April 9, 2009

A Greek Feast in the South of France

After several months of holidays, milestone birthdays, travel, and life in general getting in the way, the World Food Group finally got together to cook another meal. This time we decided to explore the aromatic and feta-filled cuisine of Greece.

Recipe research began immediately, and what better website when looking for Greek recipes than Peter Minakis' Kalofagas. His mouthwatering photos and recipes make me want to hop on a plane to a tiny sun-drenched island dotted with quaint whitewashed houses with blue shutters faster than you can say Mamma Mia.*

Instead I enjoyed a fabulous Hellenic feast cooked with good friends in the south of France. I really can't complain!

My contribution was an oregano and cinnamon perfumed, Bechamel and tomato sauce laced, stuffed eggplant dish called Melitzanes Papoutsakia.

As Peter says, 'These stuffed eggplants are translated from Greek to mean “little shoes” as that’s what the finished product looks like. In Greek: μελιτζάνες παπουτσάκια (pronounced meh-leed-ZAH-nes pah-poot SAHK-yah)'
As the eight of us who ate the entire dish say, 'Absolutely delicious!'

Melitzanes Papoutsakia

6-8 small to medium eggplants, halved
1lb of extra lean ground beef

4 tbsp of olive oil

2 large onions, diced

3 bay leaves

6 cloves of minced garlic

1 can of plum tomatoes, pureed
(or Pomodoro)
1/2 cup white wine

salt, pepper

1 tsp dried basil

3 tsp dried oregano

3 Tbsp of chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 recipe for Bechamel Sauce
1 cup grated Kefalotiri cheese

  1. Wash and dry the eggplants, trim off the stems and cut in half, lengthwise. With a small spoon, scoop out the meat without breaking the skins (start at the centre with the seeds and then work carefully around. Discard the seeds and reserve the pulp. Drizzle the eggplant halves with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt. Place in a preheated 400F oven(middle rack) for 30-40 minutes or until firm. Reserve.
  2. Start making your filling. In a heavy sauce pan, saute your onions, garlic, bay leaves, some salt for about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Now add your eggplant pulp and saute for another 5 minutes. Stir in the ground beef and and saute until browned. Add your wine, tomato sauce, oregano, parsley, dried basil and simmer until thick. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. In about 30-45 minutes you should have a thick sauce. Stir in your cinnamon and set aside.
  3. Make your Bechamel Sauce and reserve .
  4. You should have your eggplant halves in a roasting pan. Sprinkle some cheese on the bottoms, then spoon in the meat sauce into each cavity. Now spoon the bechamel sauce over the meat sauce and top with grated cheese. Bake in a pre-heated 375F oven for approx. 30 minutes. The tops should be a nice golden-brown.

*Exactly how did a song with an Italian name, written by a couple of Swedish guys, end up as a play set on a Greek island?

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