Quick Fix: Moussaka, a taste of Greece
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 sauteed 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.
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. It takes a few minutes longer to make this one-dish meal. The extra time is worth the effort.
To be authentic, you might try retsina, a white Greek wine that literally has pine sap added; but it does taste piny, so it's not for everybody.
Linda Gassenheimer is a food writer for the Miami Herald.
Olive oil cooking spray
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 or 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, to taste
1 cup nonfat, plain yogurt
2 ounces crumbled, reduced-fat feta cheese (scant ½ cup)
Heat the broiler. Heat a stove-to-oven casserole dish or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat with olive oil spray. Add the potatoes and eggplant, cover with a lid and saute for 15 minutes, turning the vegetables several times.
Meanwhile, heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with olive oil spray. Saute the onion and garlic for 1 minute.
Add the ground beef. Saute for 2 minutes, breaking up the beef with a spoon. Mix the tomato paste and water together and add to the meat. Blend well. Add the cinnamon, and season with and salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 minute. Set aside.
To assemble the dish, Season the potatoes and eggplant with salt and pepper. If using a stove-to-oven casserole, spread the meat mixture evenly over the vegetables. Otherwise, spoon the potatoes and eggplant into a casserole dish that can go under the broiler. Spread the meat evenly over the vegetables.
In either case, spoon the yogurt evenly over the meat and sprinkle the feta cheese on top. Place under the broiler for 5 minutes. It will become bubbly and a little brown. Remove and serve.
Makes 2 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 556 calories 14.3 grams fat (6.4 grams saturated), 231 milligrams cholesterol, 55.5 grams protein, 52.7 grams carbohydrates, 10.2 grams fiber, 606 milligrams sodium
Here are the ingredients you'll need for tonight's Dinner in Minutes.
To buy: ½ pound red potatoes, ¾ pound eggplant, ½ pound low-fat, ground beef (95 percent lean), 1 small can tomato paste, 8-ounce carton non-fat plain yogurt and 1 small package crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
Staples: Frozen diced/chopped onion, minced garlic, olive oil spray, ground cinnamon, salt and black peppercorns.
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.