Moussaka/Pastitsio

Jump to the Moussaka Pastitsio recipe or to the steps.

moussaka eggplant
Which is which? That’s the beauty of these two dishes; from the pan, you really can’t tell.

Two big grand dishes of immense comfort, moussaka and pastitsio or basically the same: a kind of Greek lasagna, where spiced ground meat (or lentils, if you want to go vegetarian) is/are layered with either eggplant or pasta, then topped with a fluffy béchamel sauce that puffs up in the oven.

Of the 2, moussaka is closer to lasagna, given that it boasts 2 layers of eggplant. Patitsio is kinda like a heartier version of macaroni and cheese. You could even do a weird, unholy but tasty hybrid, having both eggplant and pasta layers, because…why not?

And while the steps look long, it’s pretty straightforward. Both the meat sauce and the Béchamel can be made in advance, and you can assemble either casserole in about 5 minutes, once you’ve either fried the eggplant or boiled the pasta.

I decided to deliver them both to you in the same post to demo how similar they are, and how you can kind of game day your decision, depending on what you like and/or are in the mood for—as well as if you happen to have eggplant on hand. Note the bold type at the beginning of each step to indicate if the step is for one or both dishes.

Moussaka Pastitsio: A Note on the Cheese

If you’re up for doing a little bit of extra work—namely, heading to a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean market—I highly recommend you track down kefalotiri cheese. It has a bunch of names that variations on the spelling, but man, it is awesome. Similar taste and texture-wise to halloumi, it makes this Béchamel and the rest of either taste taste rich and perfectly salty. Plus: Every Middle Eastern/Mediterranean market I’ve ever been to is staffed by delightful folks who are very happy to help you discover a lot of wonderful foods. Think about getting a jar of red pepper paste to sub for tomato paste.

moussaka pastitsio kefalotiri cheese

The Steps

  • Moussaka Pastitsio: meat or lentil sauce: Heat a big pan. Pour in some oil when the pan is hot. When the oil is hot, brown chopped onion and minced garlic, a good amount either way. Add half pound of ground meat (or raw lentils in half the amount), and stir til meat is brown or lentils are fully incorporated with the onions. Add dried oregano, a good hit of salt, pepper, a can of crushed tomatoes, a healthy spoon of tomato paste, and about a quarter cup of broth. Let simmer about 20 minutes. Season with allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and cook one more minute, then check to see if it needs more salt an pepper. Cool to room temp; you can make this a day ahead if you like. When the mix is at room temp, add in one beaten egg.
  • Moussaka Pastitsio: Béchamel: For each 1/2 pound of meat or lentils you used, you want to whisk 2 tablespoons of whole milk with 1 egg yolk. Then melt 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk in flour until it’s smooth and bubbly. Gradually whisk in just under 1 cup of milk (the recipe uses one cup, so less 2 tablespoons), 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a pinch each of nutmeg and allspice, and then simmer it. Take the heat back down to low, and simmer while whisking until the sauce is nice and thick. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the egg yolk and 1/3 cup grated kefalotiri or Parmesan. You can now put it back very low heat, whisking for another couple of minutes. Taste to see if it needs more salt and pepper, and set it aside. You can also make this a day ahead.
  • Pastitsio: Boil some pasta in salted water until al dente. Once again, you can do this a day ahead. Keep pasta covered and toss with a little oil before you store it.
  • Moussaka: slice your peeled eggplant into half-inch crosswise slices. Sprinkle with salt. Line a cookie sheet with towels (paper or otherwise), lay the slices on top, and then weight them down with something heavy and flat, maybe a platter or big casserole. Let them sit like that for 20 minutes.
  • Moussaka: Clean out your pan, or use a new one. Put some flour on a plate—gluten free is fine, especially chickpea flour. Season with salt and pepper. Pat the pressed eggplant slices dry, then dip them in the flour, shaking off any excess. Heat the pan, then heat a good 1/2 inch of oil. Make sure the oil is hot before you add the eggplant slices one at a time. You want them to brown up, but watch them carefully. A minute on each side should do the trick. Remove to drain on paper towels.
sauteed eggplant for moussaka
  • Moussaka assembly: Heat your oven to 325º. Put down a layer of half the eggplant, sprinkle with more grated cheese, add the filling. Top with the rest of the eggplant and more cheese. Pour on the bechamel, and sprinkle with a little more cheese. Bake 30 minutes, then increase heat to 400º and bake 15 minutes longer, for a golden brown top. Moussaka should rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  • Pastitsio assembly: Heat your oven to 325º. Place pasta in bottom of casserole. Add meat on top. Sprinkle on grated cheese, then pour on béchamel and sprinkle with additional cheese. Bake 30 minutes, then increase heat to 400º and bake 15 minutes longer, for a golden brown top. Pastitsio should rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with steamed green beans on the side. Greek Salad and Spanikopita are great go-withs.
moussaka eggplant
A steamed green veggie on the side, like these beans, perfectly complements either moussaka or pastitsio.

Moussaka Pastitsio: The Recipe

Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepes

Jump straight to the Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepes recipe or step by step.

Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepe

It’s brunch season, and if you don’t believe take a look at any of the glossy cooking magazines out there. Or, if you’re one of the cool kids who only gets recipes online, the blogs. I guess it’s the whammy of Easter, Mother’s Day, Graduation, spring time, and just kind of being ready for something sprightly on the table in general.

Meanwhile, here at good old LCF, Steve and I dug the Mushroom Arugula crepes enough that I dug up another old fave from Mr. Bert Greene, these Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepes are super festive, and ridiculously easy.

