I’m Back! But Beto’s Cooking . . . .

Yippee!  I’m almost off my drowsy-making pain medications and my mind is clear enough to get back to blogging.  However,  although I’ve become a wheeling maniac on my walker, cooking anything more complicated than oatmeal is out of the question for a while.  But thanks to the Olympic gods of the Old Romans, or whatever other Powers-That-Be you might prefer, my dear husband, who loves to cook, has stepped in and taken on the duties of Italian chef at Casa Renteria.

Here’s a simple and popular dish that you would find on almost any Italian menu: Veal Piccata.  He got the recipe from a cookbook he recently bought because he “liked the pictures.”  I don’t know why he thought we needed  another Italian cookbook, but I suspect that he liked the look of the gorgeous Italian babe on the front cover.  The cookbook is called Skinny Italian, by Teresa Giudice, who, I’m embarrassed to say, is apparently one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey from the Reality TV show.  (Please don’t give up on my blog when you hear this; I promise that tomorrow’s recipe will be from a much more respectable source, but what can I do?  I’m at the mercy of my sweet husband . . . .   Besides,  this recipe is simple and delicious.)

Voluptuous Veal Piccata

  • 1 lb. veal scaloppine cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour (we used gluten free baking mix)
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 1 cup dry white wine (Beto went his own way and used gewurtztraminer because he wanted to “balance the tartness of the capers.”
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. drained capers
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

1.  Pound the veal cutlets with the flat side of a meat pounder until they are about 1/4 inch thick.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spread flour on a large plate. Coat both sides of the veal cutlets in flour and shake to remove excess.

2.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  In batches, without crowding, add the cutlets to the pan and cook 1 minute on each side until golden brown. Add more oil if necessary.  Remove veal from pan and set aside.

3.  Add wine to skillet and bring to a boil, scraping any brown bits on bottom of pan with a wooden spoon.  Boil until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.  Add butter, lemon juice, capers, garlic and parsley. Remove veal to the pan and cook, turning veal in the pan to coat with sauce, until veal is tender, about  minute, and serve hot.

This was delicious the way Beto adapted it.  He served it with white rice and green salad.

Coming soon:  Neapolitan Baked Peppers!


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Christmas Eve Feast or Shabbat Dinner Italian Style

What do Italians eat on Christmas?  I have no idea, but we had a feast with a big hunk of beef cooked in Italian red wine, a creamy cabbage risotto, and a simple salad with a new twist — fresh, sliced fennel bulb.  We weren’t actually celebrating Christmas, either, because we’re Jewish by religion, but we were eating our weekly celebratory meal of Friday  Shabbat.

One thing I realized too late is that although this recipe for beef was simple and delicious, it is too much like the recipe I cooked earlier for Bolognese Meat Sauce, and I like to try new things.  The next Italian cooking that I post (which may be late next month) I promise will provide new and interesting cooking experiences and novel taste sensations.

Beef Braised in Barolo Wine/ Manzo al Barolo

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 to 3 and 1/2 lbs. beef bottom round or chuck
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • Pinch of dried leaf  thyme
  • 4 to 5 cups Barolo wine or any full-bodied red wine
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb. small white mushrooms

1)  Rub garlic into meat and season meat with salt and pepper. Place in a large bowl or container. Add bay leaves, thyme, and enough wine to cover meat. Cover container and refrigerate over night. (I marinated 7 and 1/2 hours, putting it refrigerator in the morning for the evening meal and it did fine)

2) Drain meat, reserving marinade.  Dry meat with paper towels.  Melt 2 Tbs. butter with oil in a large heavy casserole or pot.  When butter foams, add meat.  Brown meat on all sides over medium heat.  Remove meat from pot.  Add onion, carrot, and celery to pot and saute until onion is translucent.

3) Return meat to the pot and pour reserved marinade through a strainer over the meat.  Cover the pot, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Turn and baste meat often as it cooks.

4) Dust mushrooms thoroughly and slice thin.  Melt 1 Tbs. butter in a medium skillet Saute mushrooms over high heat until golden.  Add mushrooms to meat and cook 5 minutes longer.

