One of my favorite casseroles is moussaka, a delightful Greek dish of eggplants, meat, cheese and béchamel sauce.
It’s like the Greek version of lasagna, except that it uses eggplants instead of noodles. Although my husband also likes this casserole, he can only takeit in small quantities because he’s lactose-intolerant. When we order moussaka in a restaurant he scrapes away the cheese and some of the milk-based béchamel sauce.
Here I’ve made a much simpler version of moussaka, eliminating the cheese and béchamel sauce altogether. It may not be as rich as it should be, but it still tastes hearty and makes a great supper, especially when accompanied with warm crusty bread and an olive oil dip.
If you like eggplants, this dish is for you.
Baked eggplant casserole
2 large oval-shaped eggplants (See tips.)
Salt, for sprinkling on the eggplants
½ c olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 k ground beef
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 c tomato sauce
¼ c dried parsley leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
¼ c butter
2 c bread crumbs
½ c melted butter
1-2 tsp mixed herbs such as Italian seasoning
Cut the eggplants into circles, about one-half inch thick. Arrange them on sheets of paper towels then sprinkle lightly with salt. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes to draw out the moisture.
Heat one-fourth cup of the olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté onions for about one minute, then add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Stir in the ground beef and season with salt and pepper.
Stir-cook the beef until evenly browned. Pour in the tomato sauce and season with parsley leaves, oregano and rosemary. Let simmer for five to ten minutes, then remove from the heat.
Meantime, preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). When most of the moisture in the eggplants have seeped out, wipe the eggplants with paper towels to remove the moisture and any excess salt. Heat the remaining one-fourth cup olive oil and fry the eggplants until lightly browned. Transfer to paper towels.
Lightly grease the bottom of a 9” x 13” baking dish or spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange a layer of eggplants on the bottom of the dish. Spoon in enough meat mixture to cover the eggplants. Add another layer of eggplants then spoon in another layer of the meat mixture. Dot with the one-fourth cup butter.
Mix together the bread crumbs, melted butter and mixed herbs. Sprinkle on top of the dish. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is light golden brown. Serve hot with warm crusty bread and a dip of extra virgin olive oil.
Use the fat, oval-shaped eggplants, rather than the long, thin ones.
Dried parsley leaves are available in bottles. Look in the spice section of large supermarkets.
If you can’t find dried parsley leaves, use fresh ones.