Moussaka (or what the heck to do with all the eggplant that is ripe)

I can't believe that it is July 31st!  I haven't posted since May.  I promise that I have cooked since then.  You see, my family insists on eating every day.  Every. Single. Day.  If they would lay off for a little while I could afford the tuition and computers they all say they need.  


This year I have found a wonderful CSA.  That means Community Supported Agriculture.  You can check them out here.  http://www.thefarmwoodbury.com Or like them on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/thefarmwoodburyct?ref=ts&fref=ts It is wonderful.  The family that farms is wonderful.  The bounty that they share is incredible.  Look at the haul I got from the first week share!!!!

I know!!

I make the trek to Woodbury, CT every Tuesday.  We are eating fresher and better than we ever have before.  My kiddos now know what kohlrabi and fairy eggplant taste like.  It's is fantastic!  You should all check out any CSAs in your area and eat locally grown food.  I like it because I know the people I am buying from.  I see little Madeleine and think that maybe my share helped get her latest clothes or pay for the doctor or whatever they need, rather than knowing it goes to some corporate chain to make the very rich richer.  I'll get off of my soapbox now.  

Anyhow, eggplant is very much in season.  We have purple eggplant, long purple and white, tiny (fairy) purple and white, green and white.  It is lovely.  I pickled the tiny ones - once I taste them and see if they are any good, I'll post the recipe.  Here is my favorite recipe for ratatouille, and the salmon is fantastic, too. http://ahawker.blogspot.com/2012/06/baked-salmon-and-ratatouille-my-family.html

This dish was a huge hit with my family.  I made a lot hoping for leftovers.  There were none.
I guess that is good.
I guess.
If only they would stop eating for a little while...


2 pounds ground beef OR lamb (lamb is traditional, but spendy)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 good shake of cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored and chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste (I didn't actually measure this, I just used what was there)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (14 ounce or so ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano OR 2 Tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
3 Tablespoons honey

 canola oil
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut crosswise into about 14 slices

Bechamel Sauce:
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
zest of 1 lemon (optional, but really good)

For the meat:
Brown the meat in a large frying pan over high heat.  While cooking, add the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cayenne and salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until browned.
Drain the meat.
Add the onions and bell pepper and cook until the veggies are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.

Add the vinegar and deglaze the pan.  Add the tomatoes and honey and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer while you do the other stuff.  Add the parsley and oregano and more salt and pepper (if needed) right before you assemble the moussaka.

For the Eggplant:
Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium - high heat.  Season the eggplant slices on both sides with salt and pepper.  Working in batches, add the eggplant slices and fry until tender and lightly golden brown on both sides.  Transfer the eggplant slices to paper towels.

For the Béchamel:  
Melt most of the butter (you need about 1 Tablespoon to butter the casserole pan when you assemble the moussaka - melt the rest) in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until pale and smooth.  This goes pretty fast.  Still whisking, add the milk and bay leaf and cook until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper and discard the bay leaf.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cream cheese and lemon zest and whisk into the béchamel sauce until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Butter a 3 quart baking or casserole dish.

To assemble:  
Put half the eggplant slices in the dish and cover with half the meat sauce.  Top the sauce with the remaining eggplant slices, and then the remaining meat sauce.  Pour the béchamel over the top of the meat sauce and spread evenly with a spatula.  Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.

Bake until browned and bubbly.  If your pan is really full, put it on a baking sheet because - you know - bubbly.

The aforementioned baking should take about 45 to 50 minutes.

Let it cool for about 15 - 20 minutes before serving.

Hopefully you will have leftovers because it is even better the next day.
I think.
I wouldn't know.
Because my kiddos are like a plague of locusts.