5)  Place meat on a cutting board and cool 5 minutes.  If sauce is too thin, cook uncovered over high heat 5 to 10 minutes.  Slice meat and arrange on a warm platter.  Taste and adjust sauce for seasoning, then spoon over meat.  Serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.  (At my house, with 3 adult appetites plus Lucas the Human Eating Machine, it was all gone in 10 minutes.)

(This recipe, with slight modifications, is from HP Books’ Northern Italian Cooking, by Biba Caggiano, as is the following recipe.)

Mixed Salad/ Insalata Mista

  • 1 large fennel
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large green or red sweet pepper
  • 1 small head of lettuce (butter lettuce looks and tastes great here)
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • Salt to taste
  • 3-4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar      (Frankly, I put more vinegar and less oil)

1)  Cut off long stalks and bruised leaves from fennel.  Slice end off bulbous base.  Wash and dry fennel, cut into quarters, then horizontally into thin slices.

2)  Cut carrots into thin rounds.  Cut pepper in half, remove pith and seeds, and cut into very thin strips.   Tear clean lettuce into medium pieces.  Cut the tomatoes into slices.

3) Place all the pieces into a salad bowl.   When ready to serve, add oil and vinegar, salt to taste, toss gently, and serve slightly chilled.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Risotto with Cabbage and Beans/ Risotto Alla Valtellinese from Lombardy

  • 1 cup lima beans, fresh or frozen or 1 can navy or other white bean
  • 1 medium cabbage, shredded
  • 1 and 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • few sage leaves, chopped
  • (optional: instead of butter and sage, I used vegetarian bouillon cubes in the cooking water, to cut down on dairy and fat).
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper

1) If using fresh lima beans, parboil for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain.

2) Put the shredded cabbage, rice, and a little salt in a large heavy pan and cover with water (or broth)  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Keep a small pan of broth or water on the side, keeping it warm, to add bit by bit when the risotto has absorbed all the liquid. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking and burning. Add the beans and whatever liquid is needed and cook for another 10 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Watch for overcooking — you don’t want mush instead of creamy risotto.

3) Drain rice and vegetables if necessary and spoon into a warmed serving dish.  Melt the butter in a small pan with the sage and pour over the rice (if not using broth)   Add the Parmesan and a little pepper and fold gently to mix.  Serve immediately.   Serves 4 to 6.

(I adapted this recipe from one in The Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking, ed. Jeni Wright)


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Ah Polenta . . . .

As a gluten free cook, I’m always on the look-out for a regional cooking style that relies on grains other than wheat, so when I recently read that northern Italians are fond of using corn in their recipes, I was excited.  Up until that point, I had only eaten polenta in restaurants or sliced it pre-made out of the regrigerator.   I found what looked like an easy recipe for polenta, and started stirring the cornmeal into the water,  just like it said,  slowly.  Little did I know that before long my arm would be falling off and I would need to recruit the muscle man in my family — Lucas — who spent a half an hour perched on the counter with his headphones on, stirring that stuff until it was thick enough to pour out onto a platter.  So if you plan to make this dish, make sure you’re in good shape, have lots of time, or that you have a surrogate with big arm muscles.  (Yeah, I know, I’m  a wimp.) But it is well worth it — creamy, delicious polenta that looks beautiful on the table.

Our dinner tonight included Polenta with Bolognese Meat Sauce, Cauliflower Winter Salad, and Oranges in Liqueur for dessert, all recipes courtesy of HP Books’ Northern Italian Cooking, by  Biba Caggiano, and slightly modified by me.    The orange dessert is a perfect choice for this meal, particularly this time of year when oranges are so sweet and plentiful.

I recommend making the Cauliflower Salad first so it has time to chill, then do the meat sauce which needs to cook a while,  then make the polenta, and last the orange dessert.

Caulifower Salad/ Cavolfiore in Insalata

  • 1 (2 to 2 and 1/2 lb) caulifower
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • (optional)  10 or so cherry tomatoes, halved.

