Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vegetarian Moussaka Pasta

We've been using a new term in the Sweet Pea home:

(Da da da daaaah!) Adventure Dinners!

R actually coined the term, and in my view, any sense of ownership children have toward healthy eating is a fantastic thing.

Here's how our Adventure Dinners work:

When I am going to be making a new recipe that has an unfamiliar ingredient or represents a new cuisine to R and G, I announce earlier in the day, "We're having an Adventure Dinner tonight!" (always said with great enthusiasm and excitement)

The idea here is to hype up a new meal so they are excited about trying something new rather than looking at their plates and asking with trepidation, "what's this?" I usually pair the Adventure Dinner component with some sort of fun fruit or side that complements the meal and is bound to garner additional excitement.

Our latest Adventure Dinner was a Sweet Pea original recipe for Moussaka Pasta that SPH and I created together one recent Sunday afternoon (my favorite way to cook). I am quite sure if I had told the boys that we were having pasta with eggplant and tomatoes, they would have recoiled. However, when I used the terms "moussaka" (with attempted Greek emphasis to make it sound exotic) and "adventure," the boys were game for trying a new food adventure. We talked about where Greece is in the world, shared about SPH's visit there in college and what other foods they eat in Greece.

Moussaka traditionally features lamb and eggplant, this is our vegetarian version.

Vegetarian Moussaka Pasta

1 pound campanelle pasta (our other small pasta)
2 medium eggplants
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 15 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups skim milk
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
fresh parsley (optional)

Cook the pasta according to directions.

Meanwhile, set your oven to broil. Poke each eggplant with a fork several times and place under your oven broiler. Broil, about 15 minutes, or until the outside of the eggplant is shriveled. Remove the eggplant and let stand 5 minutes. Peel the skin and place the eggplant flesh in a sieve (this allows the bitter juices of the eggplant to drain away).

Meanwhile, heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute. Add the eggplant flesh, tomatoes, oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and turn off heat.

In a medium sauce pan over medium low heat, melt the butter and add the flour. Stir well until the mixture is a thick glue consistency. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Increase the heat on the pan to high and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens. Once thickened, remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese.

To serve, toss the pasta, eggplant and Parmesan cheese sauce. Top with fresh parsley, if desired.

Serves 6.

We considered this Adventure Dinner entree a success! The boys loved the cinnamon taste in a savory dish, and I devoured my entire bowl.

Life is sweet,


LauraTornes said...

Hey:). This sounds great. Did you completely remove the skin from the eggplant? I've made Moussaka before the traditional way an it was great but SO difficult.

Sweet Pea Chef said...

We did remove all of the skin. If you broil it, it practically falls off, it is super easy. Hope this helps!