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Greatly Reducing the Fat in a Greek Eggplant Casserole

February 09, 1989|JEANNE JONES | Jones is a food consultant and a cookbook author.

DEAR JEANNE: Enclosed is a recipe for Greek Eggplant Casserole. It is delicious but too greasy. Can you help to improve that situation?

--BERTHA, San Diego

GREEK EGGPLANT CASSEROLE

1 pound ground lamb or beef

1 cup chopped onion

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup tomato paste

1 cup white wine

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Salt, pepper

2 1/2 to 3 pounds eggplant

Bechamel Sauce

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Saute meat and onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic, tomato paste, wine, water, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 10 minutes. Set aside.

Cut and discard ends of eggplant. Cut eggplant into 1/2-inch wide round slices. Place slices on large baking sheet or tray. Sprinkle generously with salt. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Rinse eggplant under cold running water to remove salt. Dry with paper towels.

Pour olive oil into large skillet to depth of 1/2-inch. Heat oil until very hot. Fry eggplant slices 20 to 30 seconds on each side. Drain on 2 thicknesses of paper towel. Set aside.

Cover bottom of 13x9-inch baking pan or casserole dish (either metal or glass) with half of eggplant slices. Spread meat filling over eggplant. Top with remaining half of eggplant slices.

Spread Bechamel Sauce over entire surface and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Lightly sprinkle top with remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Bake at 325 degrees 45 minutes or until bechamel sauce is set. Cool 5 minutes. Cut into squares. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Bechamel Sauce

1/2 cup butter

10 tablespoons flour

4 cups milk

2 egg yolks, beaten

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Salt, pepper

Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour and stir constantly over low heat 2 minutes. Do not brown. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to boil. Remove from heat. Add egg yolks, stirring constantly, until well blended. Stir in nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

DEAR BERTHA: I made several variations of this Light Moussaka, or Greek Eggplant Casserole, before I came up with one that I liked.

I was able to greatly reduce the fat and cholesterol by using less olive oil and eliminating the eggs called for in the sauce. I could have omitted the olive oil completely, but the flavor it gives the meat is necessary for the authentic Greek taste.

I liked the casserole best when I made it with peeled eggplant, and steaming instead of frying the eggplant enabled me to further reduce the amount of fat and calories in the revised recipe. My revision only serves eight people, but I think it is a more practical size for most families, and it could easily be halved if you desire to make a smaller dish.

--JEANNE

LIGHT MOUSSAKA

(Greek Eggplant Casserole)

1 pound ground lamb or extra-lean ground beef

1 small onion, chopped

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup tomato paste

1 cup white wine

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 (2-pound) eggplants

Bechamel Sauce

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Saute meat and onions in olive oil until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic, tomato paste, wine, water, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes. Set aside.

Peel eggplant and cut into 1/2-inch wide round slices. Place slices on large baking sheet or tray. Lightly sprinkle both sides with salt. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Rinse eggplant under cold running water to remove salt. Dry with paper towels.

Steam eggplant slices 5 minutes or until fork tender. Drain any moisture on paper towels. Set aside.

Spray 13x9-inch baking pan or casserole dish with non-stick vegetable coating. Cover bottom with half of eggplant slices. Spread meat filling over eggplant. Top with remaining half of eggplant slices.

Spread Bechamel Sauce over entire surface and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Lightly sprinkle top with remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Bake at 325 degrees 45 minutes or until bechamel sauce is set. Cool 5 minutes. Cut into squares. Makes 8 servings.

Bechamel Sauce

3 cups nonfat milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 cup uncooked cream of rice cereal

Bring milk, salt and nutmeg to boil in saucepan. Add cereal and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to stand 5 minutes.

Pour into blender container and blend until smooth.

Each serving contains approximately:

Original Recipe:

Calories: 521

Cholesterol: 134 mg

Fat: 41 gm

Sodium: 597 mg

Revised Recipe:

Calories: 297

Cholesterol: 48 mg

Fat: 14 gm

Sodium: 475 mg

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