1) Remove leaves from cauliflower and slice it in half through the stem.  Fill a large saucepan two-thirds full with water and bring to a boil.  Add caulifower and cook over high heat 15 minutes (or slightly more — better to under cook than over cook).  Drain in a colander. Cool.  Detach florets from cauliflower and place in a salad bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add oil and vinegar and optional tomatoes.  Toss gently.  Serve cold or at room temperature.  6 servings.

Bolognese Meat Sauce/ Ragú alla Bolognese .

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1/4 lb. pancetta, finely chopped (available in deli section, or use bacon.
  • 1 to 1 and 1/2 lbs. veal, or any ground meat. (I used a blend of turkey and beef, which tasted great.)
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed Italian-style tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup milk ( I used lactose free milk)

1)  Melt butter with oil in a large saucepan.  When butter foams, add onion, carrot, celery and pancetta.  Saute over medium heat until lightly browned.

2)  Add meat.  Cook and stir until meat is no longer pink.  Season with salt and pepper.  Increase heat and stir in wine.  Cook until wine has evaporated.

3)  Stir tomatoes into mixture.  Cover and reduce heat.  Simmer 1 – 1 and 1/2 hours or until sauce reaches a medium thick consistency, stirring occasionally.  Add milk and cook 5 minutes longer.   Makes 2 and 1/2 to 3 cups sauce, which can be used on the polenta or on gf pasta.

Basic Polenta

  • 9 cups water
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 3 cups polenta style corn meal (coarse-grained cornmeal)

1)  Bring water to a boil in a large, heavy pot.  Add salt and reduce heat until water is simmering.

2) Take cornmeal by the handful and add to water very slowly, controlling the flow to a thin stream, letting it out through the bottom of your fist.  To avoid lumps, stir quickly with a long-handled wooden spoon while adding cornmeal. If necessary because of lumping, stop adding cornmeal from time to time and beat mixture vigorously. Cook, stirring constantly, 20 to 30 minutes (!!!)  Polenta will become very thick while cooking, but it is not done until it starts coming more or less cleanly away from the sides of the pot.

3)  Pour polenta onto a large wooden board or a large platter.  Wet your hands and smooth the polenta out evenly about 2 inches thick.  Let it cool 5 to 10 minutes until it solidifies.

4) Cut into 1 x 6 inch slices and place on individual dishes, or slice it up, leave the pieces together on the platter, and pour the sauce over it all and serve for a pleasing presentation.   Tastes best warm or hot rather than cold.

Oranges in Liqueur/Arance al Liquore

  • Zest of one orange, using a zester ( if you don’t have one, get one; it’s not a frivolous gadget but a huge time saver)
  • 6 large oranges
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Cointreau or brandy
  • Juice of one orange

1)  Peel the oranges, getting as much of the white inner peel off as possible. I cut off both ends of the orange, then cut through the peel from end to end in several places — just through the peel, not the juice part of orange (a trick I learned from a Chilean guy I met on  a Barcelona train a long, long time ago).

2) Cut oranges into 1/3 inch thick slices, remove seeds, and arrange slices slightly overlapping on a large platter or in individual dishes.  Sprinkle oranges with walnuts and set aside.

3)  Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Stir in sugar, orange zest and liquor.  Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolve.  Add orange juice.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is a medium-thick consistency.  Spoon over oranges and serve.  Makes 6 – 8 servings.


 

 

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Two Dishes From Liguria

Liguria is a  northwest region of Italy that curves along the coast, above Corsica, with France to the west and the city of  Genoa at its heart.  Here I offer two lovely , relatively simple dishes from this region, which go well together.  I had the new experience of cooking fresh garbanzo beans and having to remove the pale little peels once they were cooked — a bit laborious, but really, these are so much better than canned chickpeas.  And since A.J.’s didn’t have fresh porcini mushrooms, I had to use dried, but it worked out fine, although if I ever see fresh porcini, I will snatch them up and make this recipe again.

