Tuesday, January 12

Mmmmmm Moussaka

12 servings
Total cost: NY $ 21.26
Cost per serving: NY $1.77

It’s the time of year when you don’t mind having the oven on for hours, and having an all day kitchen project to occupy your time saves you from having to venture out into the frostbitten world.* Yet its also the beginning of January, a time when it seems almost everyone I know--and I think this says something about the ages and accompanying plunging metabolic rates of my intimates--is pledging themselves to a new diet, a new gym routine, or just “eating better” in general. Hmm, how to harmonize these two seemingly disparate impulses? Enter this moussaka.

A moussaka is something like a Greek version of lasagna, but with thin layers of eggplant instead of pasta. Hey, what’s that? It uses vegetables in place of white carbs? Eureka! A traditional moussaka recipe will call for lots of egg yolks and ground meats; this rendition eases up on both, making it kinder to both your wallet and your waistline. Don’t worry though, it still takes positively ages to make, and requires having the oven cranked on for most of it. (Well, if your oven is anything like the crappy one in our rental apartment that, though tiny, still takes almost an hour to preheat and steadfastly refuses to admit that temperatures between 425 and 325 exist, thus requiring constant toggling back and forth between temps to even approximate a steady 350 or 400 degree temperature. But I digress.) Accordingly, I submit to you that this moussaka, which will fill your kitchen with heady warming aromas and satisfy your cravings for stick to your ribs foodstuffs, is the perfect recipe for deepest January.

  • 4 eggplants (NY $7.68)
  • Salt (staple)
  • 5 tbsps olive oil (staple)
  • 3 cloves garlic (NY $0.29 for one head)
  • 1 large onion (NY $1.16)
  • 1 pound ground lamb (NY $5.99)
  • 1 tsp oregano (staple)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (staple)
  • ½ tsp all spice (staple)
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley (NY $1.16 for one bunch)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (staple)
  • 2 tbsps tomato paste (staple)
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (NY $1.19)
  • 4 tbsps butter (NY $0.51)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour (NY $0.10)
  • 2 ½ cups milk (staple, we used 1%)
  • ½ tsp nutmeg (staple)
  • Salt (staple)
  • White Pepper (staple)
  • 1 egg (NY $0.15)
  • 1 egg yolk (NY $0.15)
  • 8 oz. feta cheese (NY $2.88)
  • 3 tbsps parmesan cheese (staple)

I’ll tell you upfront that this is going to take awhile: you’ll want to start well in advance of when you actually anticipate eating. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/8 in to ¼ in thick slices, making sure to maintain even thickness. Salt and let stand about 45 minutes, then rinse. Tossing the slices into a colander works well for this. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350.

Pat eggplant slices dry, brush lightly with olive oil, and lay on baking sheets. Bake, in batches if need be, about 30 minutes. If your eggplant slices, despite your best efforts, end up varying in size, cook ones of about the same thickness at the same time, so you can remove them sooner or give them a bit more time depending on whether they’re thinner or thicker. Remove from baking sheets and set aside to cool. Just pile them up on a plate or in a deep bowl.

While eggplants are in the oven, cook the meat sauce layer. Mince the garlic and finely chop the onion, and cook in 1 tbsp of olive oil until fragrant and slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add lamb and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in oregano, cinnamon, all spice, parsley, Worcestershire, tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Cook uncovered until liquid has reduced by about 2/3rds, about 15 minutes. Cover and set aside while you prepare the next layer.

To prepare the béchamel layer, put milk in a small pot to warm. Melt butter in a larger pot, then add the flour, stirring vigorously, until well combined. Toast over low heat, stirring continuously, for about a minute. Remove the pot containing the butter/flour mixture from heat. Slowing add in the warmed milk, whisking to combine. You’ll get a bit of a work-out here (go ahead, count it towards that exercise resolution goal) as you need to whisk vigorously, and the béchamel is going to start to thicken up and fight back. Stay strong and have at it, you don’t want to let any lumps develop. Once you’ve got your thickened, smooth white sauce, whisk in the egg and egg yolk. Step back and admire the sunny lemony color of your completed béchamel.

