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  • Writer's pictureDonna

Moussaka

Moussaka is a traditional Greek eggplant casserole made with eggplant and lamb and/or beef in a rich, tomato sauce.

I have been making moussaka for years. When we changed our eating habits to reduce sodium and fat, it was must that I find a way to make this recipe healthier. Typically, the eggplant is pan fried in olive oil or baked with a coating of oil. While olive oil is a healthier alternative, it is still an added fat and I decided it was one of the easier options to work on eliminating from the recipe. By grilling the eggplant, I was able to add a slight smokiness to the dish that blends nicely with the rest of the flavors.


Moussaka


Ingredients

Meat Sauce

  • 1 lb lean or extra lean ground beef

  • 1 lb ground lamb

  • 1 large shallot finely diced (or substitute with 2-3 cloves of finely chopped garlic)

  • 1 large eggplant

  • 1/3 c pine nuts

  • 1 tbsp ground cumin

  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1 tsp dried mint

  • 1 tbsp dried parsley

  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 3 (14.5 oz) cans of petite diced tomatoes (I use the no sodium added variety)

  • 7 oz tomato sauce

  • 1/2 c red wine (optional)

  • 1 tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Béchamel Sauce

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 c low-fat, plain yogurt

  • 3/4 c heavy cream

  • 1/3 c grated parmesan cheese

  • Dash of nutmeg

  • Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions

  1. Finely dice the shallot (or garlic cloves).

  2. Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch thick slices; using a mandolin makes this easy.

  3. Thoroughly soak or rinse eggplant slices in cold water; if salt, isn't an issue for you, you can lightly salt the slices and let them sit for 15 minutes before rinsing. Put slices in a strainer over a large bowl to drain. Set aside.

  4. In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, saute the shallot (or garlic) until it begins to become translucent.

  5. Add pine nuts to the shallots and stir frequently until the pine nuts begin to slightly brown. Be careful to not burn or over cook the pine nuts.

  6. Add the tomato paste and stir until the tomato paste starts to darken on the bottom of the pan.

  7. Add the lamb and ground beef to the shallot, pine nut, tomato paste mixture.

  8. Once the meat is browned or cooked through, add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, spices, and wine.

  9. Increase heat to medium-high to bring mixture to a slow boil.

  10. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer.

  11. Cook meat sauce until the majority of the liquid has reduced and you have a thick, rich tomato, meat sauce. For nights when I am short on time, I cook uncovered for about 45 minutes. When I have the time, I cook this slow and low, covered, for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to develop more. Both options taste amazing.

  12. Remove meat sauce from heat and remove the bay leaves. Set it aside and let it rest.

  13. Spray your grill with a non-stick spray and lightly grill the eggplant slices over low heat. Watch closely to make sure you don't burn the slices or dry out.

  14. Remove slices of eggplant and set aside until ready to assemble casserole.

  15. Preheat oven to 375°F.

  16. Make the béchamel sauce

    1. In a medium bowl, hand whip the eggs until blended.

    2. Add yogurt and heavy cream to the eggs and slowly whip by hand until completely blended.

    3. Add parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper (optional) to the egg and cream mixture.

  17. Pour all of the meat sauce into a 9x12 baking dish; I also reserve some for an 8x8 pan that I can freeze for later.

  18. Place a single layer of eggplant slices over meat mixture. Slices can overlap slightly.

  19. Top meat and eggplant with the béchamel sauce.

  20. Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes or until the béchamel sauce is set (doesn't wiggle when you move the pan) and browned.

  21. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes or so before slicing and serving.



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