Meaty Moussaka Stew with Cheesy Croutons
I’ve already made Moussaka this year with some of the fresh garden produce. This year, for the first time ever, my teenage daughter actually tried it — and ate every last bit of it, too! I was surprised, because she’s never been quite so daring culinarily, but she looked at me and said, “Mom … it’s got MEAT!” … with that “geez mom don’t you know anything?” look on her face. Ah yes, my daughter the carnivore. Yes, Moussaka has meat, but it also has eggplant and peppers and onions and tomatoes … all things she normally scoffs at, but Moussaka, she ate that. Go fig.
Moussaka is a Greek casserole sort of similar to lasagna (except made with eggplant instead of noodles). My dad used to make for us when I was little. We LOVED it, or at least we loved the Mediterranean spiced meaty tomato sauce with the breadcrumbs and the cheesy creamy bechamel on top. We weren’t so crazy about the eggplant back then. I remember eating all the yummy meat sauce and picking around the eggplant, or begging dad to make it with zucchini instead of eggplant. Sometimes he would. We’d eat it regardless, we just LOVED Moussaka. I LOVE eggplant now, and crave Moussaka whenever I think of or see one of those regal purple eggplant.
I wanted more Moussaka, but I didn’t want to spend all the time to make Moussaka, so I made this stew bursting with the flavors of the Greek classic, but less work. The croutons and cheese on top I added to simulate the breadcrumbs and creamy sauce that goes on the Moussaka. I added some fresh chopped tomato on top, too, and was very glad I did. They made the presentation and the taste even better. In the end, I’m not sure how much less work it was, but I did it in stages, so it seemed much easier. A crockpot really would have made much quicker work of it–I’ll have to try that next time!
- 1 lb. fresh garden tomatoes (or 1 15-oz. can)
- 1 large or two small eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 green chile peppers
- 1 cup chopped shallots or spring onions
- 1 - 2 cups beef or vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 lb. ground beef, venison or other (I used ground venison)
- 1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
- 1/2 of a small onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup of red wine
- Cubes of bread, toasted
- Shredded parmesan or mixed Italian blend of cheeses
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Peel the eggplant, cut it into 1/2 inch slices, lay the slices on the baking sheet, sprinkle with Red Robin Seasoning and fresh ground pepper. Add the whole cloves of garlic, spray the top with cooking spray and bake for about 15 minutes or until the eggplant is very tender, turning the slices over about half way through.
- Meanwhile, dunk your tomatoes in boiling water for 20 seconds each to loosen the skin. Let them cool a bit, then pull the peels off and cut out the cores.
- Heat the oil in your soup pot, then add the chile peppers and shallots and saute for several minutes over medium heat until the peppers and onions are very tender.
- Chop the eggplant and garlic and add to the pot with the peppers and onions. Add the tomatoes, broth, and bay leaf, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile heat a frying pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and the spices and let the spices cook until they are toasted and fragrant. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Add the peppers and onions and saute until soft. Pour in the red wine and cook some more, until the wine is mostly gone. Season with salt & fresh ground pepper.
- If you want your soup creamy, take the eggplant mixture from the soup pot and blend it with the fresh basil and oregano until smooth. Pour back into the soup pot, add the meat mixture and stir to mix.
- To serve: In oven-proof bowls, fill each bowl most of the way with hot soup, add a few cubes of toasted bread and top with shredded parmesan cheese. Put in the oven until the cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh basil or oregano leaves or flowers.
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