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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Betty C. said...

Yum, that eggplant dish looks divine. I think eggplant is my favorite veggie...

Peter M said...

The feast looks so delicious...I'm delighted everyone enjoyed all your offerings...You get my Philhellene award...BRAVO!

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Wow Loulou what a fantastic meal!

My favourite dish is Soulaki, with Pitta and a greek salad ...:-)

spacedlaw said...

That all looks wonderful!

Bron said...

Gorgeous feast Jen, yum!

Loulou said...

I'm thinking of making it again next week. Try it - you won't regret it!

When we get together we always cook an amazing feast. This time was no different!
Thinking about trying your Baked Feta this weekend.

Greek salad is the best. Anything with Feta cheese is delicious in my opinion. :)

It was! It's great that our friends love to cook and appreciate food like we do.

It was all Yum! I can only take credit for one dish...but I am happy with how it came out.

georgiegirl said...

What kind of wine, rosé? The feast looked divine.

Nadege said...

What Feta do you buy? My Greek friend told me to buy the one at Costco. It is made in France and comes in plastic packaging. It is very good. In Manhattan Beach, we are very lucky to have an excellent Greek restaurant, Petros. It is delicious! I have to say that living in Southern California might be boring compare to other parts of the US, but we are very lucky to have the best food : California cuisine. They took the best of the world's cuisine but made it lighter, healthier.
Eating Indian food is having an explosion of flavor in the mouth. Couldn't live without Japanese food, thai food, and all the Central and South American food...
It is so wonderful of you and your friends choosing a theme and getting together. Cheers for good friends!

Betty C. said...

So I made a very modified version of this because I had to make do with what was on hand, but it looked so good I just had to have it!

I only had two eggplants so just made it for Thierry and me. I replaced the ground beef with mushrooms; also made a normal French béchamel (maybe that isn't very authentic, oh well.) Needless to say, I didn't have Greek cheese on hand. But it looked about the same, and was absolutely delicious!

I used it to break in my new green gratin dish!

croquecamille said...

That sounds (and looks) great! A bit like a more contained version of moussaka? My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Loulou said...

We drank some white to start, then switched to red.
Rosé season is definitely here though!

It depends on which shop I am in. Most of the feta around here is made in France. You can sometimes find Greek feta at the cheese counters in les Halles.

Thai food - oh how I miss it!

It must have looked beautiful in your new gratin dish. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

It was a lot like moussaka. That's why I loved it!

katiez said...

That all looks wonderful! I have to start doing some serious cooking again!

Loulou said...

It was a great dish! Looks like your renovations are moving along...
Love the Easy Gourmet Dinners site.