Tag Archives: Greek taverna

Rethink Beef Global Recipe Swap Campaign: Moussaka

Moussaka
Moussaka

I have been invited by www.thinkbeef.ca to participate, as one of ten food bloggers from across Canada, in the Rethink Beef Global Recipe Swap Campaign to promote recipes using ground beef. Each blogger was asked to develop a recipe (using ground beef) that is inspired by his or her cultural background or a culinary adventure experienced. Each blogger was paired with another and the two exchanged their own recipe for the other to try. This posting involves showcasing my own recipe as well as a recipe from my swap partner, Jason Lee, who writes the blog, “Shut Up and Eat”.

Moussaka
Moussaka

I frequently use ground beef in recipes and am never at a loss to come up with meal ideas to use this versatile meat. The recipe I have chosen is Moussaka. This is a one-dish meal typically characterized by ground meat, eggplant, and tomato sauce with a white sauce on top. So, I will begin with a discussion on why I chose Moussaka to feature ground beef, followed by some hints and tips on making this Greek-inspired dish, and will end with my experience cooking my recipe swap partner’s Beef and Coriander Dumplings inspired by his Chinese heritage. This posting has two recipes from two different cultures but both use ground beef as the main ingredient.

A Greek Taverna in Kerkira, Corfu, Greece
A Greek Taverna in Kerkira, Corfu, Greece

The recipe for Moussaka is inspired by a recent trip to the Mediterranean area that included a re-visit to parts of Greece. I have always been a fan of typical Mediterranean dishes and, when I would stop and look at menus of Greek tavernas, like the one in the photo above in Kerkira, Corfu, I’d inevitably see Moussaka as one of the offerings. While I was unable to conclusively determine the exact origins of Moussaka, it is a dish that is commonly associated with Greece. It had been a long time since I had Moussaka and my visits to several Greek Islands re-ignited my interest in this tasty dish.

Taverna in Kerkira, Corfu, Greece
Taverna in Kerkira, Corfu, Greece

I was first introduced to Moussaka in the early 1980s when I found myself working not far from the restaurant of the Dundee Arms Inn  in Charlottetown, PEI. Their restaurant was considered one of the best in town with an upscale menu, and my workplace had a standing Friday noon reservation as, otherwise, it would have been impossible to get a table. The popular restaurant had an extensive lunch menu that included Moussaka.  This became my standard Friday noontime order. The traditional Moussaka contains eggplant as a key ingredient; however, I never did acquire a taste for eggplant but I sure did enjoy the rest of this yummy dish that was served, piping hot, in au-gratin dishes. I’d simply move the eggplant to the side and enjoy the meat and tomato sauce with its traditional béchamel topping. After all these years, when I think of Moussaka, I can still recall the wonderful flavor of the dish at The Dundee.

So, when I returned home from Europe in the fall, I decided I would develop a Moussaka recipe minus the eggplant, instead substituting potatoes as the base. This is quite apropos given I am from Prince Edward Island, home of great potato production. There are many variations of Moussaka, depending on the region in which it is being made, and many different combinations of meat that can be used. Mine keeps it simple by using lean ground beef. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I was invited to participate in the Rethink Beef Global Recipe Swap Campaign because I knew that Moussaka would be the recipe I would use in which to feature ground beef! And, it was the catalyst for me to get busy and develop the recipe instead of leaving it on my “To Do At Some Point” list.

Moussaka
Moussaka

Moussaka is not difficult to make so long as it is approached in a methodical and organized manner. That said, this is not a dish I would attempt for dinner on a weeknight after having arrived home from work at 5pm.  This is a great weekend dish. Serve it with rustic bread or rolls or biscuits alongside a green salad. If desired, pair with a red wine such as a Chianti Classico.

