December 22, 2005
Greek cuisine with it’s very distinctive flavor and aroma, is always a welcome treat. It uses a variety of herbs and spices. Cinnamon, one of the most used spice, is even added to meat dishes like moussaka. The first time I had it was at this very good Italian/Mediterranean restaurant owned by a local chef, who, sad to say, passed away a few years ago. The restaurant no longer exists and has since been sold. We later read the sad news about the chef in the local paper. One of the dinner specials we chanced upon one night was moussaka. That was the first time I tried it and I enjoyed it. The series of cookbooks I have, fortunately, includes Greek cooking. The step by step instructions were not hard to follow. I had the wrong notion that moussaka is a complicated dish to cook, but it’s actually simple and easy to make. The meaty sauce can be made a ahead and refrigerated until ready to use. Ground lamb is traditionally used but regular ground beef is an excellent substitute. It’s best described as a Greek version of lasagna but instead of layering lasagna, pan-fried eggplants are used. Just brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and pan-fry until browned on both sides. I find this technique better that putting some oil in the pan because the eggplant is notorious for absorbing all the oil in the pan, which leaves them rather soggy and greasy. By just brushing them with olive oil, you get to control the amount of oil they absorb. I haven’t tried broiling or grilling them but I heard this is also better for a less oily result. Set aside the pan-fried eggplants on papertowels. Start alternating the layers of eggplant and meat sauce in a rectangular baking dish until they’re all used up. A rich bechamel sauce is spread as a topping and sprinkled with crumbled feta cheese before baking in the oven until bubbly. Baklava, is the recommended dessert to end this very satisfying meal.