Thursday, July 28, 2011

Culinary Smack Down!!


The culinary SmackDown is BAaaaaaaack!

Our intrepid foodie, Intuitive Eggplant has revived a venerable bloggie tradition--the SMACKDown. An' cleverly, Eggie has chosen BATTLE EGGPLANT! ( to see who all is in fer the SMACK click over the Eggy's place.)

Lemme assure ya', the competition--it be's fierce! Wait--doan run off now, 'cause it is also friendly. Even iffin' ya doan feel moved to compete, thar's plenty of room to participate--post foodfotos at your blog of what ya' would LIKE to make or restaurants that DO make yore favorite eggplant dish. Or, jes' mebbe encourage the rest of us, root fer yore favorite entry, ply us'uns wif' the right wine to pair wif the dish--jes' come play along.

had planned to make Moussaka this weekend fer the SMACKDOWN, a layered Greek dish that is akin to lasagna --and I bought the ground lamb....

but mah garden done burnt up in this broilin' heat....

and now, I'se unexpectedly flying off to Cajun country to visit the cuzins, so I cain't cook! Thas' what happens when ya' procrastinate; another thang whirls into yore life. Anyhoo, this is mah Moussaka recipe, as I WOULD make it if I weren't headed off to pack.

We used to drive to the edge of the county to a little place that had the most marvelous Greek food--an' the ole Papa the Greek would come sit at yore Formica table fer a joke or two--an' send all manner of delectables to yore table to "jessa youa taste-ta deees".

Oh, we had grilled goat, spit roasted lamb, an syrupy sweet baklava. The herbs in the dishes grew along the edge of the gravel parking lot. Eggplant an' tomatoes grew in a chicken wire caged area behind the kitchen door. Thar' wuz an open stone roastin' pit next to the chicken coop garden. Everthang that sailed through the dinnin' room doors tasted like another world. But I never left wif'out a bite or two of the Moussaka.

Finally the day came when Papa the Greek bemoaned the state of the world: "What'sa gonna be deeees country? The young peee-pul, they no wanna cook-a. They eata outa paper cartons in their cars. My sons, three sons I have!--these sons? They no wanna cook. The first son, my son! How canna I say this? My son, heee's a gonna take heees family to Chicago. Some job! Whya he wanna be pushin' around de papers some fat ole buzzard puts on heees metal desk? Heee coulda be
here weeeth heees mama an' me keepin' this restaurant alive. He coulda carry on deees proud heritage! An my second son? 'Papa' he say, 'I don't like to cut the meat. I wanna sell insurance.' Insurance? What'sa dat? HERE is heees insurance. The world, eeetsa gone craaaa-gee. My heart, eeetsa so wounded. Every breath... I'ma dying now. My sons! "

Aunty mumbled somethin' empathetic. Then Uncle as't, "What about yore third son?"

"OH, dat boy, MY SON! Dat boy? Eees like heees ole man. He eeesa genius! A Real Eeeestate magnate. He gotta me hafa meel-yun dollars fer this rat hole."

Before they shut the doors fer good, Papa the Greek did share his Moussaka recipe wif' Aunty.

Peel three large eggplants and slice horizontally in 1/4 inch thick slices. Soak slices in a large bowl of salt water for 1 hour, drain water, soak slices again for 15 minutes in more salt water-drain an' dry on paper towels. ( ya' may need to put a plate on top to keep the slices submerged)

Brown two pounds of ground lean ground lamb in 1/4 C olive oil until just cooked--no pink showin'. Add in 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper.

In a separate pan saute one large yellow onion and two cloves of minced garlic in 1/4 c olive oil until translucent.

Stir in 6 tbs tomato paste into the onions an' add 1 tsp dried oregano, a bay leaf, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1 cup of water an' simmer fer 20 minutes. Then add in the lamb (drain oil away first) -- mixture should be thick--an' simmer another 5 minutes. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

Whisk together two eggs with 1/4 C water. Dip eggplant slices in egg wash then dredge the eggplant slices in a mixture of half flour, half fine breadcrumbs, then saute until jes' golden an' drain on brown paper bag.

Prepare a Bechamel sauce (any standard recipe for 3 cups) and add in 1/8th tsp of nutmeg.

To prepare the Moussaka casserole, lightly oil a baking dish, sprinkle bottom of dish with breadcrumbs, add a single layer of eggplant, then smooth a layer of the lamb mixture over it, sprinkle with 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, add another layer of eggplant/ meat/ then finish with the bechamel sauce on the top. Sprinkle with 1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 40 minutes--Moussaka should be golden brown on top. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes. Cut in 4 x 4 squares to serve. It is a rich dish. A simple green salad with mint vinaigrette* an' a hunk of crusty bread is all ya' need.

Note: use a baking dish that just holds the ingredients-- not overly roomy.

Some people put cinnamon in Moussaka. I'se tried it, but I like it best wif jes' the touch of allspice in the meat. Also, iffin' lamb ain't yore favorite, use lean beef.


* Mint vinaigrette recipe:

In a mortar smash one clove of garlic and crush with 1/2 tsp salt until ya' have a paste.

Add in a handful of fresh mint leaves an' a splash wif' olive oil, an' smash together wif' the pestle until ya have an emerald paste--add in 2/3 cup of olive oil, 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice. Blend in all in blender fer 10 -15 seconds. Taste fer salt. Should be piquant. If it seems too tart to ya' drizzle in another tbs of oil.

Good luck ever'body!!

Thanky to Eggy fer this wunnerful revival .


Intuitive Eggplant said...

Safe travels, Aunty. Thanks for your recipes, support for this little revival, and yet another fine tale (even if it be in whol 'nother dialect).

You are quite right that everyone can participate in the Smackdown in whatever fashion they choose. Welcome post up at my place:

Can I borrow "emerald paste" for a haiku sometime?

xoxo, eggy

Aunty Belle said...

Thanks Eggy!! dashing to catch plane--but hope ya have great turn out!!

Sure sure--Emerald paste is on loan.

LaDivaCucina said...

Moussaka is my all time fave dish and your Greek papa sounds like my Italian great grandmother! haha! Doesn't matter, its the same story. The mint vinaigrette sounds divine too. Good luck, I'm UP! Happy travelin' Aunty!

Buzz Kill said...

Lamb and eggplant is a classic middle eastern pairing. Interesting that you used allspice and nutmeg instead of cumin or tumeric. I wish you had time to make it because I know Uncle would have liked it.

moi said...

I'm half Italian, and I cook 24/7, so I know what your Greek buddy meant. Few of my girlfriends do anything beyond order take out. Shame.

This looks excellent, most especially the mint vinaigrette. I love mint in just about anything.

Hope you're enjoying your travels!

Intuitive Eggplant said...

Thanks again for contributing to the Smackdown, Aunty! Grumpy Granny, the new winner, has already announced the theme for August. Hope you can join in Battle Bacon!

Couscous & Consciousness said...

Oh yum - moussaka is one of my all time favourite dishes - I am definitely going to try your version. Thanks for sharing it :-)