Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter Storm Moussaka

As promised, we had a bit of storm last night. When I returned from a cookie exchange yesterday and the only thing falling from the sky was rain, I had my doubts. But as promised, a few hours later when I looked out the window, the rain had turned to snow.

This was the moment I had been thinking about last summer when, in a bit of a panic, I had begun squirreling away my CSA harvest. At the time I imagined rewarding myself with something hot from the oven after a hard day shoveling the snow away outside.

Lucky for me, I hired someone to do my snow removal, which adds even more joy to the fact that I can enjoy the fresh taste of summer on such a blustery day. With most of the labor of chopping and preparing done this past in July, I had plenty of free time to camp out on the couch and catch up on a few movies and some reading while my frozen moussaka cooked.

I took the frozen casserole out of the freezer yesterday and left it to thaw out in the refrigerator. After its day in waiting I could make out the ingredients, and it looked as if the eggplant had done well in the freezer, as had the meat and tomato mixture beneath.

The only thing left to do was to make the béchamel sauce for the top. I had combined the best of two moussaka recipes when I originally prepared it last summer and pulled them out again today for the cream sauce recipe.

I was missing one key ingredient from the first version (ricotta) and one from the second (eggs). My driveway hadn’t been cleared yet, so I decided to again combine the two recipes, and make due with whatever I had on hand. The final recipe included butter, flour, skim milk, nutmeg and Parmesan cheese, which one of the recipes said could substitute for kefalotyri cheese.

After cooking the sauce into a very thickened state that resembled mayonnaise, I poured it on top of the waiting casserole and topped with some more Parmesan, before heading back to the couch. If I had spent the afternoon shoveling it might have reminded me of the snow outside, but since I hadn’t seen the snow close up yet, I slipped it in the oven without a second thought. As it cooked, it steamed up my windows filling my house with a beautiful warm comforting smell and erasing the winter landscape outside.

When it was done, it looked so pretty that I had a hard time believing I had made it myself. After thanking my July self for thinking ahead I ate up and found it tasted as good as it looked. I was worried the eggplant wouldn’t taste very good or get mushy in the freezer, but it was the right consistency and freezing it had taken some of the pungency away. The eggplant matched well with the cinnamon-tomato meat sauce and will go on my list of eggplant-approved recipes, which require that I can’t taste to much eggplant.

Since it’s only December, I’m glad to say I still have a stockpile waiting for me in the freezer. When I pulled out the moussaka, I found some more pesto, along with a pan of lasagna, some beet burgers and what’s left of the preserved 10 pounds of tomatoes. With winter sure to keep throwing snow at me, all I have to do is make sure I have enough movies and reading materials on hand to enjoy it while my bounty cooks.

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