And of course, you can skip the crabmeat and substitute some other kind of filling—though given that crepes are kinda delicate things, and also the strength of the Bloody Mary flavor (really a pretty great idea), you want something mild. Smoked chicken would be my go-to if I wanted a different meat, or chickpeas if I wanted a veg option.

Let’s get going.

Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepes: Steps

  • The great things about crepes is how easy they are to assemble; it’s the cooking that’s a little tricky, but honestly, not that big of a deal. Just throw the following in a blender: 1/4 c Bloody Mary mix, 3/4 c milk, 1 egg, 1/3 c flour—I used spelt, which is nice and fine but also has an earthy undertone, and 2 T oil. (I used avocado.) Add spices; I used 1/4 t paprika and 1 t chili powder. Blend, and let stand 30 minutes.
bloody mary crepe mix
  • While that’s going on, make your filling: Some cream cheese (I used 4 oz), crabmeat—I used an 8 oz container of lump from Whole Foods. Don’t use a can, because that stuff is no good. I also added a big minced shallot, about 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, and chopped dill and cherry tomatoes. A splash of sake helped thin down the cream cheese.
Crabmeat Filling for Bloody Mary Crepes
Crabmeat Filling for Bloody Mary Crepes from Le Chou Fou
  • I decided to try a smaller pan to make my first couple of crepes. First, it was great….
Bloody Mary Crepe, pre-flip
  • ….but then, nope. The crepe was too hard to turn.
Bloody Mary Crepe Fail
  • Then I switched to the big pan, pouring in about 3 tablespoons., let the crepe bubble, then turned it. Success.
Bloody Mary Crepe Success
  • You fill up the crepe with filling, and brunch heaven is yours. Enjoy.
Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepe

Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepes: Recipe

Mushroom Arugula Crepes

Jump straight to the mushroom arugula crepes recipe or the steps.

mushroom-arugula-crepes

There was a period in, I think, the late 70s, when the crepe pan was the must-have appliance—kind of like the instant pot today.

a crepe cookbook from the 70s
How adorable is the subtitle? I think the authors want to make sure you don’t take them too literally and actually try to do anything with crepes, like wear them to a ball or patch a roof leak.

Everybody who had a respectable kitchen owned a crepe pan. It was just a round, 8 or 9-inch skillet with a perfectly flat bottom, and I know Dad rushed out and bought one. And for a few weeks we ate a lot of crepes.

I don’t have a pic of Dad cooking, but this is us sometimes in the 70s. The crepe pan is nearby..

My dad was a pancake guy, and he made excellent ones. He loved to cook; Julia Child was his girl. He’d sit in front of her PBS show and take notes. Mom got a kick out of it; she never liked cooking, and was happy to abdicate the fancy stuff to Dad. She always said, “I think he likes her because she’s so messy.” As was Dad. Stuff got spilled, experiments went wrong. But he also embodied joy and tranquility in the kitchen. I remember him focused on flipping flapjacks in our cast iron skillet, or on kneading bread with his giant powerful hands, his breathing even and deep.

As noted, Dad’s pancakes were outstanding; he made his own starter dough. But his crepe pan flirtation was brief. The issue, I think, was that, rather than fluffy pillows to absorb a blob of butter and a hearty pour of syrup, crepes by their very nature require a delicate touch. They’re also often wrapped around filling. Dad wasn’t big on cooking that involved steps. He liked to get things done in one go. Eventually, the crepe pan moved to the back of the cupboard and the pancakes returned.

Mushroom Arugula Crepes: Steps

I didn’t try cooking crepes for years, and in the late 80s, when I began to learn to cook, they were out of fashion. But when I whipped up my first batch for brunch, I was stunned at how easy they were.

Recently, I bought some mushrooms and had no idea why. So I thought, as I often do, what would Bert Greene do? If you’ve spent any time here, first, thank you. Second, you know Bert Greene is one of my cooking heroes. I stumbled on this recipe, which incorporated mushrooms and watercress. And while I had no watercress—alas, because watercress is amazing—I did have arugula. I thought, mushroom arugula crepes. Whoa. Also, why the hell not?

mushroom arugula crepes ingredients

Greene loved to experiment, and over the course of his cookbooks, you find lots of variations on the crepe theme. And due to the fact that hardly anyone outside of Normandy eats crepes any more, I thought, wow, that sounds good. High time for a renaissance, don’t you think?

Crepe batter isn’t hugely different from pancake batter, though it’s thinner. It also lends itself to flavoring and improvisation. This version sautés mushrooms before throwing them in the blender. There, they go together in a flash, achieving the perfect aerated consistency, and a pretty pale green color.

mushroom arugula crepes batter

You pour out a few tablespoons on a hot pan, swirl the pan to get the crepe thin. Let it sit for a minute or so….

mushroom arugula crepes after pouring

…then flip it. Less than a minute later, it’s done, and you place it on a parchment-lined plate, run the end of a stick of butter over your pan, and pour in the next batch.

mushroom arugula crepes after flipping

Now, Mr. Greene said the mix would yield 12 crepes. I don’t have a crepe pan, just a big flat skillet. So I couldn’t do quite the fancy wrist spin I could have done with Dad’s old crepe pan, due to the pan’s weight. I ended up with 6 crepes that are a little thicker, but so, so tasty. I filled them with the remainder of the mushrooms sauteed and dressed up with more arugula and a touch of blue cheese since I didn’t have sour cream. Oh, and I threw on a little bacon, which is totally optional.

mushroom-arugula-crepes

Crepes are a luxurious lovely meal. Your eaters should feel thoroughly pampered; you may want to insist people recline on chaises upholstered in deep red velvet while you play louche German songs in the background. There’s zero need to tell anyone how easy they are. A good thing, as, once you serve a batch, you’re likely to get requests for more.

The Recipe