This whole menu came from Mo Rocca's show Foodography on the cooking channel. It was all about Greek food and after watching it I was inspired. I never heard of some of this stuff...Moussaka...dolma...galaktoboureko???? I had to find out...
As I was making this, it felt like I was making an eggplant lasagna in a way. It's rounds of eggplant that you fry ahead of time and on the show the lady said you make a meat sauce heavily seasoned with cinnamon and allspice. You layer the eggplant, then the meat sauce, eggplant and meat sauce, then it's topped with a bechamel cream sauce. Here is how I made the three components.
For the meat sauce I started by making a flavorful tomato sauce. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pan and add 1 or 2 garlic cloves minced with a pinch of red pepper flakes; cook until the garlic is very fragrant but not browning, one or two minutes; add a 32 oz can of plum tomatoes that you've pureed (or just buy it that way); add a good pinch of kosher salt and dried oregano; I let this cook down for about 1 1/2 hours but 1/2 hour is OK. Now for the "meat" part of the sauce in another pan I heated olive oil and 1/2 onion chopped, a pinch of salt; cook until the onion is translucent and softened; add about 1/2 lb of ground beef and brown; add about 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1-2 tsp freshly ground all spice and 1/4 tsp salt; I added about 1/2 cup milk and let that cook down (not something I usually do but think it might help to tenderize) all the way; add tomato sauce to desired sauce-ey-ness.
For the eggplant I heated about 1/2 inch of canola oil in the bottom of a large skillet and over medium-high heat let it get hot but not smoking; meanwhile cut the eggplant in 1/3 inch slices and fry without overcrowding the pan and brown on both sides; once they turn golden brown remove to paper towels to drain and season with salt immediately.
For the Bechamel I was making a small portion so I only made a small amount of this sauce. Heat 5 oz of milk or 1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup in a small pan; In a medium skillet melt 1 tbsp butter then add 1 tbsp flour and whisk together; cook this mixture for a couple of minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste and slightly brown the mixtue; slowly whisk in the hot milk and bring to a simmer; season with salt and pepper to taste; this is where I stopped but you can add cheese to enrich the sauce if you like; I added a sprinkling of sheeps milk greek melting cheese (that I found at Whole Foods) to the top after assembly.
I assembled this in a small earthenware dish (desribed above) and cooked it uncovered in a 350 oven for about 35-45 minutes until it turned brown on top.
I served this with tzatziki and pita.
For the tzatziki I whisked together 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar and 3 Tbsp olive oil, salt, fresh garlic minced to taste, 1 cup of greek yogurt; add finely chopped cucumber that's been seeded and peeled; I let that sit a few hours to marry the flavors.
These are the stuffed grape leaves that are stacked on top of each other and slowly steamed for an hour or so until tender. I bought the jar of grape leaves at Whole Foods and on the jar the instructions are to rince the leaves and boil for a minute to remove the excess salt from the grape leaves. I made the filling mixture by kind-of following the way the lady made them on foodography (they don't give the full recipe) and my own thoughts. So this is what I did...
For the filling mixture I heated a few Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and let it get hot but not smoking; add 1/2 onion finely chopped, 1/2 fennel bulb finely chopped and 1/2 tsp kosher salt; cook the vegetables until softened about 5-6 minutes; add 1 scant cup of white wine and let that cook down to about 1/4 cup; add 1 full cup of chicken stock; add cooked brown rice ( I cooked 1 cup of rice ahead); mix this together and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
To assemble the grape leaves I boiled them as I described above, drained them and let them cool slightly; lay one leaf down so the bottom of the stem is facing you; put about 1-2 tbsp of filling and roll them as you would a burrito and place them side by side in a casserole or baking dish; keep rolling and stack them as you go; place a few slices of lemon on top of the dolma's and pour about 1 inch of heated water into the baking dish; cover and bake in a 350 oven for about an hour.
Grilled Skin-on Haddock over Greek Potato Salad and topped with Ladolemono
This was on the foodography show but they were using a fish that you can't get here in the US. Come to find out later on while watching the show a second time, the perfect substitute would have been a sea bass but it's just as well, I have been wanting to try haddock (since that was one I hadn't had yet; still working on trying new fish' after not likeing fish for the first 38 years of my life). The chef on the show was grilling the fish with the skin-on, skin side down on a hot grill and not ever flipping it, just cooking it on that one side the whole time (that's what I did and it worked well). He served it over a potato salad and topped the fish with something called "ladolemono", which I have made many times with out realizing it.
For the potato salad I boiled small white potatoes whole, until just cooked through and while they boiled I got the other ingredients for the salad together; I cut little grape tomatoes in half and placed in a bowl along with about 12-15 Kalamata olives, 3 scallions chopped, a handful of chopped parsley and Tbsp of capers that have been drained; the dressing was the juice of one lemon, whisk in olive oil to taste, salt, pepper, minced garlic and a few tablespoons of greek yogurt and a tablespoon of dijon mustard; when the potatoes are done, drain them and remove the skin when it's cool enough to handle; cut into bite sized pieces and drop into a serving bowl; sprinkle on a handful of greek feta cheese and add all the vegetables; mix gently then add the dressing and mix gently again; check for salt and pepper. Next time I would leave out the feta if I am serving it with the fish.
To make the ladolemono it's very easy and I made it in a small mason jar. It's 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts olive oil and salt, pepper and dried oragano to taste; shake the jar and it's done.
I was looking for greek desserts on my phone and this picture popped up and looked good so after reading the description I had to try it. It's layers of baked fillo with a custard layer in between ( "you had me at custard"...). Here is the recipe. It was not as sweet as you may be used to but it was very easy and different. I thought it was interesting that the custard is not made the "normal" way, it's thickened with semolina flour... very good!