, the layers of vegetables, meat, and bechamel sauce are cooked separately, then assembled and baked in a casserole dish.

My parents came to visit us last weekend. After a long day touring Milwaukee's Third Ward, we planned to come home and cook moussaka together while the guys went to a model train store to feed my dad's current obsession hobby.

Milwaukee's river walk
Milwaukee's river walk - and our new boat? I wish!

When we got home, we found we were too tired to cook, and all the cheeses we bought in the market were more than tempting with some fresh fruit and crackers for dinner. We bought gouda and havarti with dill, and several exceptional white cheddars with apricots, mangoes, and blueberries. Good choices.

I sent half the ground lamb home with my mom along with a promise to post the recipe. It was absolutely delicious! We lightened the recipe a bit by using lower-fat white sauce ingredients and by steaming the eggplant and potatoes rather than frying them.

The bechamel sauce really makes the recipe, so be sure you take the time to stir it slowly and let it simmer into an ivory custard.


1 large eggplant, cut into 1" cubes
4  medium potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

For the meat

1 1/2 lb. ground lamb, beef, pork, or any combination of those meats
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 medium Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce

4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp flour
3 eggs, beaten, or 3/4 cup egg substitute
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup hard yellow cheese, grated and divided in half
4 cups milk


Place the sliced eggplant into a bowl of water with 1 tbsp salt, and allow it to soak for 30-60 minutes to remove the bitterness from the peel. Drain, then steam the eggplant with the potatoes in a steamer on top of the stove or in the microwave. The vegetables should be nearly tender when done, but not so tender that it will fall apart in the oven.

In a large frying pan, brown the meat with the onion and garlic. Add the wine, tomato, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper, nutmeg, and water. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the tomato is softened and the liquid is thick.

Oil a 9x12 casserole dish. Lay down a layer of the potatoes, then a layer of the eggplant. Cover with a layer of the meat mixture. Repeat with the rest of the vegetables and meat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the oil and butter together in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and stir until the mixture becomes a smooth roux. Whisk together the milk and egg, the slowly pour it into the flour mixture, stirring constantly. If there are any lumps, mix it with a whisk or hand mixture until perfectly smooth. Simmer on low heat until the sauce begins to thicken. Then add the sugar, salt, pepper, cinnamon and half the cheese and stir until creamy again. Stir and simmer until it is the consistency of thin pudding or yogurt.

Pour the bechamel sauce evenly over the top of the casserole dish, then sprinkle with the other half of the cheese. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the sauce is set and the top is golden brown. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to firm up the casserole before cutting into squares and serving (otherwise, the layers sort of slide apart on the dish).

Serves 4-6.


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