Monday, August 10, 2015

Savoring the season's bounty

Last week we were gifted with some beautiful eggplants and green beans from a neighbor’s garden. The vegetables we received were unlike the usual varieties found in markets this time of year. 

Greek Moussaka (eggplant casserole) and Green Beans in Tomato Sauce

The eggplants were petite and don’t grow much larger, explained our neighbor. And the beans, which were growing vertically, were about 12 inches long. 

All of the veggies raised in my neighbor’s garden seemed a bit exotic – and that’s because they all came from seeds from India.

Petite eggplants grown from seeds from India.

I don’t have much experience with Indian food, so I decided to use the veggies in something I do – Greek food!

I know, right? Here is what I created:

Moussaka (Eggplant Casserole)
Serves 4 to 6
The sweet spices of the cinnamon and nutmeg balance beautifully with the tangy eggplant and creamy béchamel. It’s a perfect casserole to share with family and friends.

1 pound ground beef
2 cups diced sweet onion
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons minced garlic
½ cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 14.5 ounce can roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
2 large or 8-10 petite eggplants, thinly sliced
Oil for sautéing

Béchamel Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 eggs

Mix 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan with 4 tablespoons Italian-style bread crumbs.

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large frying pan, heat oil and sauté eggplant for about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels. In the same pan, brown beef and onions. Add spices and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Layers of sweet and savory meat sauce and sauteed eggplant.

In a saucepan, melt butter.  Remove from heat and stir in flour. Gradually add milk, then salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk well then cook over medium heat until thick. Add cheese and allow sauce to cool slightly. Whisk in eggs.

In an 8"x 8" casserole, layer meat and eggplant slices. Pour on sauce. Sprinkle with toppings. Bake for 1 hour or until sauce has set. Let stand for 15 minutes before slicing (Yes, you can do it).

Moussaka fresh from the oven topped with creamy bechamel sauce.

Green Beans in Tomato Sauce
Serves 4-6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
14 ½ ounce can roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ½ to 2 pounds fresh green beans
Fresh lemon slices for garnish

I used two types of green beans - regular size from the farmers market and long Indian beans.

In a large pan, sauté onion in oil.  Add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 1 to ½ hours. Garnish with lemon juice.

Spicy and tender Greek Green Beans in Tomato Sauce.

Have a great week!

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