Moussaka
Moussaka

My version of Moussaka does not take any out-of-the-ordinary ingredients.  However, it does require planning, organization, and some time.  I don’t find it’s any more complicated or time-consuming than making lasagna.  There are four layers to my Moussaka – the potato base covered by the breadcrumb and Parmesan cheese mixture, followed by the meat sauce, and topped with a cheesy white sauce. As always, I recommend a thorough reading of the recipe before beginning the cooking process to make sure you have all the ingredients and understand the preparation method.

Moussaka
Moussaka

Here are my hints and tips for successfully making Moussaka:

  • Assemble and prepare cooking and food prep equipment (e.g., grater, whisk, measuring spoons, skillet, baking pan, baking sheet, etc.)
  • A deep 9” pan is best for baking this Moussaka. I used an 8” pan and it was full to the brim. I placed the pan on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet in case the Moussaka boiled out.  It didn’t, fortunately, but a deep 9” pan would give a little bit extra leeway.
  • Assemble and prepare all ingredients before beginning – chop the onion and celery and mince the garlic, grate the cheese, process the bread into crumbs, bring the eggs to room temperature, etc.
  • Before beginning, measure out all the ingredients and separate and group them according to the meat sauce, white sauce, etc. This will make the process go more quickly and efficiently.
  • Start the meat sauce first as it will need 25-30 minutes to simmer during which time work can be done on preparing the potatoes and white sauce. While the simmering process will allow the liquid content in the meat sauce to reduce, there is a fine line in how much liquid to evaporate out of the meat sauce. Removing too much will make the meat filling too dry but leaving too much will make it too runny when the Moussaka is cut.  A good gauge is to run a heat-proof rubber spatula through the meat sauce to make a track. If the sauce does not immediately fill the track back in, it’s done!
  • Choose a grind of beef that has reduced fat in it. I find lean ground beef has just the right meat/fat content for this recipe.
  • Make sure the oven is preheated to 425°F as soon as the meat sauce is starting to simmer so the oven is ready to roast the potatoes.
  • Choose a dry variety of potato, such as Russets, for this recipe. Wetter varieties of potatoes will have too much moisture in them and they may go “mushy” and not hold their shape in the Moussaka base.
  • Slice the potatoes about ¼” thick (or use a mandolin) and start them roasting once the meat sauce has been simmering for about 10 minutes. About ¼” thickness is good for the potato slices. Any thinner and they are likely to burn in the roasting process; any thicker and they provide too much of a starch taste in the Moussaka. Only roast the potatoes until they are just barely fork tender – overcooking will turn them to mush and they need to hold together in this dish as they form the base.
  • The grind for the breadcrumbs should not be as fine as you’d find in a box of commercial breadcrumbs. They should be slightly coarser. I use my food processor to grind breadcrumbs from crusts. I keep a ready supply of these on hand in my freezer for casseroles and for making poultry stuffing. This thin layer of breadcrumbs mixed with Parmesan cheese adds another layer of flavor to the Moussaka and also helps to absorb any excess moisture there might be in the potatoes.
  • The amount of garlic and spices to use is always very subjective and can vary greatly according to taste preferences. As with all recipes, I recommend following the recipe-prescribed amounts the first time the recipe is made, then altering the amounts, if necessary, the next time the dish is made. The amount of spices and garlic used in this recipe is moderate, meaning the meat sauce is not overly spicy.
  • About 10 minutes before the meat sauce is due to be done, start the white sauce. The goal is that the meat sauce, roasted potatoes and white sauce should all be ready about the same time so that the Moussaka can be assembled efficiently.
  • After the Moussaka has finished baking, allow it to sit for 20-30 minutes as this will allow it to set and firm up, making it easier to cut. Cutting it as soon as it comes out of the oven may cause the layers to separate, meaning the Moussaka won’t stay intact and stand on its own when plated.  The Moussaka should stay intact with each layer visible when it is cut.
Moussaka
Moussaka

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Moussaka Recipe

Ingredients:

