Μπριάμ / Briam

image

Briam is sometimes referred to as tourlou-tourlou (τουρλού-τουρλού), perhaps because of the topsy-turvy nature of this dish.  It’s a mish-mash of chopped vegetables and herbs swimming in a high quality extra virgin olive oil.

Briam is a phenomenal Greek dish that epitomizes everything that is great about Greek cuisine; real ingredients, prepared simply, allowing their natural flavours and textures to shine.

imageBriam is an amazing vegetable and olive oil based dish in the ladera family. Ladera (lathera) is a Greek word meaning “in oil”. These foods are usually vegetable or bean-based dishes that are cooked in copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil.

Briam is basically summer vegetables like peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and potatoes all cooked in a lot of fresh and dried herbs, onion, garlic, and a ridiculous amount of extra virgin olive oil. It is a completely vegan dish that isn’t lacking at all in flavor. These summer vegetables become melt in your mouth delicious. This is one of my favorite ways to eat vegetables because they taste rich and decadent without being unhealthy.

If you’ve never had briam, you will be amazed at how perfect basic can be. Now let’s get to our recipe.

* Important note: I had hoped to add a photo so that you could take in the sheer beauty of a pan of briam, but, alas, there is not even one photo I could borrow that pictured the briam of my childhood. So I’ll take a picture the next time I make it.


Μπριάμ / Briam

Μουσακά / Mousaka

image

3-4 eggplants, about 4 lbs. total
1 lb. potatoes
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (or lamb)
2 large onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
Cavendars Greek Seasoning (to taste)
1 teaspoon oregano
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1 cup grated Kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese

Béchamel Sauce:
1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup flour
4 cups milk, warmed
8 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of ground nutmeg (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Using a sharp peeler, partially peel the eggplants, leaving strips of peel about 1 inch wide around the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in to 1/2 inch slices. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with an inverted plate that is weighted down by a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink so that excess moisture can be drawn out. They will need to sit for at least 15-20 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Saute them in butter until they are partially tender and golden. They should not get too soft, just cooked enough so that they no longer crunch. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and grease lightly.

Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Brush slices on both sides with olive oil and place on baking sheets. Bake at 400 degrees until slightly tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

When eggplant is finished cooking, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

 

Make the Meat Filling:

In a large sauté pan, saute the onion until translucent. Add the the ground beef (or lamb) and cook until the pink color disappears.

Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, oregano, bay leaves, Cavendars and sugar. Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for approximately 30 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. It should be a drier, chunkier, tomato sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make the Béchamel Sauce:

Melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Allow the flour to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously.

Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil.

Remove from heat, whisk milk mixture into beaten eggs very slowly. Add pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble the Moussaka:

Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (lasagna pan). Leaving a 1/4 inch space around the edges of the pan, place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Spread half of meat sauce on the potatoes and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese.

Top with a layer of eggplant slices.

Add remaining meat sauce on top of eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese.

Pour the béchamel sauce over the eggplant and be sure to allow sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

You can make this dish ahead up until the béchamel sauce and refrigerate. Make the béchamel sauce right before you intend to bake it.