Eggplant generally does pretty well in our garden; and when there’s lots of eggplant coming in, then it’s time to make Moussaka. It tastes wonderful, and it’s a good dish for a crowd – you can prepare it ahead of time and bake just before serving.
Moussaka is a something like a shepherd’s pie but made with ground meat, eggplant, tomato, seasonings and covered with a creamy bechamel sauce.
Some folks think that they don’t like eggplant, but it takes on the flavor of whatever you’re cooking with it. It really doesn’t have much flavor of its own.
I learned this early when my great-grandmother was stretching a small amount of ground beef into a meal by adding eggplant to make eggplant hamburgers.
I watched as she made them and informed her that I wasn’t eating those hamburgers, they couldn’t possibly taste good. She said I had to try some, then if I didn’t like it she’d make me something else.
I was shocked – those were the best-tasting hamburgers I’d ever tasted! Talk about the magic of grandma’s cooking. From that day on, I’ve always liked eggplant.
The eggplant variety that we grow is the old open-pollinated heirloom Black Beauty. It’s one of the heirloom varieties that’s always done well for me in the garden – I’ve never tried a hybrid variety that I liked better. It invariably produces enough eggplant so that we can make lots of moussaka.
This recipe is adapted from The Victory Garden Cookbook, by Marian Morash. We like things a little spicy so I substituted jalapeno peppers for standard peppers – if you don’t like things spicy you might want to use regular peppers instead.
- 5 - 6 lb eggplant
- salt & freshly ground pepper
- 6 tablespoons good oil
- 7 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 2 jalapeno peppers minced fine
- 3 pounds ground lamb, beef, or veal; or a combination
- 4 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (or 3 cups tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste (omit if using sauce or crushed tomatoes)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried dill
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3 cups milk
- 4 egg yolks
- Wash and slice the eggplant into 3/8" slices. Brush slices with oil; salt & pepper the slices and broil until lightly browned on each side.
- While the eggplant is broiling, saute the onion, ground beef, and jalapeno until the meat loses color. If necessary, drain the fat from the pan. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste (or tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes), herbs, and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the mixture has thickened and reduced.
- Beat the eggs, and when the meat mixture has cooled, add the eggs and 3/4 cup of the Romano cheese.
- Oil an 11 x 16-inch casserole (or two casseroles of equivalent square inches) and put 1/3 of the eggplant slices in the bottom, cover with 1/2 the meat sauce, follow with another layer of eggplant, the remaining meat sauce, and top with the remaining eggplant.
Make the bechamel sauce for the top:
- Melt 6 tablespoons butter, stir in the flour, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the milk, bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking to make a smooth sauce. Add the remaining cheese and season to taste. Beat the egg yolks, stir in a small amount of hot sauce to warm them, then whisk the yolks into the sauce.
- Spread over the top eggplant layer, and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 45 - 60 minutes. Serves 12 - 15.