Occasionally I fall into these annoying culinary ruts...everything in my recipe box is boring, and nothing tickles my fancy.
Mom used to have the same problem. Back in her day, her choices were limited. She was not computer-savvy and Facebook foodie groups were not readily available (did they even exist yet?!). She loved watching Auntie Martha (Martha Stewart) and was a devoted subscriber to her monthly magazine. She would also rely on me to print off recipes from Martha Stewart Living's website, which she kept in a big binder in her kitchen for easy reference. But sometimes she wanted a change. That's when she turned to her girlfriends for dinner ideas...Nora and Ethel are fabulous cooks with their own large arsenals of recipes...
That's how we came to discover Nora's Meat Moussaka, which we think of as Mamela's (Mom in Yiddish) Moussaka.
Greek food has long been a favourite in our family, and my parents would often take us to the Danforth (aka Greek Town) for dinner at the Palace. We always started with Saganaki (cheese flambe), Taramosalata (salmon roe dip) and Greek Village Salad (no lettuce, to my dismay). Then onto main courses...while the boys restricted their dining to dairy and fish, Mom and I were the cheaters - she loved her calamari or veal chop and me...funny, I cannot remember what I would order, but it was likely the sole (my favourite fish ever).
Come to think of it, we never tried moussaka. I had no idea what it was...they described it as a Greek version of lasagna...but I already loved Italian lasagna and had no desire to try any other versions of it, thus it was never something I ordered.
When Mom made Nora's moussaka we were all pleasantly surprised. It was delicious! Bursting with flavour, and chock-full of so many ingredients, it was a meal all unto itself. It reminded me of Shepherd's Pie, only more flavourful.
Mom made it quite regularly, and we always devoured it. Years later, as I was flipping through My Golden Recipes, I came across a small square piece of paper from a large pad (3 inches thick) in Mom's kitchen. Every inch was covered in Mom's handwriting - it was entitled "MOUSSAKA - MEAT - NORA".
I made it for my family, holding my breath as I served it - you never know which new recipe is going to get the global thumbs down and a night of heckling about my bland culinary roots - but it was a hit. Carlo and the girls also loved this savoury version of Shepherd's pie.
The biggest "pro" with this dish is that it is a one-dish-dinner, but I don't make it too often, because it is time-consuming to prepare. But it is perfect if you make it ahead (it will keep in the fridge for a day or two before you actually cook it) and pop it in the oven on a cold winter night.
From my family to yours, I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do.
Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food. B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!
- 3 medium eggplants
- 5 tbsp salt
- 2 medium onions
- ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
- ½ bunch basil (or 1 tsp dried basil)
- 5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1½ lbs lean ground lamb
- 1¼ lbs lean ground veal (I just use 3 lbs of ground veal and omit the ground lamb)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 to 3 tbsp soya sauce
- fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
- salt (to taste)
- ½C olive oil
- 3½C thick tomato sauce
- 6 potatoes, peeled , boiled and mashed
Eggplant: Peel eggplant and cut in ½ inch thick slices. Soak in combination of 5 tbsp salt ice water for 1 hour. Drain and pat dry. Set oven to broil, and place drained eggplant slices on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Broil eggplant until browned.
Potatoes: peel potatoes and cut into smaller pieces. Boil potatoes, then mash (I use Osem chicken broth to mash mine).
Meat Filling: Peel onions and chop finely. Saute onions in vegetable oil, then add ground meat and brown. In a separate bowl, combine the tomato paste, soya sauce, parsley,basil, salt and pepper), then add mixture to ground meat and onions.
Preheat oven 350˚. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish. Starting with the tomato sauce, repeat layers in the following order: sauce, eggplant, meat mixture. When all layers are finished, top with a layer a mashed potatoes. Place Pyrex on a foil-lined cookie sheet (because it will likely bubble over) and bake for 25 to 40 minutes. Then broil for 5 minutes or until top is golden brown.