Moussaka for the gods Kanelos Weiner-Moussaka

In a resale shop on an American military base in the middle of Japan, I never thought I would stumble upon a family heirloom.  Thumbing through the relics of 1970s food styling, including a chicken cacciatore on a nest of baby’s breath, I found a real gem Greek Cooking for the Gods by Eva Zane e Evoula Stamatoginnis.  “My mom used to have that book!” my dad exclaimed when I showed him my new find.

The K in my last name is a dead giveaway that I am indeed Greek.  (Maybe a Kardashian in my next life!)  If family legend serves me well, my English grandmother didn’t have much of a hand at cooking for my Greek grandfather.  Even the buttery, bechamel-topped Greek classic pastitsio became “dry as dirt!” left to her devices.  Her galaktoboureko was spiked with both the zest and pith of the orange which had my dad hiding under the table the day I bought a citrus zester. And nervously meeting my grandparents the first time, my mom found an exceptionally chewy bit in her spanakopita, a green rubber band.

I’ve had a bit of a culinary learning curve here as well, learning to cook everyday French food with a very picky in-house critic, my husband.  Having spent a day on end, slowly simmering away Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon, it turned out “ok, but not a boeuf bourguignon”.  With French classics stacked high against me, I thought I would delve into my culinary past, entrusting Greek Cooking for the Gods to take me back into the courageous shoes of my grandma…


Moussaka from Greek Cooking for the Gods by Eva Zane

For 12 servings

3 eggplants

2 pounds ground lamb or beef

2 onions, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 can tomato sauce (8-ounce)

1/2 cup red wine

olive oil

salt and pepper

4 cups bechamel sauce

grated parmesan cheese

Peel and cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices; sprinkle with salt and set aside on paper towers to absorb the moisture.  Meanwhile prepare the meat sauce.  Saute the ground meat in butter with salt, and pepper, onions and garlic, crumbling the meat with a fork.  When the meat is evenly browned, add 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, parsley and tomato sauce; stir, mix well, add wine, and simmer for 20 minutes. Wipe the salted eggplant; lightly oil a skillet with pastry brush and quick fry the eggplant over high heat; lay on paper towels to drain.  In a greased 9×13×2” baking pan, place a layer of eggplant, top with meat mixture, sprinkle with grated cheese, cover with the remaining eggplant, sprinkle with grated cheese, and cover with bechamel sauce.  (Add 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg to the bechamel, and for an exceedingly rich sauce, add 3 egg yolks to the sauce after it is cooked.)  Top moussaka lavishly with grated cheese and bake at 350° F for 1 hour.  Allow to cool, and then cut into 3-inch squares.  Variations: Substitute 2 pounds zucchini, sliced lengthwise and fried, for the eggplant.  Or, substitute 2 pounds potatoes, peeled, cut in 1/4-inch slices and fried, for the eggplant.