Rather than fry or saute the eggplant, I usually grill, broil or bake my eggplant. It's much less messy to prepare it that way than cooking it on the stovetop (and I'm all for less messy). Also, when frying or sauteing eggplant, it sucks up olive oil like a sponge and you need to constantly keep adding oil to your frying pan. I grilled the eggplant for this evening's version. I sliced it in 1/4-inch thick slices and brushed it with olive oil, seasoned with a little salt and pepper and then grilled it for a few minutes on each side until tender. The most important tip is to make sure you don't add lots of tomato sauce. This isn't Italian food...you don't want "tomato sauce with meat"...you want "meat with a little tomato sauce"...just enough to moisten and flavor. The flavors in this dish are unique if you aren't familiar with middle eastern food. I like adding a dash of allspice to my meat mixture, but hubby finds the taste of cloves (in the allspice) a bit too much...so I just add cinnamon, salt and black pepper. The béchamel sauce has a touch of nutmeg.
Traditional béchamel sauce is made with butter, flour and milk. The flour and butter is combined to make a roux and the milk is added and cooked until thickened before adding cheese, etc. In my grain-free moussaka, I created my own grain-free version of béchamel using ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese and a bit of heavy cream. It's amazing how much the taste and texture is spot on. I've also made the sauce without adding cream for a thicker béchamel, particularly when I make my "Mini Stuffed Moussaka Boats" because I need the béchamel to be super thick so it stays on top and doesn't run off. Cinnamon and nutmeg are not spices commonly associated with flavors used in savory dishes...but its actually quite popular in many Mediterranean type dishes. I like to serve Moussaka with a fresh green salad. I used to eat it alongside rice (pilaf), but these days, I just stick with the green salad and really don't miss the rice (or the carbs). I snapped a few photos below as well as the recipe. Enjoy!
|Popped into the oven and ready to bake
3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream, optional
***Note: Even though 8 ounces of tomato sauce is not much, the tomato sauce is only used to flavor the meat and keep it moist; it isn't supposed to be like lasagna meat sauce. If you prefer not to add cinnamon to the meat mixture, you may omit it; however it is the unique flavor that "makes this dish" and gives it authentic flavor. Be sure to cook eggplant slices until completely tender (this is not a vegetable that is pleasant undercooked unless you like chewing on erasers).