Thursday, January 6, 2011

Melding of Cultures

I recently experimented with mixing some Mediterranean/Greek cuisine with French/American cuisine. I was in the mood for moussaka but didn't have all the ingredients. I also had in the freezer some Ragu Sauce I had made a large batch of few weeks earlier.

I decided to take an eggplant and make a sauce then layer it with macaroni, bechamel sauce and ragu sauce. Top it with some fresh Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses then bake it like a casserole. The result was pretty good and the best part, left over's 2 days later, tasted as good as the first day!

2-3 cups Ragu Sauce-
Bechamel Sauce (recipe to follow)
2 to 2.5 cups macaroni (boiled to your preference)
1 medium to large eggplant
1 small to medium onion diced
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
salt to taste
2 large vine ripe tomatoes or 2 tbsp tomato paste
fresh or dried basil
dried oregano

To make the eggplant sauce-
Dice the eggplant into about 1 inch cubes and set aside. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the diced onion. Saute until translucent/soft. Lower the heat to medium low and add the dried herbs, crushed garlic and salt (to taste). Saute for one minute then add in the eggplant. Cook this (covered) for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times in between. Add the tomato (add also a 1/2 cup of water if using paste) and mix well. Heat the mixture until bubbling and then lower heat to simmer until the eggplant is completely cooked. Once soft, mash the mixture with your cooking spoon, just to break down any larger pieces. Set this sauce aside.

To make the Bechamel Sauce:
Boil some macaroni and prepare your bechamel sauce. The simplest way to do this is to melt 1/2 a stick (about 50grams) of butter in a heavy bottom pan. Once melted, stir in slowly (using a whisk) about a 1/4 to 1/3 cup of all purpose flour. Once well integrated, keep cooking on low heat until the mixture seems slightly darker in color. Slowly add in milk, 1/4 cup or so at a time, with a total of 1 and 1/2 cups of milk. Cook the sauce on low heat for a few minutes or until it reaches your desired thickness, turn off heat and add in salt to taste and 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg. Mix this with the macaroni and set aside.

Putting it all together:
Butter or grease a medium to large size casserole dish. I used a pyrex 9in x 4.5in dish. Spread a thin layer of the macaroni mix in the dish, then spread out the eggplant mix, followed by some cheese (not too much). Next pour on the ragu sauce. Fill the dish with the remaining macaroni mixture and top with fresh grated Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 15min at 375 degrees F. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 30min or until the cheese starts to turn golden brown.

Let sit for 10min before serving as the sauces inside get very very very hot (you will burn your tongue if not careful).

Hope you'll enjoy this fusion dish I threw together the other night. Would love to hear about any amendments, suggestions, etc. that you tried when making this dish.

As always, Happy Cooking!