Moussaka3 (2)

One of the highlights of our trip to Greece a few years ago was certainly the food. The smells from cooking Greek classics at home always conjures up memories of that fantastic trip, and so while a bit tedious, we enjoy making this meal for “events.” This time we were cooking for my parents in sunny LA. When I first took it out of the oven there were protestations of “oh my! So much food – it will be enough for leftovers for weeks!” But after seconds… and thirds… there really wasn’t much left. On the other hand, I like to think that when people get thirds, whatever the dish is is *really* good. We found this recipe after using a different one for moussaka, but when we saw this claim to be the “Best ever moussaka” we decided to put it to the test. And sure enough, this really was the best ever that we’ve had, especially when paired with the wine used to make it!


2 medium globe eggplants (or 3 small eggplants)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 pounds ground lamb
2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fines herbes
¼ cup minced parsley
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
¾ cup red wine
½ cup plain bread crumbs
¾ pound feta cheese

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg yolk, beaten
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Garnish: chopped parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut tops off eggplants and cut lengthwise in ¼-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and place on paper towels for 30 minutes to absorb the moisture. Rinse, wipe eggplant dry, and place in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes.
  2. In a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat, cook the lamb, onions, and garlic, crumbling the lamb with a fork and stirring frequently until browned.
  3. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly in a strainer. Place meat mixture on paper towels and pat dry to further remove fat.
  4. Return the meat to the cleaned pan and add remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, fines herbes, parsley, and tomato paste. Stir well. Add wine and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Grease the bottom of a 9 X 13 ovenproof baking dish and dust with all but 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs. Reserve remaining bread crumbs for sauce.Sauce
  6. To make sauce, in a medium sauté pan over low-medium heat, melt butter and whisk in flour. Stir in milk, nutmeg, and salt and stir until thickened. In a separate mixing bowl, spoon a little of the hot sauce into the egg yolk and add the 3 tablespoons of reserved bread crumbs. Then, blend the egg-bread crumb mixture into the sauce. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Layer dish first with eggplant, then meat, and then with a generous portion of feta cheese. Repeat layers and top with sauce.
  8. Lower oven heat to 350°F. Top the dish with Parmesan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until top of cheese is golden brown. Cut into square servings. Garnish with chopped parsley. The Wine Lover’s Cookbook by Sid Goldstein  


Lamb Shank Tagine

My father and I share similar tastes when it comes to food, and I’m pretty sure I’ve inherited a cooking gene from his side of the family, as well.  Given this, I enjoy cooking for him whenever I get the opportunity, so this was the elegant “presentation” dish that I made for his most recent birthday.

Thankfully the cooking went well (it’s always hard to tell how something will turn out to begin with, let alone in a different kitchen one is not used to), and it was a hit! lamb shank 1

I highly recommend serving this, as David Lebovitz does in My Paris Kitchen, with this lemon Israeli couscous salad.


3 tbsp EVOO
kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet or smoked paprika (I prefer sweet)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 lamb shanks
2 onions, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
Generous pinch saffron threads
1 (14 oz) can or box of chopped or crushed tomatoeS
2 cups chicken stock (or water, but chicken stock adds nice flavor)
1 tsp honey
3/4 cup halved dried apricots
1/2 cup golden raisins
chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or cilantro for garnish


1. Mix 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 2 tsp of salt, the cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne in a large bowl.  Add the lamb shanks and use your hands to massage the seasonings into the shanks.  Put the shanks in a large, sturdy resealable bag and close it, pressing out most of the air.  Marinate the lamb in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours.

2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Sear the lamb shanks in a single layer (if they don’t all fit, cook them in batches, adding additional oil, if necessary) so they are well browned on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 325º F.

4. Remove the shanks from the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and add the onions, garlic, and bay leaf; season with salt.  Cook, stirring up any darkened bits (adding a bit of water if they really don’t pick up) until the onions are soft and transluscent.  Stir in the saffron and let cook for another minute to release the fragrance of the saffron.  Add the tomatoes and their liquid, the stock, honey, and lamb shanks and bring to a boil.

5. Cover the pot and place it in the oven to cook for 2 hours, turning the shanks and adding half of the dried apricots and raisins midway through.  After 2 hours, remove the lid and add the remaining apricots and raisins.  Continue to cook, turning the shanks midway through this final cooking, until the sauce is thickened or about 30 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and skim any fat off the surface.  Serve each shank in a bowl over the couscous.  Sprinkle with parsley.

From My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz.

Grilled Lamb Chops

In my more recent forays into cooking “real meat” as I call it, meaning I’ve started cooking outside of the chicken comfort zone, I’ve had fun discovering fancy looking dishes that are really quite easy and don’t take too much time.  In wondering out loud what to make for dinner, a friend suggested this recipe that she has made for company for years.


While the recipe calls for a grill, we both used a cast iron skillet and had amazing results anyways.  Some people have said that cast iron skillets are extremely difficult to clean, but this recipe resulted with very minimal clean-up.  The marinade adds wonderful depth of flavor, and you can use the leftover herbs sprinkled into dishes for the rest of the week, including omelettes and chicken for salads.