Meat Sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef

1½ tbsp olive oil
¾ cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup celery, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz canned crushed tomatoes
¼ cup tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup beef broth
1 bay leaf
1¼ tsp dried oregano
1¼ tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cinnamon
½ tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Roasted Potato Layer:
2¼ lb russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into about ¼” thick slices
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

White Sauce:
2½ tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 2/3 cups warm milk
2 extra-large egg yolks (room temperature), slightly beaten
Pinch nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
Pinch pepper
2/3 cup grated Gouda cheese

Breadcrumb Layer:
¾ cup fine bread crumbs
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Topping:

2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Method:

Meat Sauce:  Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add beef and scramble fry until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Transfer meat to wire sieve positioned over bowl to drain off excess liquid. Set meat aside.

Return skillet to heat and add 1½ tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and celery.  Cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 30-60 seconds while stirring mixture.

Add the drained ground beef, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, beef broth, bay leaf, spices, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, or until most (but not all) of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf.

Roast Potatoes: While meat sauce is simmering, heat the oven to 425°F.  Place potato slices in large bowl and drizzle very lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Toss potatoes to coat in oil. Place the sliced potatoes, single layer, on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 12-15 minutes, or just until potatoes are barely fork tender. Remove potatoes from oven and reduce heat to 375°F for baking Moussaka.

White Sauce:  In medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Whisk in the flour.  Cook, whisking constantly for about 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in the warm milk.  Bring mixture just to the boiling point.  Remove approximately ¼ cup of the hot liquid and whisk into the slightly beaten egg yolks to temper them so they don’t curdle.  Whisk the eggs into saucepan mixture.  Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Cook over medium-low heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute.  Stir in the Gouda cheese until melted. Mixture should be of spreading consistency when sufficiently thickened.

Breadcrumb Layer:  In small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese together.

Assembly:    Grease deep 9” baking pan.  Arrange half the potato slices in the bottom of the baking pan, overlapping the potatoes slightly.  Sprinkle one-half the breadcrumb-Parmesan cheese mixture over the potatoes.  Evenly spread one-half the meat sauce over the potatoes and breadcrumbs.  Place a layer of the remaining potato slices, followed by the rest of the breadcrumbs, and then the remaining meat sauce.  Evenly spread the white sauce over the entire mixture.  Sprinkle with 1½ tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese and 1/8 tsp nutmeg.

Place baking pan on a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil to catch any spills should casserole bubble out.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until bubbly and the top lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let stand for 20-30 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve with a green salad and rustic bread, rolls, or biscuits.

Yield:  Apx. 6-8 servings


And, Now, My Swap Partner’s Recipe ….

My recipe swap partner, Jason, chose to create a Beef and Coriander Dumplings recipe to feature ground beef.  Jason says, being Chinese, dumplings have always been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. Making dumplings with his mother and grandmothers is one of his fondest memories. A culinary course instructor specializing in Chinese cuisine, Jason is always looking for different dumpling recipes. He tells me that this particular recipe was inspired by a chili oil he was experimenting with for another recipe.

I was excited to try Jason’s recipe because I had never had filled dumplings and I love Chinese food! I was a little concerned at first that I might have difficulty finding dumpling wrappers and chili oil in PEI; however, the Island has a growing Asian population and, by participating in this initiative, I discovered Charlottetown, in fact, has a number of small global and Asian food specialty stores. I had no problem sourcing the ingredients locally for this recipe. I found the recipe easy to make and tasty. I did some online research into how to fold the dumplings and I experienced no difficulty in accomplishing the task. Jason’s method to cook the dumplings is to boil them and they cooked quite quickly, floating to the top of the water with the dumpling wrappers becoming somewhat translucent to signify they were done, all in the span of about 5 minutes.

It’s fun to try others’ recipes and, through this initiative, I discovered another Asian-inspired dish to add to the menu of my next Chinese-themed dinner.

