Thursday, August 16, 2012

Homemade Ricotta and Moussaka-stuffed Eggplants

Last week I saw a recipe for a grilled salad that used pears, eggplant, Parmesan cheese, and toasted walnuts. I was intrigued, so I asked Miss J to pick up the ingredients when she did our weekly shopping. Miss J obliged, but unfortunately Rochester weather did not. And after a week, the notion of eggplants and pears together in one dish started to sound more weird than intriguing. So I decided to go with "plan b." Which I didn't have.

Add to the equation the fact that a few weeks back I saw this lovely store-made ricotta on sale at Weggies. And that ground lamb was loitering in my fridge, also the casualty of a rainy week and no grilling.

Google to the rescue! I Googled "recipes for eggplant, lamb, fresh ricotta cheese" and came up with a number of candidates. This Moussaka won out. But first I had to make ricotta cheese. It turns out that making Ricotta is about as easy and fast as can be. Think about it: it's American cousin -- cottage cheese -- is called "cottage" cheese because it can be made by a person of humble means in a small house. You have to try it -- it was a snap, and the result was too yummy!

Homemade Ricotta

Makes about a cup.


Half gallon whole milk
2 cups buttermilk


1. Line a wide sieve or colander with cheesecloth, folded so that it is at least 4 layers thick. Place in sink.
2. Pour milk and buttermilk into a heavy-bottomed pot. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently; scrape bottom of pot occasionally to prevent scorching. As milk heats, curds will begin to rise and clump on surface. Once mixture is steaming hot, stop stirring.
3. When mixture reaches 175 to 180 degrees on a candy thermometer, curds and whey will separate. (Whey will look like cloudy gray water underneath a mass of thick white curds.) Immediately turn off heat and gently ladle curds into sieve.
4. When all curds are in sieve and dripping has slowed (about 5 minutes), gently gather edges of cloth and twist to bring curds together; do not squeeze. Let drain 15 minutes more. Discard the whey.
5. Untie cloth and pack ricotta into airtight containers. Refrigerate and use within one week.

 Moussaka Style Stuffed Eggplants


 Serves   2 servings
Preheat over to 400 degrees.

1 lb eggplants (medium-sized)
kosher salt
1 tbsp olive oil
oil (extra, rubbing the eggplants)
38 lb ground lamb (lean)
14 onion (diced)
1 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tomatoes (peeled seeded diced)
12 green bell pepper (peeled seeded and diced)
38 tsp ground cloves
38 tsp cinnamon
38 tsp ground cumin
tsp cayenne pepper
14 cup ricotta (fresh)
23 cup ricotta (fresh)
ground pepper (fresh)
18 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated)
34 tbsp milk
18 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
fresh parsley (garnish)

Halve the eggplants lengthwise and score the interior of each half, leaving about a third of an inch thickness on the perimeter. Use a paring knife and a spoon to scoop out the interior of the eggplant, leaving a 'boat.' Using a fork, pierce the skin in several places, liberally salt the halves and place them upside down on paper towels to drain for about 30 minutes.

Wipe the eggplant shells out with paper towels, brush the skin lightly with a little olive oil, and place them on a baking sheet. Bake them until they are just tender (about ten minutes) then remove from the oven and set aside in a baking dish.

Chop the eggplant flesh into 1/2" cubes and set aside.  Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the lamb and cook, breaking up the pieces, until lightly browned--about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, chopped eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is soft--about five more minutes.

Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, cloves, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne and cook until the mixture is fairly dry.

Remove from the heat.Season to taste and spoon into the 4 eggplant halves.

Place the remaining 1 and 1/3 cups of ricotta in a small bowl and stir in the nutmeg and enough milk until the consistency of the cheese mixture is spreadable.Spread it over the filled eggplant halves and sprinkle the tops with parmesan.

Bake until the tops are very brown--25 to 35 minutes.

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