First Time Greek

One evening when my mother was visiting me while I was living in Florida, we drove over to Downtown Disney. We had walked the entire length of the walk looking for a restaurant. We finally decided on Cat Cora’s Kouzinna. Despite the fact that it was expenseive, it was the best time we’d ever had and some of the best food we’ve ever had.

My mother ordered the Kouzzina Trio that included Mousakka, Char-grilled Lamb Burger, and Cinnamon-stewed Chicken with Orzo. Her plate was so delicious that I ended up eating more of her’s than mine. However, don’t get me wrong, I ordered the Braised Short Ribs over Feta Mashed potatoes and the seasonal vegetable (some kind of greens) that was absolutely amazing.

Ever since that meal, I have been obsessed with Greek food and the curious idea of braising meat with cinnamon and nutmeg. So, I decided to try it out myself.

This week I cooked Mousakka. The recipe took about 2 hours to make (though I cut a few corners) and tasted delicious. However, being the first time making this extremely involved meal, my final product fell short of expectations.

Take a look for yourself.

Mousakka is a layered type Greek Lasagna with eggplant, potatoes, ground lamb or beef, and bechamel sauce.

What mine came out as, looked more like something from your school’s cafeteria. But hey, I can’t complain because that’s what happens when you attempt to cut off an hour from your cook/prep time. Remember folks, always read the recipe all the way through. Another reason why my Mousakka looks drastically different from traditional Mousakka, is because I live in a tiny apartment with a below average oven. My oven sucks. It’s 10 degrees colder than whatever I set the dial at, and always takes 15-20 mintues longer to cook anything. My impatience with my horrible oven causes my food to look like that heap pictured above, occasionally.

What did happen to come out a little better, was my stab at making Pastitsio. This is possibly one of my favorite Greek dishes. Similar to Mousakka, it has ground beef or lamb, is layered with ziti instead of eggplant, and topped with a bechamel sauce. It’s so delicious.

That turned out a little better don’t you think? I think so too.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at Greek food, here are the recipes below.

Mousakka

Prep Time: 40 min   Cook Time: 50 min   Rest Time: 15 min

 

Ingredients

  • 3 eggplants (peeled, salted, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb potatoes
  • 1 pound ground beef (or lamb)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 can crushed tomatos
  • 2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

For the Bechamel Sauce 

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups warm milk
  • 4 eggs, beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Drizzle eggplant slices with olive oil
  3. Lay eggplant on a baking sheet
  4. Broil eggplant until crispy, set aside
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  6. Peel potatoes and boil whole
  7. When cooled, slice potatoes into 1/4 inch rounds and set aside
  8. In a large saute pan, brown beef (or lamb) until no longer pink
  9. Add onion and saute until translucent
  10. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic
  11. Add spices, parsley, tomato paste, and crushed tomatos
  12. Simmer sauce for about 10 minutes
  13. Season with salt and pepper, set aside
  14. Melt butter over low heat in a sauce pan
  15. Whisk in flour, whisking continuously to make a smooth paste
  16. Add warm milk in a steady stream, whisking continuously
  17. Remove from heat, whisk in beaten egg
  18. Return to heat until sauce thickens, set aside
  19. In a baking dish, place a layer of potatoes on the bottom
  20. Top with eggplant layer
  21. Add meat sauce on top of eggplant and sprinkle with grated cheese
  22. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle again with grated cheese
  23. Pour over bechamel sauce, and smooth out with a spatula
  24. Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese
  25. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until bechamel sauce is bubbly and golden
  26. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving
  27. Enjoy!

Now I’d like to say as a note, even if you are so so hungry, you really should allow the dish to rest before you serve it. Want to know what happens if you don’t? Well just look back up at the picture I posted and you’ll get an idea.

Pastitsio

Prep Time: 30 min   Cook Time: 50 min

 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef (or lamb)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 14 oz can tomato puree or sauce
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package ziti
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted

For the Bechamel Sauce

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 eggs, beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a saute pan, cook ground beef (or lamb) until no longer pink
  3. Add onion and cook until no longer translucent
  4. Sprinkle in spices, parsley, salt and pepper
  5. Add tomato sauce (or puree)
  6. Simmer for 10 minutes on low heat, set aside
  7. Boil ziti noodles until al dente (or package directions)
  8. Drain ziti in a collander and set aside
  9. Add 4 tbsp butter to noodles
  10. Sprinkle in cheese over noodles, stir until combined
  11. Add beaten egg to noodles, stir, set aside
  12. Grease the bottom of a baking dish
  13. Layer dish with half of pasta
  14. Add meat filling over pasta
  15. Top with remaining ziti
  16. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat
  17. Whisk in flour, whisking constantly
  18. Add warmed milk to mixture, whisking constantly
  19. Simmer over low heat until it thickens
  20. Remove from heat and add beaten egg
  21. Return to heat, to allow sauce to thicken
  22. Pour bechamel sauce over dish, allowing to fill all corners
  23. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until top is golden and bubbly
  24. Enjoy!

Personally, I enjoy the latter of these two recipes but you can find out which one is your favorite.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Greek cooking adventure, there are many more to come!