Moussaka – Greek Eggplant Lasagna

I love eggplants.  My husband–hmmm– not so much. My kids will eat anything.  I usually don’t announce the fact that there are eggplants in any menu items and if asked I pretend I have hearing loss..”what did you say?  Oh, why does it taste like eggplant?”  (that’s the evasive maneuver).  We haven’t had eggplants for a while and I was inspired by coolcookstyle‘s amazing eggplant flatbread recipe she came up with for a recent cooking challenge.  I found some wonderful Japanese eggplants and decided to make Moussaka.

One of the matriarchs of the Greek community here in Salt Lake City, Georgia Katsanavas, is a great cook and I have had a copy of her recipe for years have eaten moussaka many times but never actually made the dish myself.  I decided to look through the recipe and see if I had all the ingredients…I did, but I decided to add and change a few things…this is NOT Georgia’s original dish for those who are lovers of her amazing food, but it is definitely based on her recipe.

This is not a weeknight dish because it takes a bit of time.  It’s also kind of rich, so it’s not a monthly recipe either.  That being said, this will definitely be on my list of things to make for special dinners or occasions.  It came out incredible and tasted heavenly.  One of those dishes where you take a bite and close your eyes at the same time and make a MMMMM noise.  Like my friend Ernie would say, “It’s slap yo mama good!”  I had a wonderful Sunday dinner and Grantley got past the fact that there were eggplants in it….it was that good!

Start with some fresh Japanese eggplants
Slice lengthwise and sprinkle with salt...set aside for 15 minutes or so
Begin meat sauce preparation by sauteing onions, bell peppers, garlic and ginger
Add meat to the mixture and cook until no longer pink before adding pureed tomatoes
Add 1/2 cup of wine (I choose marsala) to the meat mixture
Let the wine evaporate out and simmer the sauce for 10-15 minutes
The salt on the eggplants will draw out all the water, soak it up with a paper towel before brushing a little olive oil on each piece
Grill about 2 minutes on each side
The eggplants should become tender (including the skin)
Make the Bechamel sauce by adding flour to melted butter, stirring constantly
Add milk, bayleaf, nutmeg and stir until thickened. Take off heat and add the goat cheese and ricotta
Spray a lasagna pan with cooking spray and layer the bottom with half the eggplants and half of the meat sauce
Repeat the layers, ending with meat on top. Cover with the bechamel sauce
Sprinkle top with parmesan cheese and a little nutmeg. Bake 40 minutes at 400 degrees
The cheese creates a delightful crust with the creaminess of the bechamel beneath...mmmm...

It's truly "slap yo mama good!"


4-5 firm Japanese eggplants, sliced lengthwise


4 Tbsp olive oil

Meat sauce

2 pounds ground extra lean ground beef (traditionally lamb is used)

1 large onion

1 large red bell pepper

4-5 cloves garlic, grated or minced

1 inch piece of ginger, grated

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup red or marsala wine

28 ounces of canned diced tomatoes, pureed in a blender

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

handful of fresh flat leafed parsley

fresh oregano, about 1 tbsp chopped

Some honey (optional)

Bechamel Sauce

6 tbsp butter

1/2 cup flour

2 1/2 cups milk

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup goat cheese

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (reserved for sprinkling on top)

1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

Slice the eggplants length wise and sprinkle each piece with a little salt and let them sit for 15 – 20 minutes.

In the meantime heat a medium-sized sauce pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil and saute onion, bell pepper, garlic and ginger together.  When vegetables are tender add in meat and begin cooking until no longer pink.  Add in cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cayenne pepper and salt and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add in tomato paste and wine and mix to incorporate.  Let it simmer for 4-5 minutes until all the wine has evaporated.  Add in the pureed tomatoes and let it simmer gently to let the flavors marry and some of the liquid evaporate, about 10-15 minutes.  Add in parsley, oregano and a couple of tablespoons of honey (if needed to balance out the acid of the tomatoes) before taking off the heat.

Using a paper towel soak up all the excess water off the eggplants (the salt should have drawn that out).  Brush lightly with about 4 tbsp olive oil and grill on a hot grill (or you can roast them in a 375° oven for about 20 minutes) about 2 minutes on each side or until nice and tender.

