Rick’s Greek Moussaka

MoussakaOne side of my wife’s family is Greek and we all enjoy Greek food.  This recipe is always a hit. A rich lamb tomato sauce between eggplant layers and topped with a rich feta bechamel sauce makes a great main course. Add some stuffed grape leaves and a real Greek salad and you have yourself a meal.

Ingredients

For the lamb sauce:

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil (Greek if you have it.)

1 lb. ground lamb

1 large yellow onion chopped

3 cloves garlic finely chopped

3 14 oz. cans chopped tomatoes

¼ tsp. ground allspice

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon dried mint

Salt and pepper to taste

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/3 inch slices

For the bechamel topping:

3 tbs. unsalted butter

3 tbs. all-purpose flour

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 cup whole milk

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Recipe

Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add onion and cook, stirring until soft, about 4 minutes. Add lamb and cook stirring until no pink remains. Break up clumps with a wooden spoon. Add the allspice and cinnamon and stir to incorporate. Add tomatoes with their juices and the mint, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a strong simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Oil 2 cookie sheets and place eggplant slices on them, lightly brushing them with olive oil. Broil 4 inches from flame for 4 minutes. Turn slices over, brush lightly with olive oil and broil for 4 minutes. You may need to do two batches.

Oil a 9 by 13 oven-proof baking dish and line the bottom with half the eggplant, overlapping the slices slightly. When the lamb sauce is finished spoon it over the eggplant, and place the remaining slices on top of the sauce overlapping slightly.

Move rack to middle the oven and pre-heat it to 375 degree F.

In another saucepan melt the butter over medium low heat and add the flour, whisking for 3 minutes. Add the milk in a steady stream while whisking for about 5 minutes until sauce thickens and no lumps remain. Add the crumbled feta and whisk until it has melted into the sauce. Remove the sauce from heat and cover. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then pour in the beaten eggs while whisking until they are incorporated into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the baking dish to cover the top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the bechamel sauce is lightly brown. Let the dish sit for ten minutes before serving.

Rick’s Baked Ziti with Meat Sauce

Since so many of you liked my humble Chicken Noodle Casserole here’s another oldie but goodie comfort food recipe. If you have the time (and who doesn’t these days) make your best meat sauce. Or, as per this recipe, brown some ground beef and/or Italian sausage, put it in some good jarred sauce, add some cheese, and Roberto is your uncle. Continue reading

Rick’s Shrimp and Sweet Pea Risotto

RisottoRisotto is a nice change from pasta, and it is not hard to make if you are attentive during the half hour or so you need to watch and stir the rice. For special events we make a rich and decadent Risotto ala Milanese with our Osso Bucco.  This recipe is a bit of a lighter tweak on that, without the Parmesan cheese and extra butter. If you use  frozen shrimp and peas  this can be pulled out of the larder, and you can make it in under an hour on a weeknight. And it is very good! Continue reading

Rick’s Chicken and Shellfish Paella

Paella

My seminary classmate Carlos Diaz gave us a paella pan and the Time-Life Cooking of Spain cookbook for a wedding present. That was forty years ago and paella has been a mainstay of my kitchen for special events. I made one last night for a family birthday.

The original Time-Life recipe was a lovely Valencia style paella with some not very authentic ingredients such as lobster. Paella was originally a humble peasant dish of saffron infused rice with whatever fresh vegetables and fish or game that was available.

This elaborate Valencia style paella is the one most Americans know from restaurants. This is my take on it with four decades of my tweaks. It is pretty labor intensive, but a fun project in the kitchen, and the results are unfailingly crowd-pleasing. Serves six with generous portions. Continue reading