Cranking out moussaka for a weeknight meal is unthinkable for most of us.
Many recipes for this delicious melange of eggplant and ground lamb seasoned with a blend of sweet and savory spices call for about an hour of prep followed by another hour in the oven.
Much of the work and time are consumed preparing the eggplant, which usually is brined and drained, then sometimes roasted or fried. And you haven't even touched the other ingredients yet.
The search for a quicker option took me to the grocer to consider prepared eggplant options. I was willing to sacrifice the texture of fresh eggplant as long as I could maintain the assertive flavor.
The solution was jarred eggplant dip a semichunky puree that usually contains eggplant, tomatoes, celery, olives, onions, capers, lemon juice and seasonings. It is found in the grocer's ethnic (in this case Indian) aisle.
The result is a speedy moussaka somewhat reminiscent of sloppy joes, but with much deeper flavors.
Virtually all of the cooking is done on the stovetop, with a quick trip under the broiler at the end to warm and lightly brown the crumbled feta that is spread on top.
If you use an ovenproof skillet, this can be a one-dish meal. Otherwise, transfer it to an ovenproof casserole dish or individual ramekins just before adding the feta and broiling.Traditional moussaka calls for ground lamb, which can be fatty. This recipe uses lean ground turkey, but ground beef or lamb also could be used. If you use lamb, consider draining some fat before adding the tomatoes.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 pound lean ground turkey
14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
12-ounce jar roasted eggplant dip
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
In a large, ovenproof skillet over medium high, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic, cinnamon, allspice, bay leaf and paprika. Saute until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the ground beef or turkey and cook until the meat is just browned. Stir in the diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes.
Preheat the broiler.
Add the roasted eggplant and simmer, covered, another 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season with salt and black pepper.
Remove the pan from the heat and top with crumbled feta. Alternately, transfer the moussaka to an oven-safe serving dish, then top with feta. Broil the moussaka for 1 to 2 minutes, just enough to lightly brown the cheese.
Just before serving, garnish with mint.
Nutrition information per serving: 367 calories; 15 g fat (1 g saturated); 45 mg cholesterol; 24 g carbohydrate; 33 g protein; 5 g fiber; 808 mg sodium.