Variation on a Greek classic

December 5, 2012 

Moussaka, a layered eggplant casserole, is traditional fare at every Greek taverna.

Making moussaka brings back memories of delightful evenings in the Plaka district, a charming section of Athens with narrow winding streets filled with tiny restaurants and lots of good cheer.

The dish has hundreds of variations. Usually slices of eggplant and sometimes potatoes are sauteed and layered with a spiced ground meat. The dish is topped with a white sauce flavored with Greek cheese or a yogurt sauce.

For this quick dinner, I have captured the flavors of a traditional moussaka and shortened the recipe by cutting the potatoes and eggplant into small pieces and cooking them separately to form the first layer.

I use Greek Feta cheese. It is white, crumbly and has a rich, tangy flavor. Traditional feta is made with sheep’s or goat’s milk, although today many manufacturers use cow’s milk. Grated Parmesan also can be used.

Moussaka is a meal in itself. For a one-dish meal, serve it with a salad and crusty whole grain bread.

HELPFUL HINTS

Save time: To save cleaning an extra pan, cook the potatoes and eggplant in a stove-to-oven casserole dish. Or use a regular skillet if the handle can go in the oven and will fit under the broiler.

Nutrition: This meal has 556 calories with 23 percent of calories from fat.

To buy: 1/2 pound red potatoes, 3/4 pound eggplant, 1/2 pound low-fat, ground beef (95 percent lean), 1 small can tomato paste, 8-ounce carton non-fat plain yogurt and 1 small package crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese

Staples: Frozen diced/chopped onion, minced garlic, olive oil spray, ground cinnamon, salt and black peppercorns.

MOUSSAKA Olive oil spray

1/2 pound red potatoes, washed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 13/4 cups)

3/4 pound eggplant, washed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 41/2 cups)

1 cup frozen chopped onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3/4 pound low-fat, ground beef (95 percent lean)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup non-fat, plain yogurt

2 ounces crumbled, reduced-fat feta cheese

Preheat broiler. Heat a stove-to-oven casserole dish or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat with olive oil spray. Add potatoes and eggplant, cover with a lid and saute 15 minutes, turning the vegetables several times.

Meanwhile, heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with olive oil spray. Saute onion and garlic 1 minute. Add ground beef. Saute 2 minutes, breaking up the beef with a spoon. Mix tomato paste and water together and add to meat. Blend well. Add cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 1 minute. Set aside.

To assemble dish, add salt and pepper to taste to the potatoes and eggplant. If using a stove-to-oven casserole, spread the meat mixture evenly over the vegetables. Otherwise, spoon potatoes and eggplant into a casserole dish that can go under the broiler. Spread the meat evenly over the vegetables.

In either case, spoon yogurt evenly over meat and sprinkle feta cheese on top. Place under broiler for 5 minutes. Remove and serve.

Nutrition information (per serving): 556 calories (23 percent from fat), 14.3 g fat (6.4 g saturated, 4.8 g monounsaturated), 231 mg cholesterol, 55.5 g protein, 52.7 g carbohydrates, 10.2 g fiber, 606 mg sodium.

Makes 2 servings Linda Gassenheimer is the author of 14 cookbooks including “The Flavors of the Florida Keys.” Go to dinnerinminutes.com.

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