Prepare the Bechamel sauce:

In a medium sauce pan heat the butter.  Using a rubber spatula or whisk mix in the flour and keep stirring until it’s a light golden brown color and the flour flavor is gone.  Slowly add in the milk and the bay leaf.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens.  Add in the ricotta and goat cheese, nutmeg and salt.  Turn off heat and stir until all the cheese is melted and nicely incorporated.  Take out the bay leaf.


Spray with cooking spray a deep 9 x 13 pan.  Layer the bottom with half of the eggplants.  Put half of the meat mixture on top and spread evenly.  Cover the meat mixture with the remaining eggplants and put the rest of the meat mixture on top.  Pour the Bechamel sauce on top of the meat mixture and spread smoothly. Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of nutmeg.  Put completed Moussaka on a cookie sheet to catch any bubble ups and bake for 40 minutes in a pre-heated 400° oven.  Serve warm.

Zucchini Chicken Rollatini ~ with a cool name, leftover chicken sounds awesome

The last several days were like a blur.  I made too many cookies, ate things other people made that I didn’t like (green bean casserole with little hot dog chunks, bad jello salad with beet pieces and funeral potatoes – that’s a Utah thing ), skipped meals, ran around doing a million things.  It was busy, it was hectic, it was crazy.  But today, I wanted to come home and eat something I made because dang it, my worst effort had to be better than a casserole made of  macerated hot dogs (I have HUGE issues with hot dogs, it’s a long story).  I had leftover baked chicken from last night and a couple of Zucchinis in the fridge.  I decided it would be great to take out my mandolin (the cooking kind, not the musical instrument) and use the zucchini as the noodle and make some kind of a filling with the chicken and other veggies.  It turned out pretty great and it was fast too.  Total time with prep and baking under 45 minutes.  It sure beats the beet jello salad (pun intended).

Heat a couple of tablespoons of butter in a pan
Add 2 tablespoons of flour to the butter and stir until smooth
Stir fry a few minutes to get the flour taste out
Add milk and bring to a gentle simmer until sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg
Add Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and stir to melt
Slice a couple of Zucchini lengthwise into thin slices using a mandolin

Veggies I used for the filling, you can use whatever you have on hand
Saute all vegetables and spices in about 4 tablespoons of olive oil
Mix sauteed vegetables with cooked chopped chicken
Add 2/3 of the Bechamel sauce to the chicken mixture, reserve a third for the topping
Roll about 2 tablespoons of filling into each zucchini slice and place in a baking dish
For individual servings, place about three rollatinis inside a ramekin
Put the remaining sauce on the rollatini and sprinkle with a little Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Do the same with if using ramekins
Bake and serve!
Serve and enjoy!

Here’s the recipe:

Zucchini Chicken Rollatini

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 young zucchini, sliced thin lengthwise (use ends and pieces chopped up as part of the filling)

1/4 cup red onions, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1 carrot, shredded

salt to taste

1 tsp dried basil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup cooked chicken

Bechamel or White Sauce

2 cups 1% milk

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

pinch of nutmeg

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese and a little extra to sprinkle on top

Begin by making the sauce

In a small sauce pan heat butter and add flour.  Stir until flour is blended and smooth and floury taste is gone (a couple of minutes). Slowly add in the milk and keep stirring.  Sauce should thicken as it gently comes to a simmer.  Don’t let it get too thick since it will be cooked again in the main dish.  Add salt, pepper and nutmeg stir well and turn off the heat.  Add grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and stir until melted (the residual heat will melt all the cheese).  Set aside.

Making the Rollatini and Filling:

Slice the zucchini lengthwise using a mandolin.  It should be nice and thin (bending easily).  Don’t get too close to the end because you’ll chop off your fingers, even with a blade guard!  The extra zucchini ends and pieces can be chopped up and used in the filling.

In a skillet heat the olive oil and add all the vegetables, including the zucchini extra pieces.  Add salt, pepper, garlic and basil and stir fry for a few minutes until vegetables are tender.  Add cooked vegetables to the cooked, chopped chicken and mix well.  Add 2/3 of the Bechamel sauce to the mixture reserving about a 1/3 for the topping.

Place about 2 tablespoons of chicken mixture at one end of the zucchini strip and roll into a little roll.  Place each rollatini in a small 8 x 8 baking dish or if making individual servings, place 3 rollatinis in individual ramekins. Cover the rollatini with the remaining Bechamel sauce and sprinkle a little Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly brown on the top. (Ramekins will only take about 18-20 minutes to bake).  Enjoy.