And now for the assembly! (Some time will have passed at this point, and your kitchen should be nice and toasty warm at this point. Then again, so will you.) You can enlist a helper at this point if you feel like sharing the fun. If your idea of a helper needs to be opened with a corkscrew, I, for one, won’t judge. And if you own a dog, you’ll probably find that you have at least one volunteer poking curiously around the kitchen trying to find out where all the meaty-milky-eggy-eggplanty smells are coming from. Apparently, dogs dig eggplant. Who knew?

In a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish, lay down a layer of eggplant, just like you would if you were making a lasagna. Spoon some of the lamb mixture on top, followed by a layer of the béchamel. Crumble some of the feta on top of the béchamel, then grate about a tablespoon of parmesan across the top. Repeat! Once you get to the top of the dish, put down a deep layer of meat sauce, lay eggplant slices a top, then end with a thick layer of béchamel topped with the cheeses.

Bake, uncovered, until lightly browned on top, about 1 hour. Put your feet up while you wait, sip some of your “helper” if you like, and let someone else tackle the dishes. Once the moussaka comes out of the oven, let sit about 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Then, if you’re actually eating before 10 pm, pat yourself on the back.**

* Particularly if you have a LBUH to make the grocery shopping excursions for you. Heh heh.

** Or, have someone else do it for you, and make that “pat” into a “rub”. That was a lot of knifing and whisking!

Nutritional Info
Amount Per Serving

Calories 365.3Vitamin A 17.7 %Iron 11.4 %
Total Fat 24.5 gVitamin B-12 25.1 %Magnesium 11.9 %
Cholesterol 93.1 mgVitamin B-6 16.7 %Manganese 17.2 %
Sodium 2,734.4 mgVitamin C 16.5 %Niacin 20.0 %
Potassium 638.1 mgVitamin D 7.5 %Phosphorus 24.6 %
Total Carbohydrate 23.0 gVitamin E 5.8 %Riboflavin 27.2 %
Fiber 5.9 gCalcium 21.5 %Selenium 23.7 %
Sugars 4.6 gCopper 8.9 %Thiamin 15.2 %
Protein 15.0 gFolate 16.8 %Zinc 16.8 %


  1. Thanks for the heads up on the time consumption when making this. I am notorious for picking a recipe and expecting to eat within an hour.

  2. Definitely making some moussaka (for the first time) once the weather cools down enough to allow it. Thanks for such a detailed recipe. Anti-thanks for the photos which are making me ravenously hungry at 11pm. I really should have gone to bed earlier.

  3. This looks delicious. I love the breakdown of cost and nutritional values. Awesome!

  4. We have had moussaka on our to-do list since last summer when we had more eggplant than we knew what to do with. Beautiful recipe, and affordable even when we can't pick eggplant from the garden.

  5. Wow. Now I'm really hungry. I had never experienced moussaka until Thanksgiving, when my brother-in-law's girlfriend (still with me?) brought some. I begged her for the recipe and have made it since. Oh, man, what a delight. Your version sounds heavenly, and this dish would hit the spot right now in a major way.

  6. It's always difficult for me to cook eggplant perfectly. This looks yummy.

  7. Mouth-watering photos of a dish I love! I am vacatiously tasting and enjoying the aroma.

  8. Lovely! Moussaka must be in the air -- been seeing this recipe or versions of it everywhere, which is a great sign that I need to make it!!

  9. Hysterical. I made moussaka the same night. It did take a very long time, longer than expected. But it was delicious, and eaten before I remembered to photograph it!

  10. Cold weather must call for moussaka. My husband made this recently too. It does take a lot of time but is well worth it. Your detailed description puts mine to shame. But in my defense, I'm not the main cook; I just eat and try to follow my husband around the kitchen!


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