Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The past few months I have been on the fence about going to culinary school. One of my chef friends suggested I pick up the CIA cookbook while I try to figure it out. He said that the book will teach me lots of great recipes and techniques and save me a few thousand dollars. My first attempt at the CIA Cookbook was the Lamb and Eggplant Moussaka. I wanted to give this one a try because the eggplant at my local farmer's market looked fantastic and who doesn't love a cheesy bechamel. If lamb is not your thing, you can substitute it with ground beef, turkey or pork.

Lamb and Eggplant Moussaka
*Recipe courtesy of  The Culinary Institute of America Cookbook and
photo from

3 lb eggplant (2 large or 3 medium) sliced about 1/4 inch thick
Salt as needed
1/3 cup olive oil, or as needed
2 cups diced onion
11/4 lb ground lamb, beef, turkey or pork
2 cups chopped plum tomatoes
2 tsp minced garlic
2 cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
Pinch ground allspice
Black pepper as needed
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
2 cups Cheese Sauce (recipe follows)

  1. Peel, salt, and rinse the eggplant if desired. This step is optional. Salting and rinsing the eggplant draws out the moisture and any bitterness.
  2. Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant to the oil a few slices at a time and saute for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side until tender and lightly colored. Transfer to a rack and drain while you saute the rest of the eggplant.
  3. To prepare meat sauce: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until tender about 10 minutes. Add the ground meat and cook until the meat loses its raw appearance, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, allspice, salt, pepper and about a 1/2 cup of water. Simmer until thick and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Add the tomato paste and red wine and continue simmering until the wine has developed a sweet aroma, about 10 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  5. To assemble the moussaka: Scatter the bread crumbs in a deep rectangle baking dish. Place a layer of half of the eggplant slices over the bread crumbs. Add the meat sauce and spread it into an even layer. Add the remaining eggplant in an even layer over the meat sauce. Pour the cheese sauce over the eggplant. Bake, uncovered, until the cheese sauce is thick and golden brown and the eggplant is very tender, about 45 minutes. Let the moussaka rest for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.
Cheese Sauce
makes 2 cups

5 tbsp butter
5 tbsp all-purpose flour
21/2 cups milk
Few grains of nutmeg
Salt and pepper as needed
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir well. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk, working out any lumps that form. Bring to a full boil, then reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 30  minutes.
  2. Remove the sauce from the heat and add nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste. Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl and add a bit of the hot sauce to the yolks. Blend well, and return the yolk mixture to the rest of the bechamel. Stir in the cheese and blend well. Keep warm while preparing the moussaka.
completed my meal with an Anderson Valley pinot noir.