Ceci a Zimino Chickpeas in Zimino Sauce

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas (about 1/2 lb.) picked over and soaked in water to cover overnight.
  • 3/4 lb beets, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1/2 lb. ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, with the juices included.
  • Salt to taste

1)  Drain the chickpeas from their soaking water and place in a medium size saucepan with several inches of water to cover.  Bring to a boil and cook over medium high heat until soft but not breaking apart, about 3 hours, uncovered or partially covered.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the chickpea cooking water.  Set the chickpeas aside after gently rubbing off as much of their thin white skins as possible.

2)  Place the whole, unpeeled beets, with 1 inch of their stems, in a medium size pot of water to cover and bring to a boil.  Let boil until easily pierced with a  skewer, about 45 minutes.  Drain, trim off stem, peel, and dice.  Set aside.

3)  In a large nonreactive skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat, then cook the onion and celery until softened, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Reduce the heat to medium low, add the tomato paste and tomatoes with their juices, and cook until some of the water has evaporated, about 10 minutes, stirring a few times.  Add the chickpeas and their reserved liquid and cook another 10 minutes.  Add the beets and cook until heated through, an additional 10 minutes, seasoning with salt.  Gently turn several times to mix the ingredients and serve.

The preceding recipe is from Clifford A Wright’s Mediterranean Feast as is the following recipe:

Tagliarini con Funghi Porcini alla Ligure Taglariani pasta with Porcini Mushrooms, Liguria style

Of course, we gluten free folks have to make do with the best pasta we can find that approximates the “real” Italian thing, but those of you who are not gf can try to find tagliarini which is a pasta in between the size of capellini and spaghettini.  – I didn’t know there was anything smaller than spaghettini!  So  much to learn, so little time . . . . but I am so enjoying my cooking these days.

  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled (not cut)
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 large ripe tomato (about 1/2 lb.) peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 lb. porcini mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced (or two 5 oz packs of dried porcini mushrooms.)
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbs. dry white or rose wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  • Dried pasta, enough  for four people

1)  If using dried porcini mushrooms, soak them in warm water for 15 minutes and drain, reserving some of the liquid for adding to the sauce later if it requires liquid. (see step 2)

2)   In a skillet, heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil over medium heat with the butter and garlic until the butter melts.  Add the parsley and oregano and stir. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until dense, about 30 minutes, adding small amounts of water (or porcini liquid)  if necessary to keep it from getting too thick.

2)  Meanwhile, in another skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbs. of olive oil over medium heat and cook the porcini, seasoned with salt and pepper, until the greener parts of the porcini look like they are melting, about 6-8 minutes. (In the case of the dried porcini, don’t worry about the “green,” just cook them about 6 minutes). Deglaze the skillet by pouring in the wine and scraping the bottom.  Transfer the porcini to the first skillet and correct the seasoning.

4)  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of abundantly salted water to a vigorous boil and add the pasta.  Cook until al dente and drain well.  Mix the pasta with half the Parmigiano-Reggiano and half the sauce.  Transfer to a serving platter and pour the remaining sauce over it and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

 

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Italia: You Have to Try this Meal!

Yesterday, when I told my husband I was going to start cooking Italian recipes, he got this pleading look on his face and said, “Could we please stay there more than a week? I love Italian food!”  So how could I resist?   Besides, I had already decided to do Italian for a month.

Tonight, I made one of my old favorites paired with a new favorite.  The first  is a recipe from the Basilicata region of Italy — a rural, isolated area in the south — and is a very simple, peasant style roast chicken with peppers.  The contrasting colors of the peppers make this a beautiful dish, and I must say that the chicken was so good roasted this way that I ate the chicken skin for the first time in years because I couldn’t help myself. (Don’t want to see my cholesterol numbers this week . . . )

The other is a spinach dish from Rome with pine nuts and raisins that I adore — I could eat it all day.  It goes very well with the chicken dish, and I had some leftover Spanish potato tortilla that my husband made this weekend, which I served as accompaniment.   A very satisfying dinner, if I do say so myself.

