The stand-out cooking event of the last few weeks was clearly the mousaka, dolmades, and tzatziki from The Parthenon Cookbook.
This dinner almost killed us. I think I started cooking around 5pm one day and at around 8:30 we decided to put it all on hold and grab a pizza.
Again we had the fractal recipes situation that we’ve run into once or twice before.
The mousaka is like Greek lasagna, with the role of the pasta played the fried slices of eggplant.
So we peel and slice the eggplant, then soak it in water for an hour to remove the bitterness. Then we fry the eggplant – in small batches, so we don’t drop the oil temperature too much. The eggplant gets layered in a caserole with a meat mixture (sub recipe #1 …or is it 2?). Ground beef and lamb are browned with onion and garlic and spices. Also layered into the caserole is a Greek goat cheese. Splashed over the whole thing we have a Greek red sauce (using tomato paste instead of canned tomatoes…interesting). Then a mornay sauce (inexactly called a bechemal sauce) goes on top.
After that’s assembled it cooks in the oven for an hour or so.
Along side all of this I was making dolmades, which are beef and lamb meatballs (with lots of freshly ground spices, milk, onions, rice, etc.) wrapped in grape leaves, then simmered for an hour in water. Some of the cloudy water is reserved and used to make a whipped-egg-white / lemon juice foam sauce. Tons of work: soaking the grape leaves, unrolling them one by one, portioning out each amount of mix, wrapping in the leaves, making the sauce by seperating eggs, whipping the whites, folding the yolks in, etc. To do that much work and have a result which is bland in taste and offputting in texture is quite frustrating.
I give the mousaka an A, maybe an A+. Very filling, very solid, perfectly spiced.
I give the dolmades a C- at best. Very flat tasting and uninteresting. A ton of work.
The tzatziki, which is like most other recipes but has red wine vinegar, was good. An A-.