January 26, 2010

My Baby Cooks Too


Chicken mushroom crepes. Scallops with chard and bacon. Sturgeon with Oregon berry sauce. Amazing pizzas. Innovative burritos and enchiladas. Surprise-filled omelets. Yes, My Baby Cooks Too, and I am the blissed-out recipient of his benevolent culinary benefaction.

Lamb moussaka, one of My Baby’s specialties, was our Sunday dinner this week. Tender browned lamb (sourced from our neighbors at Anderson Ranches) in a light tomato sauce (the tomatoes were grown on-premises last summer by My Baby, too) seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and herbs layered with roasted eggplant slices, under the angelic halo of perfect béchamel sauce. Gasp. Gasp. Be still my heart.

A HillCrest Vineyard 2006 Zinfandel is a match-made-in-heaven to the moussaka. This HillCrest Zinfandel Cuvee 1888 has an Old-World quality with winter spice and cola-like aromas and remarkable depth of complexity. HillCrest Vineyard, by the way, is Oregon's oldest estate winery where the states first Pinot Noir was planted. Dyson and Susan Demara practice natural, sustainable, green farming in this family-run enterprise. Their dry-farming techniques produce low yield, terroir-rich fruit. Dyson's skillful touch creates highly integrated, complex and incredibly interesting wines with greater than average food compatibility. When you visit, plan to spend a little time... Dyson will provide you with a highly entertaining, educational day well spent for those who love wine, and you won't want to leave.

Having been the chief-cook-and-bottle-washer for the first 30 years of my adult life, I’m just now getting used to how nourishing and loving it feels to be cooked for on a regular basis. It triples my joy to see My Baby take pleasure in the process, focusing his intentions on the flavors and textures, filling our kitchen with heavenly aromas. All I’m saying here is that this feeds way more than just my belly.


My Baby’s cooking comes from some deeply intuitive place and doesn’t rely heavily on recipes, so I can’t share his exact dish with you. Here’s a good guideline that includes the little tricks and touches that I observed from the chef himself.

Lamb Moussaka
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ pounds ground lamb
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
2 tomatoes, frozen, canned or fresh, chopped
2 cups tomato sauce
¾ cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Salt to taste, about ¾ teaspoon

¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 egg
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 large eggplant sliced into 1/3” rounds (we like the peel left on)
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/3” rounds

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roast eggplant and pepper slices on baking sheet for about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add lamb, chopped onion and garlic and cook until lamb is brown, breaking it up with a fork, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, herbs, spices and salt. Simmer until sauce reduces and mixture holds together, about 20 minutes.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for a minute or two. Gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Boil until thick, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Beat egg in small bowl to blend. Whisk small amount of hot milk mixture into egg. Return mixture to saucepan. Bring to boil, whisking constantly. Remove béchamel sauce from heat. Stir in all of the mozzarella and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

In a 9 x 13 baking dish lay out the roasted eggplant slices. Spread the lamb mixture over the top. Pour hot béchamel sauce over lamb mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Top with pepper rings to garnish. Cover loosely with foil and bake 1 hour. Uncover and continue baking until golden and bubbly on edges, about 10 minutes longer. Cool 10 minutes.

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