Greek Shredded Romaine Salad and Moussaka
During a recent visit to Houston, my hometown, I enjoyed eating at Helen in the Heights, a popular new restaurant featuring Greek comfort food. For my main course, I chose moussaka, the classic casserole of eggplant, potatoes, ground meat (beef or lamb), béchamel, and a cheese topping. For my starter, I wanted something green and crisp and light, and chose shredded romaine salad. Helen’s version mixed crisp, shredded romaine with shredded dill and minced scallions, typical components, but also incorporated less traditional ingredients – shredded basil and mint and paper-thin slivers of red radishes – all combined and tossed with a light dressing of lemon juice and olive oil. The salad and moussaka made for a wonderful combination of textures, colors, and flavors.
This salad recipe, borrowed from the website Simple Nourished Living, provides a useful basis for creating Helen in the Height’s version of shredded romaine salad. Instead of, or along with romaine, available from more than one farm at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, I like Little Gem lettuces from Bodhi Farms.
The moussaka recipe comes by way of Amanda Hesser, who adapted it from David Rosengarten’s book Taste for The New York Times. It’s way too early for eggplant to appear at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market – I recommend La Montanita co-op for produce not in season at the Market. For potatoes and scallions a number of market vendors offer these in abundance, and lamb is available from Shepherd’s Lamb, and beef from Red Mesa Meats. For tomatoes, Lee Goodwin of J & L Gardens, who grows heirloom tomatoes, is bringing his first tomatoes of the year to market this Saturday, May 13.
Shredded Romaine and Dill Salad
- 5-6 cups shredded romaine lettuce
- 3/4 cup chopped dill
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
- mint, shredded (optional)
- basil, shredded (optional)
- radishes, paper thin slices (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey (optional)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- In a large bowl mix the greens. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. In a small bowl or jar with a lid, combine garlic, lemon juice, and sweetener. Whisk or shake to combine. Add dressing to the greens and toss.
- 4 large eggplants, about 1 1/2 pounds each
- 6 tablespoons Greek olive oil, plus a little for coating the eggplants
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 4 medium onions, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
- ¼ cup parsley, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- ½ cups dry white wine
- Black pepper to taste
- 4 pinches freshly grated nutmeg
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups hot, scalded milk
- White pepper, to taste
- 4 eggs
- 10 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
- 1 cup grated kefalotyri cheese or pecorino Romano
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prick eggplants several times with a fork. Rub a little olive oil into their skins. On a large baking sheet, roast eggplants until soft, about 30 minutes, turning frequently. Remove from oven and let cool. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick round slices.
- In a saute pan, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over high heat and brown eggplant slices lightly on each side. Do this in batches, adding more oil as necessary. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
- Make tomato sauce:
In a saucepan heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 chopped onion and 2 chopped garlic cloves, and saute until tender. Add tomatoes and their puree, squeezing them into coarse chunks. Add parsley, oregano, cinnamon and vinegar. Stir well. Simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Reserve.
- Prepare lamb:
In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add remaining onions and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes. Add lamb, in stages if necessary, and brown well, breaking up pieces with a wooden spoon. Add wine and bring to a boil. Cook until wine has nearly evaporated. 5. Season lamb with salt, black pepper and 2 pinches of nutmeg. Stir in 1 cup of reserved tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
- Prepare bechamel:
In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat, and gradually whisk in flour. Cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Do not let this brown. Add hot milk and whisk rapidly to combine. Bring to a slow boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring frequently, until smooth and thickened. Season with salt, white pepper and remaining 2 pinches nutmeg. Let cool slightly.
- In a mixing bowl, beat eggs and whisk in a spoonful of bechamel. Whisk in remaining bechamel in a thin stream, and adjust seasoning.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Assemble moussaka: Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs across the bottom of a large baking dish (18-by-8-by-3 inches) and cover crumbs evenly with half the eggplant slices. Drain as much oil from lamb mixture as possible, and spread the meat over the eggplant layer. Top meat with half the cheese, then with half the remaining bread crumbs. Place remaining eggplant slices on top of the bread crumbs, then add the bechamel, remaining cheese and remaining bread crumbs in even layers. Dot with remaining butter.
- Bake for 45 minutes, until well browned. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Cut into 3-inch squares to serve. Serve with the extra tomato sauce.
This locally inspired recipe is brought to you by Pam Walker. Pam is an avid home cook, writer, and local farm and food activist who is also a board member of the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute. Thank you, Pam, for helping inspire us to use locally sourced ingredients!