Moussaka, a layered-eggplant casserole, is traditional fare at every Greek taverna.
Making moussaka brings back memories of delightful evenings in the Plaka district, a charming section of Athens with narrow winding streets filled with tiny restaurants and lots of good cheer.
The dish has hundreds of variations. Usually slices of eggplant and sometimes potatoes are sautéed and layered with a spiced-ground meat. The dish is topped with a white sauce flavored with Greek cheese or a yogurt sauce.
For this quick dinner, I have captured the flavors of a traditional moussaka and shortened the recipe by cutting the potatoes and eggplant into small pieces and cooking them separately to form the first layer. The spiced meat becomes the second layer and I topped the dish with yogurt and cheese.
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I used Greek feta cheese. It is white, crumbly and has a rich, tangy flavor. Traditional feta is made with sheep’s or goat’s milk, although today many manufacturers use cow’s milk. Grated Parmesan can also be used.
Moussaka is a meal in itself. If you wish, serve it with a salad and crusty whole grain bread.
• To save cleaning an extra pan, cook the potatoes and eggplant in a stove-to-oven casserole dish. Or use a regular skillet if the handle can go in the oven and will fit under the broiler.
• Preheat broiler.
• Start potatoes and eggplant.
• Make meat.
• Complete dish and place under broiler.
Wine suggestions: To be authentic, you might try retsina, a white Greek wine that literally has pine sap added; but it does taste piney, so it’s not for every taste.
½ pound red potatoes, washed and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 1¾ cups)
¾ pound eggplant, washed and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 4½ cups)
1 cup frozen diced/chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
¾ pound low-fat, ground beef (95 percent lean)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup water
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup nonfat, plain yogurt
2 ounces crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese (scant ½ cup)
1. Preheat broiler. Heat a stove-to-oven casserole dish or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat with olive oil spray. Add potatoes and eggplant, cover with a lid and sauté 15 minutes, turning the vegetables several times.
2. Meanwhile, heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with olive-oil spray. Sauté onion and garlic 1 minute. Add ground beef. Sauté 2 minutes breaking up the beef with a spoon. Mix tomato paste and water together and add to meat. Blend well. Add cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 1 minute. Set aside.
3. To assemble dish, add salt and pepper to taste to the potatoes and eggplant. If using a stove-to-oven casserole, spread the meat mixture evenly over the vegetables. Otherwise, spoon potatoes and eggplant into a casserole dish that can go under the broiler. Spread the meat evenly over the vegetables.
4. In either case, spoon yogurt evenly over meat and sprinkle feta cheese on top. Place under broiler for 5 minutes. It will become bubbly and a little brown. Remove and serve. Makes 2 servings.
Per serving: 556 calories (23 percent from fat), 14.3 g fat (6.4 g saturated, 4.8 g monounsaturated), 231 mg cholesterol, 55.5 g protein, 52.7 g carbohydrates, 10.2 g fiber, 606 mg sodium.
Linda Gassenheimer is the author of 14 cookbooks including her newest, “Fast and Flavorful-Great Diabetes Meals from Market to Table” and “The Flavors of the Florida Keys.” Email her at Linda@DinnerInMinutes.com.