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Classic Greek Eggplant Moussaka

What You’ll Need

  • For the Vegetables:
  • 3 to 4 eggplants, about 4 pounds
  • Salt
  • 1 pound potatoes
  • Olive oil for greasing baking sheets
  • 8 large egg whites (lightly beaten), the yolks will be used for the béchamel
  • 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
  • Meat Filling:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef or lamb
  • 2 large onions (finely diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • For the Béchamel Sauce:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk (warmed)
  • 8 large egg yolks (lightly beaten)
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • For the Assembly:
  • Breadcrumbs for bottom of pan
  • 1 cup ​Kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese (grated)

How to Make It

Prepare the Vegetables

  1. Using a sharp peeler, partially peel the eggplants, leaving strips of peel about 1-inch wide around the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices.
  2. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with an inverted plate that is weighted down by a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink and let it sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes, preferably 1 hour.
  1. Peel the potatoes and boil them whole until they are just done, about 10 minutes. They should not get too soft, just cooked enough so that they no longer crunch. Drain, cool, and cut them into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly grease with oil. Add a splash of water to the egg whites and beat them lightly with a fork. Place breadcrumbs on a flat plate.
  3. Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Dip the eggplant slices in the beaten egg whites and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides.
  4. Place breaded eggplant slices on the foil-lined baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, turning them over once during cooking.
  5. When eggplant is finished cooking, lower the oven temperature to 350 F.

Make the Meat Filling

  1. In a large sauté pan, brown the ground beef until the pink color disappears. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add wine to the pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and sugar.
  3. Allow the sauce to simmer, uncovered, for approximately 15 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. It should be a drier, chunkier tomato sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make the Béchamel Sauce

  1. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour to melted butter, whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Let the flour cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.
  1. Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil.
  2. Remove from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks and pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens. Set aside.

Assemble the Moussaka

  1. Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (a lasagna pan works perfectly). Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with breadcrumbs.
  2. Leaving a 1/4-inch space around the edges of the pan, place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Top with a layer of eggplant slices.
  3. Add meat sauce on top of eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese.
  4. Pour the béchamel sauce over all, being sure to allow the sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Note: You can make this dish ahead but stop before making the béchamel sauce and refrigerate. Cook the béchamel sauce right before you intend to bake it.

White Bean Soup (Fassolada)

What You’ll Need

  • 1 lb. dried white beans (such as Great Northern or Navy beans)
  • 10 cups water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion (diced)
  • 2 medium carrots (diced)
  • 2 ribs celery (diced)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 – 14 oz. can diced plum tomatoes (un-drained)
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • Dash salt (or to taste)
  • Dash freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley (chopped, for garnish)

How to Make It

Soaking dried beans rehydrates them and results in more tender beans and shorter cooking time. If you don’t have an extra day to soak the beans overnight, you can try the quick soak method below.

Quick Soaking Method

Add beans plus enough water to cover beans by 2 inches to a pot. Add 2 tbsp. salt and stir. Bring beans to a rolling boil. Turn off heat, cover, and soak for an hour. Drain and rinse beans under cold water before using.

For the Soup

Add the beans, water, and olive oil to a large, non-reactive soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered until beans are tender but not mushy, about 1 hour.

Add vegetables, tomatoes, tomato paste, and bay leaf to the pot and simmer uncovered another 30-45 minutes for flavors to meld and soup to thicken a bit.

Season the soup with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley before serving.

Note: Adding an acidic ingredient like tomato to the soup before the beans are cooked can toughen the skins on the beans.

Horiatiki Salata: Greek Salad

What You’ll Need

  • 4-5 large tomatoes (ripe)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 bell pepper (green)
  • 1 large onion (red)
  • Garnish: salt (sea, to taste)
  • Garnish: oregano (dried,
  • Greek rigani
  • Garnish: Olive oil (top quality extra virgin, to taste)
  • 1/4 pound feta cheese, (Greek, sliced or crumbled)
  • Optional: pepper
  • 1 dozen Greek olives (Kalamata, green Cretan olives, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • Garnish: pepper (pickled pepperoncini hot peppers)

How to Make It

  1. Wash and dry the tomatoes, cucumber and green pepper. Clean off the outer skin from the onion, wash and dry.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized irregularly shaped chunks, removing the core. Salt lightly. Slice the cucumber into 1/4-inch slices, cutting slices in half (whether or not you peel the cucumber is a personal choice). Salt lightly. Slice the pepper into rings, removing the stem and seeds. Salt lightly. Slice the onion into thin rings.
  1. Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper and onion in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with oregano, pour olive oil over the salad, and toss.
  2. Just before serving, place the feta on top of the salad, either as one slice or crumbled, and sprinkle the cheese with oregano (and pepper, if desired). Toss in some olives.
  3. Mix a little bit of oil with the water and drizzle over the top. Serve garnished with hot peppers.

Tzatziki

What You’ll Need

  • 17 ounces Greek yogurt (plain, or any strained yogurt)
  • 1 cucumber (peeled and grated; I find English cucumbers to be the best)
  • 3 tablespoons Greek olive oil
  • 1 lemon (juiced)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon dill (fresh and chopped)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (to taste)
  • 1 clove garlic (pressed; if you love garlic add more)

How to Make It

  1. Put the Greek yogurt into a bowl, something big enough to mix in all ingredients.
  2. Take peeled cucumber and grate on a plate.*Important: squeeze out all juices from cucumber BEFORE adding it to the yogurt. Tzatziki is thick, and adding the juices from the cucumber will make is watery.
  3. Add olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper, dill, red wine vinegar, and garlic to cucumber-yogurt mixture.
  4. Mix thoroughly
  5. Let it rest. Place in refrigerator for a minimum of 2-4hrs. Preferably, overnight.
  6. Serve alongside bread, meat, veggies, or whatever you like!

Notes: Making tzatziki is one of my favorite things because it’s such an organic process. Each time I make it, a little more of one ingredient is needed (sometimes more lemon and other times a bit of the cucumber juice). Remember, the resting period will change the flavor as the ingredients will come alive – so that hint of garlic will grow a bit more as it rests. Get it to a flavor you’re happy with, let it sit for a while, and taste how it changes.