2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Pinch cayenne pepper
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 lamb chops, about 3/4-inch thick


In a food processor fitted with a metal blade add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, cayenne, and salt. Pulse until combined. Pour in olive oil and pulse into a paste. Rub the paste on both sides of the lamb chops and let them marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator and allow the chops to come to room temperature; it will take about 20 minutes.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat until almost smoking, add the chops and sear for about 2 minutes. Flip the chops over and cook for another 2 minutes for medium-rare and 3 minutes for medium.

Adapted from Food Network Grilled Lamb Chops.

Lamb and Eggplant Casserole

Lamb and Eggplant Casserole

Since I began this blog, I have been going back to old cookbooks and perusing recipes. Every now and then, I find an old treasure – something that was once well-loved and somehow was forgotten. Much to my surprise, in one of the old cookbooks, I found this brief, hand-written recipe for something that felt like finding an old friend. I had totally forgotten about this recipe which is rather amazing because we all loved it and when Frances’ husband was younger, I made this dish quite often since it was a favorite of his – all of ours really. It’s ridiculously simple to make and so rich in flavors. There might be prettier dishes, but few that could claim to be tastier. I served it with a crisp green salad and a good crusty bread. I wish you could smell just how wonderful this dish is!

Lamb and Eggplant Casserole

Yields: 6 servings


1/4 cup EVOO

2 pounds lamb stew meat (ask for the shoulder), cut into 2 inch cubes

1 pound of Italian sausage, cut into 1 inch thick slices (any kind will work – beef, pork, turkey – hot or sweet)

3 yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced

4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 large eggplant, cubed (do NOT peel)

2 cups, full-bodied red wine, like a cabernet

4 small bay leaves (fresh or dried)

a good handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

28 oz. chopped San Marzano tomatoes or 1 large box of Pomi tomatoes


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large skillet (preferably cast iron), brown well the lamb cubes in batches in about 2 Tablespoons of the EVOO. When the lamb cubes are browned, place them in a Dutch Oven. lamb cubes
  3. In the same skillet, brown the Italian sausage. When nicely browned, add the sausage to the Dutch Oven with the lamb. sausage
  4. Adding another tablespoon of EVOO, add the onions and sliced garlic and saute until softened and the pieces begin to get translucent. Transfer them to the Dutch Oven when ready.
  5. Add the final tablespoon of EVOO to the same skillet and add the cubed eggplant. On high heat, brown the cubes, which will have also become tender. eggplant
  6. Add them to the Dutch Oven. Add all of the remaining ingredients to the Dutch Oven and gently mix everything together. unbaked lamb and eggplant casserole
  7. Cover the Dutch Oven and place in the oven to bake for 1.5 hours. This can be made a day ahead and reheated at 325 degrees F. for 30 minutes.

Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas and Cilantro

One day I will buy myself a fancy tagine (or even not so fancy tagine).  But realistically speaking that’s not going to happen until my kitchen doubles, and for now I’ve been content to make braises and slow cook the heck out of meat in my Staub Dutch oven.  lamboncouscous2

I had a hankering for cooking something that wasn’t just chicken or beef, and so Matt suggested lamb, which of course triggered a rabbit hole search on some of my favorite recipe sources — Food52 and Epicurious.

Lamb browning

Since I trust Epicurious ratings, it was pretty easy to narrow it down to this delicious looking tagine.  Slow cooked all day and with some cilantro thrown on top, it was so good that I was only sad that we hadn’t doubled the recipe.  The original recipe called for a spice blend that I did not have on hand, but I had a Baharat mixture that I made a while ago and just stored for all my Moroccan recipes and so I tossed that in instead.  I also did not have quite enough dried apricots (time for a order!) but I did have a bunch of golden raisins on hand and threw those in.  The result?  Fantastic.



  • 3/4 cup dried chickpeas
  • 5 garlic cloves (2 whole, 3 chopped)
  • 1 large cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds 1″ cubes lamb shoulder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 teaspoons Baharat spice blend
  • 1 tablespoon chopped peeled ginger
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juices
  • 2 1/2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup halved dried apricots (or golden raisins)
  • Steamed couscous
  • Chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Place chickpeas in a medium saucepan. Add water to cover by 2″. Let soak overnight.
  2. Drain chickpeas; return to same saucepan. Add 2 whole garlic cloves and cinnamon stick. Add water to cover by 2″. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until chickpeas are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain; set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown lamb on all sides, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to a medium bowl. Add onion to pot; reduce heat to medium, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic, Baharat , and ginger. Stir for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and lamb with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil. Add 2 1/2 cups stock. Return to a boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in chickpeas; simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes. Stir in apricots; simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Spoon couscous onto a large, shallow platter, forming a large well in center. Spoon tagine into center. Sprinkle cilantro over.

Adapted from Epicurious