Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sahtayn~ Moussaka, Middle Eastern Style

I've long been meaning to post some our my staple middle-eastern dishes, and a request this summer from a good friend was just the impetus I needed.  Last week I happened to have a lot of ripe tomatoes that I needed to use, so I decided to make Moussaka, a dish I made a lot when all the kids were growing up, but I had sort of forgotten about  in recent years. Too bad, as it is delicious, easy to make, and would have made a great crowd-feeding-pleasing dish when I had all those young bucks in my home this summer. This dish, made with two pounds of ground beef, fed Dear Husband, Tayta, and I for most of the week! Thankfully, it was delicious and hearty enough that no one minded, and like a stew, it tastes even better the next day.

Moussaka is a Greek name for a Greek dish, but I gather that variations of this layered vegetable and meat dish are made throughout the Middle East.The recipe that I started with was written for a western kitchen by an Iraqi woman, and I've tweeked it some as I prepare it in the Middle East.


About 2 medium eggplants, depending on the size
3 medium onions, sliced
About 7 medium potatoes, again, depending on size
2 lbs or 1K lean ground beef
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon  middle-eastern mixed spice mix  (I highly recommend using such a mix, but short of that you   can use allspice, or a mixture of allspice, nutmeg, and a dash of cinnamon)*
As many fresh tomatoes as you can spare for the top layer
4 cups fresh tomato puree or puree from a box, can, or tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

*edit: I checked the ingredients of my mixed spices: allspice, cloves, coriander, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves. However, I don't know what the ratios are.

1. Wash and slice eggplant about 1/2 inch thick. Place it in a colander and salt it. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and then rinse it and pat it dry. This salting/rinsing process helps to extract the bitter flavor.

2. While waiting for the eggplant, wash and slice the potatoes, also about 1/2 inch thick, and cook the potatoes in a saucepan of boiling water for 6-8 minutes. Drain.

3. Place the onions in the baking pan first, and then cover the onions with a layer of sliced eggplant.

4. Next, prepare the meat patties: knead the minced garlic, salt, pepper, and mixed spices into the meat. Knead well for several minutes, until the meat becomes smooth and uniform. Form into thin patties and place them over the eggplant slices.

5. Next comes the layer of potatoes, and some olive oil, which I drizzled on just because it makes everything taste better.

6. Aren't these tomatoes beautiful? Yes, we are blessed with an abundant supply of  fresh, flavorful, and inexpensive tomatoes from the Jordan Valley, so I try to use them in as many meals as I can. I had a big box of tomatoes to use up and so didn't even count how many I used. You could manage with only three or four  if you slice them very thin and spread them out a little more.

7. The last step is preparing the tomato sauce to be poured over the top of the layered casserole before baking. Again, I like to use fresh tomatoes, but you can use boxed or canned tomato puree. I put half tomatoes, cored and unpeeled, in my blender, along with the water, salt, and pepper. I do this in a couple of batches. Try to pour as much of the sauce as you can between the tomatoes and other vegetables so that the casserole will cook in it. As you can see some of the sauce will end up on top, but that is okay. It all cooks down together in the end.

8. Place casserole in a 350 F  (180 C) oven for about one hour or until potatoes and eggplant are cooked through. You might need up to an hour and a half.

I serve this with yogurt, salad, and pita bread.

(literally, double your health, but the Arabic equivalent to Bon Appetit) 

1 comment:

jlt said...

This looks and sounds delicious. I made eggplant parmesan this summer for the first time in many years and even my eggplant haters liked it so I may have to try this while tomatoes are still available.

Thanks for the link to the spice mix. It's about the time of year I start thinking about cooler weather cooking and I'm ready to make your walnut olive oil cake sometime soon. It's the perfect fall cake.

I'll let you know what all of my men think of the moussaka. :)