I can recall having Moussaka from as early as my memory takes me. Every Greek home has a version of Moussaka and surely any of you who read my blog on a regular basis also (of course) enjoy Greek food and you’ve likely had a Moussaka.
Moussaka usually is made with slices of fried eggplant layered between an aromatic meat sauce and topped with a creamy Bechamel Sauce. There are also versions of Moussaka that also include slices of potatoes as one of the components.
Again, there’s no right or wrong – just that my family makes it with meat sauce, eggplants and the Bechamel. Back in the early nineties when I was visiting Greece and the “party islands”, I touched upon the non-stop, dance-crazy and sleep-depraved island of Mykonos.
One evening while out with friends, we sought to eat some more traditional Greek food, to get away from the souvlaki, gyro and fast food that was mere fuel for the night’s partying. On that evening, at a taverna near the Catholic church in the main town did I try (and enjoy immensely) a lighter Moussaka. One with zucchini.
The zucchini Moussaka hit the spot in so many ways as I longed for some “home cooking”, I was starving for real food and this lighter version was perfect for that warm and breezy evening in Mykonos.
Years ago I tried to recreate the dish but each time the Moussaka would end up a soggy blob…no doubt the zucchini to blame. Here, that problem is solved with the use of breadcrumbs. Yes, breadcrumbs. Zucchini are full of water and despite frying or cooking them – they still release more water during the baking process.
The addition of breadcrumbs does the trick, absorbing most of the excess water and ensuring a firm Moussaka that will hold is shape when you cut and place the serving on a plate. Also, I’ve grilled the zucchini (you may still fry them like the eggplant are) to make this a lighter entree.
Much like a Pastitsio, a Moussaka should be made ahead of time so as to allow the layers to settle. The aroma of the baking Moussaka will tempt you to cut into it prematurely. Resist…impatience will leave you with a blob of Moussaka and conversely if you wait, you’ll enjoy a nice discernible pieceÂ of Moussaka will grace yours and your guest’s plates.
Before I get on with the recipe, this dish is definitely a weekend dish. You have three components…the vegetables (zucchini), the meat sauce and your Bechamel. Despite the easy assembly, some time is needed to prep your three components of a Moussaka.
Moussaka With Zucchini
Approx. 2 lbs. of zucchini, sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
4 cups of meat sauce
1 recipe for Bechamel Sauce
1/2 cup of grated Kefalotyri or Romano cheese
9 x 9 inch square baking tray
some olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heated 375 F oven
- You may fry your zucchini slices that are seasoned and light dredged in flour or, simple grill the slices on your gas or charcoal grill. Transfer the zucchini to a platter lined with paper towels so as to blot any residual moisture.
- Lightly oil the the baking dish and sprinkle half the breadcrumbs on the bottom. Lay half the zucchini slices on top of the breadcrumbs, one slice slightly overlapping the over (another step to hold your Moussaka in place).
- Now spread half the meat sauce over the zucchini slices and repeat with another layer with the remaining breadcrumbs, the remaining zucchini slices and remaining meat sauce.
- Now top with your Bechamel Sauce and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the top with your grated Kefalotyri cheese. Baked in your pre-heated oven for about 45 – 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
- Allow the Moussaka to rest for at least 60 minutes before slicing. Serve warm with a Greek salad.
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