Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mini Stuffed Moussaka Boats (Eggplants Stuffed w/ Moussaka)

Today was a pretty day here -- cool, breezy, and sunny on and off throughout the day.  Hubby had a meeting to attend most of the day, which left me time to shop and play around in the kitchen!  I decided to get a head start on dinner to have it ready beforehand so hubby and I could take our walk before dinner and it would be waiting for us when we got done.  I had 5 beautiful small Italian style eggplants that I wanted to do something with...so I decided to convert them into Mini Stuffed Moussaka Boats...Greek food is one of my favorites -- everything is so fresh. Instead of layering the moussaka in a casserole the traditional way, I decided to halve the small eggplants, roast them, scoop out the eggplant flesh and make the traditional meat filling, mixed in with the chopped eggplant pulp, some feta cheese and then stuff it all back into the hollowed out eggplant shells, top with my grain free "bechamel sauce" and bake.  I tossed in a couple handfuls of fresh grape tomatoes to roast along with the Mini Stuffed Moussaka Boats.  They turned out delicious and made a beautiful presentation when served.  I snapped a few photos below for you to see along with the recipe.  Enjoy!

Voila!
This is how it all began... 
Here's a closer peek...
Eggplants have been stuffed with the meat filling...waiting to be topped with "bechamel"...
Topped with the "bechamel" and sprinkled with Parmesan...ready to pop in the oven
Fresh out of the oven...


BOOM!


Mini Stuffed Moussaka Boats (Eggplants Stuffed w/ Moussaka)

INGREDIENTS
5 small Italian style eggplants (halved lengthwise)
Olive oil (as needed)
1 lb lean ground beef (or lamb)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 – 1 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about 1 cup)

“Bechamel” Cheese Sauce
1 lb. ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
Nutmeg, dash

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Lightly brush bottom of a 9" x 13” baking dish or similar sized casserole dish with olive oil and set aside.  Place halved eggplants on a baking sheet, cut side up; brush cut side with olive oil and season with salt to taste. Bake for 20 minutes or until flesh is fork tender.  Let cool for a few minutes until cool enough to handle.  Using a spoon, scoop out eggplant flesh, leaving a very thin wall of flesh against the eggplant's skin so they maintain their shape and can be stuffed. Chop the eggplant flesh and set aside (it will be added to the cooked meat mixture later).

In a large skillet, brown beef; add onions and cook stirring until the beef is no longer pink and the onions are soft and translucent; add garlic and cook a few minutes more.  Add tomato sauce, oregano, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste), black pepper (to taste) and fresh parsley; simmer uncovered about 10 minutes (you don’t want much liquid left).  When liquid is almost completely gone, remove from heat; cool for about 10 minutes while you prepare the bechamel sauce.  

Bechamel/Cheese Sauce:  In a medium bowl, whisk ricotta, eggs, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and dash of nutmeg together until smooth and well blended; add salt and pepper to taste, if desired (the Parmesan cheese is salty, so be careful not to over salt).  

Stir the feta cheese and the chopped cooked eggplant flesh into the meat mixture. Using a spoon, divide the filling evenly between the eggplant shells and fill until slightly mounded.  Place filled shells in prepared baking dish.  Spoon bechamel sauce on top of each filled eggplant half and lightly spread it to cover the meat filling.  Lightly sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese on top of each, if desired.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes.  If desired, run under the broiler for a few minutes to lightly brown the tops.  Let sit about 10 minutes or so to set.  Serves approximately 4 to 5. 


***Note:  Even though you may not think 8 ounces of tomato sauce is enough -- the tomato sauce is simply being used to flavor the meat and keep it moist -- it isn't supposed to be like lasagna's meat sauce.  If you don't like the idea of adding cinnamon to the meat mixture, you can omit it; however it is the unique flavor that I think "makes this dish".  Also, it is imperative to cook your eggplant until completely fork tender -- this is not a vegetable that is pleasant undercooked (unless you like chewing on erasers).







12 comments:

Patricia said...

ALL I CAN SAY IS WOW! Looks great and what a fun idea to have individual moussakas! mini moussaka mini moussaka mini moussaka - say that 3x fast!

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

LOL...too funny Patricia! That is definitely a tongue twister!!! It was definitely a different way to serve moussaka. Using the smaller eggplants was nice too...they are more tender and a bit sweeter, it seemed. We'll be having the leftovers for tomorrow night's dinner! :-)

CyberSis said...

Hi GGC,

You continue to out-do yourself! This looks absolutely wonderful and your "still-life" photo of the ingredients is over-the-top gorgeous!

This recipe is going to the head of my "queue" ... no, wait a minute ... I said that about the stuffed chicken cutlets ... no, wait ... what about those other recipes over there ... Well, I guess I'm going to have to start drawing straws, or something, to decide what to cook next! :-)

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

You are too funny Cybersis! A large part of how I decide what to make sometimes is based on what I find at the store -- what might be on sale at the time...or what looks exceptionally good at that moment. Of course sometimes it's driven by what I am in the mood for. So, maybe when you stumble upon unusually good looking eggplants...then that's the time to make these! Hope you are doing well. :-)

mark b. said...

There is no mention about when to add the eggplant meat that was scraped out after roasting:-) please help!

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Mark B.! Sorry about that -- I just added that -- stir in the cooked eggplant meat/flesh along with the feta cheese to the meat mixture before stuffing them. Hope that helps! :-)

Luana said...

Looks beautiful! I grew up eating moussaka and have been making it for years.

One thing I never put in the meat mixture is oregano. I know some do, but to me it's a detraction. For me, cinnamon is not optional, it's a must. If you have a bit of good red wine, it's good to add, too. I also add a small amount of allspice about 8-10 allspice berries that I crush and I add about 6-8 whole cloves, crushed well. I also add a bit of allspice and nutmeg to the b├ęchamel.

I do like doing the individual eggplant halves, as it's less work and the taste is very good.

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Luana! I too grew up eating Moussaka -- I've eaten it all my life and have had a number of different minor twists and variations (Greek style, Turkish style, etc.). Before watching my carbs and eliminating wheat, etc., I've made it with and without potatoes, too, etc. I love allspice added to the meat mixture, too. My mother used that in hers. When making traditional moussaka, we always added nutmeg to the bechamel sauce, too. Growing up, we never ate individual eggplant halves, only casserole style. Glad to know you are a "moussaka lover", too! :-)

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if these "yummies" can be made in advance and frozen? Would you cook it before freezing? Only once when serving it? Or just re-heating?

Lots of company coming and this would be a terrific dish to have frozen, ready to defrost and heat!

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi there -- I am guessing you could freeze them and reheat (I have never actually tried that though). If you decide to try that, I would probably prepare them to the stage of stuffing them (since the filling is pre-cooked) and then freeze them. I would make the bechamel/cheese sauce fresh and top the thawed "boats" with it prior to baking though. I just don't know if the sauce texture would change if you tried freezing and thawing that. If you decide to try it, let me know how it turns out. Also, I am thinking you might want to try a small batch first to see how they do after thawing (just in case you don't like how they handle freezing rather than being disappointed when serving your guests). :-)

Angela said...

This looks lovely--and you are so right about undercooked eggplant/erasers.

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Angela! LOL...it really is like that (erasers), isn't it! :-)