Pollo con Peperoni Chicken with Peppers

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • One 4-5 lb. free-range chicken
  • 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1  yellow bell pepper

1) In a small bowl, toss the chopped garlic, parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper together.  Coat the chicken inside and out with this mixture and set aside in refrigerator for 1 hour.

2) Preheat the oven to 350  degrees F.  Roast the chicken until golden brown and the leg joints are pliable, about 70 minutes.

2a) An alternative way to do this, which will roast the chicken beautifully, (this is straight from Julia Child, so listen up!)  is to start with a 425 degrees oven and place the chicken breast side up.  Then baste chicken every 10 minutes or so with the meat juices at bottom of the pan (add water to the bottom of the roasting pan to keep it from smoking too much)  and turn chicken from side to side as you go so that the skin turns golden evenly.  After the first 30 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees F.  and continue to baste  every 10 minutes  until the chicken leg joints move easily. [Remember not to take too long basting, so that you don't let all the heat out of the oven every time you do it. ] Transfer to a serving platter.

3) Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high heat and cook the crushed garlic until it’s brown (about 1 minute) and then discard. Lower heat to medium and cook the peppers, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes.  Then cover the cooked chicken with peppers and serve.

The above recipe is from Clifford A. Wright’s Mediterranean Feast, except for part 2a which is adapted from Julia Child’s How to Cook.

Spinaci a la Romana Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

  • 2 lbs. fresh spinach
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced (not diced)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup raisins, soaked in lukewarm water for 15 minutes and drained.
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

1)  Wash the spinach, then cook in a large, heavy pan with only the water that is clinging to the leaves, until just tender.  Drain well and squeeze out any excess water.

2) Heat the butter and oil in a heavy pan.  Add the garlic slices and fry gently until browned, then discard.

3) Add the pine nuts and drained raisins and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, then add salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe is from The Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking, editor Jeni Wright and Consultant Giovanni Parmigiani with several other authors.

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Please Give Me a Break, Dear Readers

I was an idiot, I admit it, to think that I could cook 416 recipes, let alone type them into this blog, in one year. So please forgive and FORGET.

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Mixed Reviews on Moussaka

As promised, I have cooked the well-known Greek specialty, Moussaka, and my family has mixed feelings about the dish.  For me, it was too much work for a result that was hearty, flavorful, and interesting but not  spectacular, and which provided no more than satisfied grunts from the menfolk.  For me to work that hard, and dirty up that many dishes, I need more than animal noises from the diners.

However, I must confess that out of several recipes that I had available, I chose the simplest one rather than the one that looked the most delicious — simple laziness, or in less self-deprecating terms, exhaustion.    At any rate,  I have decided to include two recipes here, and you can take your pick.  I fully intend to cook the more complicated one at a later date, because it looks delicious and probably has less fat than the other.

But before I launch into the recipes, a little history. The origins of moussaka are mired in mystery, according to Clifford A. Wright author of The Mediterranean Feast, but it is probably originally an Arab dish since it was the Arabs who introduced the eggplant to Greece.  The Palestinians have a very similar dish called “musakhkan.”

Here is Wright’s more complicated recipe, slightly modified by me:

Melitzanes Mousakas (Greece) Eggplant Moussaka

  • 3 lbs. eggplant, sliced 1/3 inch thick
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 large tomato (about 1/2 lb.), peeled, seeded, diced
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground allspice berries
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large egg whites (save yolks for sauce) beaten to form stiff peaks
  • 2 Tbs. dried (gluten free) bread crumbs

For the White Sauce

  • 9 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 9 Tbs. flour (I would use Pamela’s GF Baking and Pancake mix which has worked well for me in white sauces.)
  • 3 cups milk (I used lactose free milk)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated kefalotyri or kashkaval cheese
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large egg yolks

To Finish the Moussaka:

  • 1 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbs. dried GF bread crumbs

1)  Lay the eggplant slices on some paper towels and sprinkle with salt.  Leave them to release their bitter juices for 30 minutes, then pat dry with paper towels.

