I celebrated a birthday last week! As a result, I took some time to reflect on how much I’ve changed over the past x number of years. The following pretty much sums it up in a nutshell…
Things I like more as I get older: beans in my Mexican food, drinking water, making my bed, Microsoft Excel, birthday cake, face moisturizer, Mama Choi’s cooking, car rides, the radio.
Things I like less as I get older: putting on makeup, boys (I’m all about men now. Actually, just man – Karl), coffee, sleeping in, trying on clothes, high heels, crowded places.
Things that haven’t changed at all: my dislike for raisins, my 10 pm bedtime, my obsession with FRIENDS and chicken wings, my handwriting, my childish sense of humor, my need to keep a very organized calendar.
As I get older, I spend less and less time getting ready in the morning. Sometimes I really rush and can’t tell if my makeup looks decent when I step out the door. The other day, after I left my apartment in a hurry, I asked one of my best friends and college roommate, Shannon, to inspect my makeup job. This is how our conversation went…
Me: Are my eyebrows crooked?
Shannon: Eyebrows are cousins – not twins!
Me: Well then my eyebrows are second cousins.
I can always rely on Shannon to tell me what I want to hear!
Earlier this month, Karl had a birthday (yes – we’re both March babies!), and we celebrated it at an amazing Greek restaurant in Palo Alto called Evvia. Everything we had there was absolutely amazing! Karl wanted to try their moussaka, so we did and were blown away by its delicious flavors.
Moussaka is a traditional Greek, casserole-type dish, made with ground lamb (sometimes beef). There are layers of potatoes and eggplant, and the whole thing is covered in a rich bechamel sauce and topped with parmesan cheese. Then it’s baked in the oven for 35-40 minutes. The lamb is seasoned with cayenne, ginger, and cinnamon! The cinnamon gives the dish a very warm flavor. I will say, at first, I was skeptical of the cinnamon, but after the first bite, I was instantly sold.
Before making it at home, I did lots of research on moussaka and eventually adapted my recipe from Saveur’s moussaka recipe. Instead of frying the potatoes and eggplant, I roasted them to avoid using so much oil. I added a cinnamon stick and a few bay leaves to the lamb, for some extra flavor. With each bite, you get a little bit of potato, eggplant, lamb, and bechamel. This dish is so fantastic – slightly laborious, but absolutely worth it.
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large yellow onions, finely chopped
- 1 cup red wine
- 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 medium eggplant, halved and cut crosswise into 1⁄4"-thick slices
- 1 large russet potato, peeled, halved and cut crosswise into 1⁄4"-thick slices
- 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1⁄4 cups whole milk
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1⁄2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- In a dutch oven, heat up 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the lamb, cayenne, ground cinnamon, and ginger. Brown the meat, then drain the liquids and plate.
- Return the dutch oven to the stove, then heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and the onions, cook until the onions are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until evaporated. Return the lamb to the pot, and add 3 bay leaves and the cinnamon stick halves. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and sugar, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil, then lightly grease it with cooking spray. Spread the eggplant out evenly on the baking sheet, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, then set aside. Line another baking sheet with foil, lightly grease it with cooking spray, then spread the potatoes out evenly on the baking sheet, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, then set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and cook for 2 minutes, whisking continuously. Next, while whisking continuously, slowly add the milk. Add one bay leaf, and cook for 15 minutes, whisking often. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf, then add the nutmeg. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow the sauce to cool for about 5 minutes, then whisk in the yogurt and egg yolks. Mix until smooth.
- In an oval 3-qt baking dish, spread the potatoes out evenly, then add the eggplant on top (fit as many as you can in one layer, slightly overlap if needed). Evenly spread the meat sauce on top of the eggplant. Pour the bechamel (the white sauce) over the top of the meat sauce. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 35-40 minutes in a 400 F degree oven, until brown. Allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
I love moussaka….and this looks like one straight out of Gourmet Traveller. I literally got shivers just looking at it. That perfect béchamel topping, golden brown…..oh my!! 🙂
Thank you so much, Nagi!!! 🙂
This dish looks delicious! I really like moussaka too! In fact the first time I had it was also at the Evvia in Palo Alto! It was delish! Your take on it looks warm, hearty, and good. Plus I like that it’s in a bigger dish instead of the little restaurant dish. Yum!
Thank you, Sarah!! 🙂
Evvia is reason enough for me to move back to Palo Alto!! I went back and forth between small and big dishes – glad you like the bigger dish!
Happy birthday to you and Karl! Greek food is super fun to make and healthy too. Thanks for sharing – I’ve never made moussaka before.
As I get older, I spend MORE time getting ready in the morning. Otherwise, I look like a high school kid lol
Thank you, Natalie!! I really did have a blast making it. It was so different from dishes I usually make 🙂
Haha I know what you mean about needing more time in the morning, but I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll always look like a high schooler – that is until I hit 60 and start to look like
I’m 80 😉