Inspired by Greek Moussaka, the flavors in this casserole of layered eggplant and ground meat might sound a little unusual, but it’s a mild dish that’s likely to appeal to everyone at the table. Plus, it’s one of those great meals that taste even better the next day. Overnight, the flavors meld together even more, the texture tastes richer and while the casserole is good hot, it’s not so bad cold, either. Primal Moussaka is the type of dish you’re going to want to eat a few forkfuls of right out of the fridge before warming the rest up.
The silky texture of the eggplant and the warm, savory flavors of cinnamon, allspice and fresh dill mixed in with the meat mimic the taste of the traditional Greek casserole. But there’s a lot that’s different, too. The cheese sauce thickened with flour that tops traditional Moussaka has been replaced with full-fat Greek yogurt that bakes into a surprisingly creamy and dense topping. The trick is mixing the yogurt with eggs and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. There’s a little bit of chopped kale thrown into the casserole (optional, but really tasty) and although the meat can be ground lamb, it doesn’t have to be. The result is a version of Moussaka that actually tastes a little like lasagna, minus the noodles.
Intrigued? Give the recipe a try tonight!
1-2 large eggplants, peeled (optional) and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 bunch of kale, chewy lower stems cut off
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
1 pound ground meat (lamb is traditional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
olive oil, for sautéing
salt and pepper, to taste
Salting the eggplant is optional, but it will draw out moisture and prevent the eggplant slices from soaking up so much oil. After peeling (optional) and slicing the eggplant, place the slices in a colander. Sprinkle the slices liberally with kosher salt. Let the slices sit for 20-30 minutes until moisture appears on the surface. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly and blot dry.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add several slices of eggplant to the hot oil at a time and sauté the eggplant slices, turning as necessary, until soft and just lightly browned. Continue heating oil and cooking the eggplant until all the slices are cooked. Set the eggplant aside.
Boil the kale for 3 minutes. Puree the kale with the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water in a food processor.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Saute a few minutes then add meat, cinnamon and allspice. Stir, so the meat browns evenly. After five minutes add the dill and the tomato mixture.
Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
As the meat cooks, whisk together eggs, yogurt and nutmeg.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a lightly oiled 2-quart square baking dish, place a thin layer of eggplant then cover with the meat. Layer the remaining eggplant on top, then the yogurt. Top with additional grate cheese if desired.
Bake 45 minutes, or until the top is set and golden brown. Let rest 20 minutes before cutting into the Moussaka.