Wow. That break was a bit longer than anticipated. Sorry about that. But it has been quite a year! The Pantry has taken off, and I paused for a bit, to focus on that. And then it seems that I just kept pausing. Blogging pauses are like gym pauses, once you lose the routine, it just feels crazy to jump back in. It’s not like I haven’t been cooking, because believe me, there’s been plenty of food in this kitchen. I started getting post anxiety, and then it was just too easy to find a reason not to blog about my adventures. Weird-looking food, too hard to photograph. Poor lighting, why bother? Dinner company, I didn’t want to inconvenience them. I have no idea where the camera is, well, that was just laziness talking.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that I got married? Which of course was the mother of excuses, and then the mother of salvations. OBVIOUSLY I couldn’t be blogging while planning a wedding (which, by the way, kicked some serious ass), but I could write ABOUT the wedding. It would be my comeback piece, my big project, the perfect excuse for taking 6 months off. And then of course the size of the post scared the mess out of me.
So here I am, back on my blog, with what some might describe as a very humble offering: moussaka.
But you see, I love moussaka. And you know what else? It’s weird looking. It was a grey day. And I still haven’t found the real camera and had to borrow the pocket one that John got in trouble for buying last time he was in New York. But I’m back on the horse, and isn’t that what matters? Next to this dreamboat of a Greek casserole that is.
For those of you who haven’t been introduced to moussaka, it is a tricky one. And I don’t blame you for being suspicious. Most versions I’ve eaten in Greek restaurants are just awful. And clearly several days past their prime. At worst, it’s lukewarm mushfood. But at it’s best, it’s just glorious. A layer of roasted slices of potato. A layer of lamb cooked in cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. A layer of roasted slices of eggplant. All beneath a charred and fluffy layer of bechamel that reminds me of toasted marshmallows. I ate this version at Kokkari in San Francisco (random side note, when I was still an architect, I totally designed the addition on Erik Cosselmon’s house. Crazy!) and it was quite a memorable experience. Really, I think I ordered the moussaka because I was impressed that he had the nerve to charge $20 for it. Well, it was worth every penny and maybe a few more. When Kokkari came out with a cookbook, I ran out and bought it without thinking twice, because I just knew that a recipe for the moussaka would be included. And it was. And I’ve made it. And now you should.
And yes, that post on the wedding picnic is coming. I’ve got a 12-hour honeymoon plane flight coming up, and no excuses.
Kokkari Moussaka (10 servings)
2 globe eggplants, about 1 pound each
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 globe eggplants, about 1 pound each
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold or other yellow-fleshed potatoes
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup grated kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup Greek-style whole-milk yogurt, homemade or purchased
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound white onions, chopped
- 2 1/2 pounds ground lamb shoulder
- 1/4 cup Italian tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon