When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I carpooled to work, as we both had a long commute from Santa Cruz to offices in Sunnyvale and Palo Alto. The last mile or so was down Mission Street in Santa Cruz, where there are many great places to eat, but Vasili’s Greek Restaurant was my favorite. I love their moussaka.
Paul would drive in the morning, and I drove the ‘way home’ leg of the commute. About once every other week, the gravitational pull of moussaka would become too strong, and our car would be unable to escape their parking lot. Hey, ‘the baby’ needed moussaka.
Since then, I have learned to make a pretty good moussaka, since Vasili’s is no longer close enough to capture my vehicle in its tractor beam. I use beef, as I dislike lamb, but otherwise, it’s a pretty faithful recreation of what amazing results can occur when you mix meat with cinnamon and nutmeg. Those Greeks, I tell you! They’re geniuses.
Yesterday I had no idea what to make for dinner. Everything I came up with, I was lacking some key ingredient. Then the word moussaka started to rattle around in my brain…. moussaaaaka… mooooussaaaaakaaaaa….
Did I have the makings for a ricotta bechamel? Nope. I did have cauliflower. Cauliflower, you say? She’s lost it, you say? Not at all! At least not because of the cauliflower.
We here Chez Nous don’t eat potatoes. But many a dinner guest has been surprised to discover their whipped potatoes were actually—egads!—cauliflower. Or, as they’re also called, fauxtatoes.
I made fauxtatoes my standard way, but added an egg, then topped the meat mixture of moussaka with the cauliflower and baked at 350 for 45 mins.
AWESOME. I call it Shepherd’s Moussaka, and as far as I know, I invented this yesterday because necessity came a knocking. Now, for all I know, this is the state dish of South Dakota or something, but I am not worrying about it. I mean, who in South Dakota even has a computer to read this blog (shut up Mandy)? (Hee hee.)
2 T unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
1.5 lbs ground beef
2 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
8 oz tomato sauce
salt/pepper to taste
head of cauliflower
1 oz cream cheese
1 T unsalted butter
1. Heat oven to 350. 2. In pan over med-hi heat, melt 2 T butter and saute onion for a couple of minutes until translucent. Add beef, and cook until browned. Drain off excess grease. 3. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt/pepper, and tomato sauce, bring to a bubble, then cook on low until most of the moisture has evaporated. 4. Remove from heat and put mixture in 8x8” square pan. 5. While the meat is browning, make fauxtato topping: steam cauliflower until fork tender (about 12 mins), drain any excess water, add cream cheese and butter, plus a little salt and pepper to taste, then mash or puree it as smooth as you like it (unlike potatoes, you can do this in a food processor if you like—I prefer an immersion blender for this). 6. In a small bowl, lightly scramble the egg, then add roughly 1/4 to 1/3 of the cauliflower mixture to the egg to ‘temper’ it, then add all that back into the larger bowl/pot with the rest of the cauliflower. 7. Spread cauliflower on top of meat mixture and bake in oven for about 45 minutes, or until browned on top and bubbly around edges.