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Turns Out I Know How to Make Bechamel Sauce and I Still Don’t Like Eggplant

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Turns Out I Know How to Make Bechamel Sauce and I Still Don’t Like Eggplant

Based on this picture you can probably guess that I made a Middle Eastern-themed meal big enough for 12 people, not two. I spent three hours in the kitchen cooking up hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki sauce, falafal, and moussaka (with béchamel sauce).

My motivation for making this feast came in part from my urge to use my new immersion blender, part because I wanted to make one of the five mother sauces, and part because I’ve come across several eggplant recipes lately. Despite not liking eggplant in the past, I felt I needed to try again. Our tastes do change, and I figured now that I’m all of 31-years-old I needed to see if my tastes had matured.

Turns out I’m not that grown up yet.

Eggplant is still not my thing (although spicy eggplant sauce from Pomme Frites might be the one exception). Is it the texture I don’t like? Maybe eggplant is just a little too bitter? Whatever the reason, I can’t recommend it, but I will share these eggplant recipes and my first béchamel sauce making experience anyway.

Stage One – