My Big Fat Greek Eggplant Casserole
photo by The Spice Guru
- Ready In:
- 2 large fresh eggplants (peeled, sliced lengthwise to 1/8-1/4 inch)
- 1⁄4 cup virgin olive oil
- 2 freshly mashed garlic cloves (use garlic press)
- 1⁄4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1⁄2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
- 1 1⁄2 lbs lean ground beef or 1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
- 1 large chopped onion
- 1 medium chopped green bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced kalamata olives
- 2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 3⁄4 cup dry greek red wine
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Greek honey
- 1 1⁄4 teaspoons crushed dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1⁄2 tablespoon ouzo or 1/4 teaspoon pure anise extract
- 1⁄4 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest
- 1⁄4 teaspoon crushed dried mint
- 1⁄4 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 1⁄2 cup bechamel sauce (reserved from recipe below)
- 1⁄2 cup salted butter
- 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (level)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
- 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1⁄8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 3⁄4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
- PREPARE EGGPLANT: Cut off the stem sections of 2 large fresh eggplants. Peel eggplant using a sharp vegetable peeler. Cut eggplants lengthwise in even 1/8" thick slices. Pour 1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil into a large microwave-safe bowl. Mash 2 garlic cloves using a garlic press and add to oil. Add 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper. Stir. Heat mixture in microwave about 30-45 seconds on high. Rub or brush the sliced eggplant with the oil mixture until lightly coated. Wipe the bowl clean with a paper towel and set aside. Arrange seasoned eggplant single-layer onto a flat-ridged or press-type grill on medium-high heat. When the eggplant has dark grill marks, turn and grill other side the same (skip turning eggplant if using a press-type grill). Allow eggplant to "sweat" until needed. Sprinkle, then pat, finished eggplant slices liberally using 1/2 cup powdered parmesan cheese.
- IN a large food processor, chop 1 large onion, 1 medium bell pepper, one handful pitted kalamata olives, 1 handful flat leaf parsley leaves, and 8-12 garlic cloves.
- HEAT 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; ADD the above chopped vegetables, 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef, 1 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper; SAUTE until meat is browned and vegetables have softened.
- ADD 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes, 3/4 cup dry greek red wine, 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons greek honey, 1 1/4 teaspoons crushed dried oregano, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1/2 tablespoon ouzo or 1/4 teaspoon pure anise extract, 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon crushed dried mint, 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper, 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes, and 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese; STIR well; COVER; REDUCE heat; SIMMER for 45 minutes or longer (sauce will be thick); RE-SEASON sauce to taste with fine sea salt if needed (leave sauce just slightly under-salted since sauce will concentrate while baking).
- INTO the previously wiped large bowl, separate 4 large eggs, retaining the yolks in bowl (refrigerate egg whites sealed, for another use while fresh);.
- WHISK in 4 cups whole milk until smooth; ADD 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1 level teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper, 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 pinch cayenne pepper; WHISK again until blended; SET aside.
- MELT 1/2 cup salted butter over medium heat; ADD 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and cook for just one minute; POUR milk and egg mixture all at once into roux while whisking constantly; CONTINUE whisking often until sauce thickens up and begins to bubble; REMOVE from heat; WHISK in 3/4 cup powdered parmesan cheese until smooth and glossy; COVER loosely with plastic wrap; BLEND 1/2 cup of the BECHAMEL into the fully-simmered SAUCE.
- PREHEAT oven to 350 F; OIL a 2-3 quart casserole dish with olive oil; SPREAD 1/2 (one half) of the EGGPLANT single-layer in bottom of baking dish; POUR the entire SAUCE mixture over top then smooth; ADD the remaining EGGPLANT over the SAUCE; POUR all of the BECHAMEL sauce over the eggplant; SMOOTH bechamel sauce. NOTE: YOU CAN SPRINKLE THE TOP OF CASSEROLE NOW LIGHTLY WITH GRATED PARMESAN CHEESE (PLUS MINCED FRESH PARSLEY IF DESIRED) OR YOU CAN GARNISH WHILE STILL HOT, JUST AFTER BAKING.
- BAKE for 1 hour; ALLOW to rest 20 minutes before slicing.
- SERVE and enjoy!
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RECIPE SUBMITTED BY
Mathematician... Metaphysician... Magician in a test kitchen