Here’s a little secret about me, from my lips to your ears: I hate eggplant. I know I’m supposed to like it — the same way I’m supposed to like asparagus — but non, je le déteste.
That said, it comes as a surprise to me — and, maybe, now to you too — that I love moussaka. It’s creamy and rich and at once savory and sweet… So imagine my delight when, earlier this summer, Keith and I were invited to Alyssa and Guillaume’s house for moussaka dinner.
“We’re in the mood to cook,” Alyssa wrote to me in an email, “and we’re thinking moussaka. We have lots of beer and prosecco,” she further enticed, not knowing I was already all-in.
It was this meal I had in mind when I opened my CSA box this week and encountered a massive, teardrop-shaped eggplant, alongside the following:
- Green tomatoes
- Purple pepper
- Salad mix
- Sweet onion
- Yellow beans
With a little wheedling, I was able to get Guillaume’s recipe, which I am sharing with you all here. Traditionally, moussaka is layers of sautéed sliced eggplant and ground lamb flavored with herbs, garlic, onion and tomato snuggling together underneath a nice blanket of béchamel. (When I was in Spain several years ago, someone described moussaka as “Greek lasagna,” which I found both funny and oddly apt.) Guillaume shortcuts the béchamel with a cream-cheese-and-milk sauce that works surprisingly well.
Makes four portions
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound lamb
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 ½ cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick purée (15 ounce can)
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh-ground black pepper
1 eggplant (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into ¼ inch slices
4 ounces cream cheese
¼ cup milk
¼ cup grated Parmesan
- Heat the broiler. In a large stainless-steel frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the lamb and cook until the meat loses its pink color, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine, tomato paste, tomatoes, bay leaf, cinnamon, allspice, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered for 10 minutes.
- Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with the remaining 5 tablespoons oil and season with 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Put the eggplant slices on a large baking sheet and broil, 6 inches from the heat, until browned about 5 minutes. Turn and broil until browned on the other side, about 5 minutes longer.
- In a small saucepan, combine cream cheese, milk, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Warm over low heat until just melted.
- Oil an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Layer half the eggplant in the dish, then half the meat sauce. Sprinkle with half the Parmesan. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, meat sauce, and Parmesan. Spoon half the cream cheese sauce on top; broil until just starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.