Here is Jason Lee’s Beef and Coriander Dumplings recipe:

Jason Lee's Beef and Coriander Dumplings, served with spicy chili oil
Jason Lee’s Beef and Coriander Dumplings, served with spicy chili oil

Beef and Coriander Dumplings

(Served with spicy chili oil)

 
1 package dumpling wrappers (approx. 35)

 Filling:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
3/4 cup chopped coriander
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white  pepper
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground
3 tablespoon water

Garnish:
3 tablespoon crushed peanuts
3 tablespoon chopped coriander
3 tablespoon chili oil
1 teaspoon ground Szechuan peppercorn

Procedure:

  1. Add all filling ingredients into a large clean bowl and thoroughly mix until everything is combined.
  2. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling into wrapped and fold/pleat into dumpling.
  3. Boil dumplings in a large pot in batches – about 10 at a time – for 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to serving bowls.
  4. Spoon chili oil over dumplings, sprinkle peanuts, coriander and ground Szechuan peppercorn.

Be sure to visit Jason’s blog, Shut Up and Eat, to read his posting about his recipe.


For more great ground beef-inspired recipes, visit www.thinkbeef.ca

Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by thinkbeef.ca and I was compensated monetarily for its content and with groceries to make both recipes.

Rethink Beef Global Recipe Swap Campaign: Moussaka

Yield: Apx. 6-8 servings

A Greek-inspired dish featuring layers of ground beef, potatoes, and a tomato sauce all covered in a delectable white sauce topping

Ingredients

  • Meat Sauce:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ cup onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup celery, chopped fine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1/3 cup beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 1¼ tsp dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Roasted Potato Layer
  • 2¼ lb russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into about ¼” thick slices
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • White Sauce:
  • 2½ tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 2/3 cups warm milk
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks (room temperature), slightly beaten
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • 2/3 cup grated Gouda cheese
  • Breadcrumb Layer:
  • ¾ cup fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • Topping:
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Meat Sauce: Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and scramble fry until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer meat to wire sieve positioned over bowl to drain off excess liquid. Set meat aside.
  2. Return skillet to heat and add 1½ tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and celery. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 30-60 seconds while stirring mixture.
  3. Add the drained ground beef, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, beef broth, bay leaf, spices, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, or until most (but not all) of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf.
  4. Roast Potatoes: While meat sauce is simmering, heat the oven to 425°F. Place potato slices in large bowl and drizzle very lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss potatoes to coat in oil. Place the sliced potatoes, single layer, on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 12-15 minutes, or just until potatoes are barely fork tender. Remove potatoes from oven and reduce heat to 375°F for baking Moussaka.
  5. White Sauce: In medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the warm milk. Bring mixture just to the boiling point. Remove approximately ¼ cup of the hot liquid and whisk into the slightly beaten egg yolks to temper them so they don’t curdle. Whisk the eggs into saucepan mixture. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Stir in the Gouda cheese until melted. Mixture should be of spreading consistency when sufficiently thickened.
  6. Breadcrumb Layer:
  7. In small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese together.
  8. Assembly: Grease deep 9” baking pan. Arrange half the potato slices in the bottom of the baking pan, overlapping the potatoes slightly. Sprinkle one-half the breadcrumb-Parmesan cheese mixture over the potatoes. Evenly spread one-half the meat sauce over the potatoes and breadcrumbs. Place a layer of the remaining potato slices, followed by the rest of the breadcrumbs, and then the remaining meat sauce. Evenly spread the white sauce over the entire mixture. Sprinkle with 1½ tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese and 1/8 tsp nutmeg.
  9. Place baking pan on a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil to catch any spills should casserole bubble out. Bake for about 45 minutes or until bubbly and the top lightly browned. Remove from oven and let stand for 20-30 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve with a green salad and rustic bread, rolls, or biscuits.

Notes

NOTE: Please read entire post which is filled with tips and hints on making Moussaka which are not mentioned in the recipe itself.

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