Monday, August 27, 2012

Moussaka Makeover

Today was the first day of classes for the new semester. Oy, I have a funky schedule! Part of that, though, allows me to get in some dedicated study time and sneak in some time for a few other activities in which I'm involved.

As part of my plan to be prepared for lunches, this big pan of moussaka left us plenty of leftovers. While I type this, I already have a serving packed in my lunch container with a side of fresh red pepper strips and a handful of dates for a sweet treat.

This rings in at about 330 calories per entree serving, which is 1/6 of a 9x13 pan. Amazing what can happen without oodles of butter, white flour and whole milk.

I love, love, love moussaka. It's not something I make often, mostly because of the rich, creamy bechamel. Of course, that lush topping has always been one of my favorite parts of the dish. When we found some more of those amazing, heirloom eggplants at the farmer's market and already had some local, organic lamb in the freezer, I knew moussaka had to happen. I just had to figure out a lighter approach.  The solution should have been the most obvious thing around... plain ol' Greek yogurt! Yes, my favorite standby comes to my rescue once again. How this hasn't occurred to me in the last 10 years of using yogurt for pretty much everything is beyond me, but there you have it. Maybe our knives are sharper than I am (they are sharp). After some research, it turns out that the Serbians have been using yogurt the whole time. Clearly, they know what's what.

Lighter Moussaka (6 entrée portions)
  • 4 medium potatoes (I prefer waxy varieties, such as red potatoes, especially since I leave the skin on)
  • 1 large eggplant, large summer squash, or any mixture of the two
  • 1 Tbl. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. ground lamb (or beef, but lamb is so much tastier!)
  • 1 22 oz. can tomatoes w/ juice or 2 c. chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. red wine (optional)
  • 1 Tbl. fresh, chopped parsley (or 1 tsp. dry)
  • 1 Tbl. fresh, chopped oregano (or 1 tsp. dry)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. allspice (fresh ground, if available)
  • 1 c. nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil mister or cooking spray
  • 1/4 c. finely grated parmesan cheese
Scrub potatoes with a vegetable brush to remove dirt, paying particular attention to the eyes and any other little divots. Place in a small pot filled cool water and bring to a boil. Add approx. 1 tsp. of salt to the water and simmer for approx. 20 minutes, until just able to pierce with a fork. Drain and let cool. Once cooled, cut into approx. 1/4" slices.

If using squash, slice it about 1/4" thick and set aside. Trim bottom and top of eggplant. Lay eggplant slices onto a rack over a pan to catch the juices and salt both sides liberally. Let drain approx. 30 minutes, turning once halfway through.

Once finished draining, you will notice some moisture has still pooled on the eggplant. Rinse and dry in a clean towel, gently pressing the moisture out. This helps eliminate bitterness and a mushy texture.

While the eggplant is draining, add olive oil to a hot skillet, followed by the onion at the first wisp of smoke. Sautée onion until lightly caramelized and add lamb, breaking apart with a wooden spoon. Add 1 tsp. of salt. and a grind or two of fresh pepper. Cook until the lamb is browned, then drain off the fat into a fat separator and set aside for a few moments to separate. If you don't have a fat separator, pour into a shallow bowl for about 15 minutes until the fat floats to the top and hardens. Skim the fat and pour the juices back into the pan. Add tomatoes, wine, herbs, cinnamon and allspice. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes until tomatoes are softened and the liquid has reduced by approx. 1/3. Adjust seasoning to taste after reduced.

In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt and egg (the egg is optional, but gives it more structure).

In a 9x13 baking dish sprayed with olive oil or cooking spray, line the bottom of the pan with potato slices and add half of the meat and tomato mixture on top. Add a layer of eggplant and/or summer squash (We had a couple small yellow squash I added in between eggplant slices). Add the remaining meat and tomato mixture. Pour yogurt mixture on top, spreading as evenly as possible, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Bake at 375 F for approx. 35 minutes, or until bubbly and the cheese is golden brown.


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