Monday, August 6, 2012

Olympics Day 11: Moussaka and Greek Green Beans

I like the Olympics most for the sports I seldom see. I just finished watching the gold medal race of the men's track cycling sprint. Jason Kenny, the cyclist from Great Britain took the gold against Gregory Bauge from France. While it was called a sprint, the first half of the race was just the opposite. Kenny got out in the lead, and literally crawled while watching for Bauge to make a move. In the last lap, both men bolted for the finish. I have no idea why they chose that particular moment to start sprinting.

We almost forgot to celebrate Greece for the Olympics. That would have been an error. But I am glad Gail thought of it. She made moussaka with ground beef and Greek green beans for dinner. I say she made them, but I think she more accurately chanted over them. I put the recipe at the end of this article. The first slice of moussaka came out of the dish clean. This seems to be in part because she created a pan lining from the skin of the eggplant.

The flavor profile comes from the combination of cinnamon, pepper, clove and cumin. And there is a sweetness that comes from the vermouth and eggplant. Gail made the dish extra special by using potatoes she dug from her garden yesterday. She made a double batch, which used the one eggplant we had and another we got from our neighbors, Alan and Janice. Janice brought over the parts of their CSA share from Wilson Farm that they couldn't use. Thank you Alan and Janice.

Janice included some green beans, which Gail used to make a Greek green bean recipe she adapted from Once again, the dish was extra special because it included tomatoes from her garden. The sweet-salt flavors worked well with the moussaka. I've also included this recipe at the end. Gail simmered the beans for only 20 minutes this time, which was plenty by my taste.

I never did get a Greek beer to go with this, so instead I poured Young's Double Chocolate Stout from England. It seems fitting to match Greece with Great Britain for these Olympics. We initially picked this beer because Gail noticed chocolate in the name and was interested. The word "chocolate" in stouts usually refers to the chocolate (or darkly roasted) malt. Young's brewery actually adds some real dark chocolate, hence the "double chocolate" name. You can taste a strong, malty sweetness with flavors of both chocolate and coffee. This is a rich and full-flavored beer, but isn't as creamy as other stouts I've had, although it was really yummy.

Serves: 3
Hands-on prep time: 90 min
Start-to-finish time: 3 hrs

1 egg
1 med eggplant
3 T olive oil
¾ c chopped onion
1 clove garlic
10 oz ground lamb
¼ c sweet vermouth or port
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t salt
½ t ground cumin
½ t ground black pepper
¾ lb baking potatoes
  1. Bring egg to room temperature during preparation. Wash eggplant; cut in half lengthwise; score cut side without breaking skin; soak in cold water 10 min to keep from absorbing too much oil when cooking.
  2. Heat half of oil in large heavy skillet (if deep enough to boil potatoes in later, even better!) over high heat; drain and pat eggplant dry while oil heats; wear apron to protect against spatters. Place as many eggplant halves as will fit in hot oil, cut side down; sear 1 min without disturbing. Measure 1 T water for each half and add all at once, being careful of spattering; cover; reduce heat to low; steam 10 min. Transfer to platter to cool.
  3. Add remaining oil to skillet; adjust to med-low heat. Add onion; cook until tender. Add garlic; stir until fragrant. Add lamb, cook until lightly browned.
  4. When eggplants are cool enough to handle, scrape pulp with teaspoon; chop pulp into bite-sized pieces. Reserve skins.
  5. Add pulp to skillet; stir in vermouth and spices. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until liquid evaporates, 5 min. Transfer to platter to cool at least 30 min.
  6. While eggplant mixture cools, boil salted water for potatoes. Peel and slice into lengthwise chips, about ¼" thick.
  7. Par-boil potatoes 3 min; drain.
  8. Place oven rack in middle of oven; preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil deep casserole dish.
  9. Beat egg lightly; mix into cooled eggplant mixture. If mixture is too hot egg will curdle!
  10. Line casserole with eggplant skins, skin side down, allowing extra to hang over sides.
  11. Estimate number of layers you have enough potato slices for (this will depend on the sizes of both dish and potato slices). Layer potatoes and eggplant mixture, starting and ending with potatoes.
  12. Fold eggplant skins over top of layers to seal. Cover with lightly oiled foil if skins don’t meet.
  13. Bake 90 min; use a baking sheet to prevent spills; cool on rack 10 min before serving.
  • Substitute ground beef or poultry for lamb.
  • Sprinkle cheese over each layer of potatoes.
  • Substitute mashed potatoes for boiled slices.
  • Top with béchamel or tomato sauce

Greek Green Beans
Makes: 1 ½ c

2 t olive oil
¼ c chopped onion
1/16 t minced garlic
1 c green beans, trimmed & snapped into bite-sized pieces
¼ c chopped tomato
¼ t sugar
¼ t salt
  1. Trim and snap green beans. Heat olive oil in heavy skillet over med-low heat; sauté onion and garlic until tender and fragrant.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients; reduce heat to low; simmer 45 min until beans are tender.

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