2) Heat a lightly oiled cast-iron griddle over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Brush each slice of eggplant on both sides with olive oil and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes a side.  Brush and cook the remaining slices.  REmove and set aside on a paper towel-lined platter to absorb more of the oil.

3)  In a medium-size skillet, brown the lamb over medium heat until it loses most of its fat, about 10 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon, pressing down each scoop with the back of a spoon to squeeze out more fat.  Clean skillet, then heat the olive oil over medium high heat and cook the onion and garlic until translucent, 5-10 minutes, taking care the garlic doesn’t burn.  Add the meat and crumble it further with spoon.  Add the wine, tomato, parsley, oregano, bay leaf, cloves, sugar, cinnamon stick, allspice, and salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, then cook until the meat is soft and flavorful, about 30 minutes.  Remove and discard the bay leaf and cinnamon stick.  Cool the mixture and then fold in the beaten egg whites and 2 Tbs. bread crumbs and blend well.

4)  Make a thick white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Form a roux by stirring in the flour and cook until very light golden, about 3 minutes.  Take the saucepan off the heat and slowly whisk in the milk.  Return to a medium heat and cook until thick, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding the grated cheese at some point.  Reduce the heat if it is bubbling.  Stir in some grated nutmeg and the egg yolks.  Turn heat off.

5)  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9×12-2 inch baking dish and sprinkle 1 Tbs. of the bread crubs over the bottom, shaking and tilting the dish so all sides are lightly coated with bread crumbs.  Line the bottom of the baking dish with two layers of eggplant slices, cover with the meat sauce, and later the remaining eggplant slices on top.  Cover with the white sauce and then sprinkle the remaining 1 TBS. of bread crumbs ont top.  Bake until the top is golden, almost 30 minutes.  Remove from oven.  As there still may be a good deal of fat remaining, cut out a 2-inch section from the moussaka in one of the corners then rest the baking dish in a tilted position so that the liquid runs to the corner.  Spoon out the liquid fat and then continue to let the fat run into the corner for another 30 minutes.  Place the moussaka in a warm oven until ready to serve.

Makes 6 servings.

 

Moussaka from Greek Cooking for the Gods, by Eva Zane, with slight modifications

  • 3 eggplants
  • 2 lbs. ground lamb or ground beef
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • cinnamon
  • nutmet
  • 1/2 tsp fines herbes
  • 2 Tbs fresh parsley
  • 1 can tomato sauce (8 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • salt and pepper
  • grated cheese  ( I used a blend of well-aged Spanish goat cheese and our favorite Irish Dubliner cheese because of our dairy intolerance.)
  • Bechamel, or White Sauce (see below)

For White/Bechamel Sauce

  • 4 cups hot milk
  • 6 Tbs. GF flour (I used Pamela’s GF baking mix)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • salt and white pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg

Melt butter in pan, add flour, stir until smooth. Lower heat and gradually add hot milk, stirring constantly until it thickens.  Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg.

Main Recipe

1) Peel and cut eggplant lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices.  Sprinkle with salt and set aside to drain on paper towels to absorb moisture.

2) Meanwhile, prepare the meat sauce.  Saute ground meat in butter with salt, pepper, onions, and garlic , crumbling the meat with a  fork.  When the meat is evenly browned, add 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, fines herbes, parsley, and tomato sauce; stir, mix well, add wine, and simmer for 20 minutes.

3) Wipe the salted eggplant; lightly oil skillet with pastry brush (or spray oil from can) and quick fry the eggplant over very high heat; lay on paper towels to drain.  In a greased 9x13x2 inch baking pan, place a layer of eggplant, top with meat mixture, sprinkle with grated cheese, cover with the remaining eggplant, sprinkle with grated cheese again, and cover with bechamel sauce.  [ I think this was too much sauce and made the dish too wet -- perhaps use only about 3 cups of that sauce]  Top moussaka lavishly with grated cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Allow to cool and then cut into 3 inch squares.

Let me know if you try this and tell me what you think, please!  I will also report back when I try the first recipe, maybe later this weekend.


 

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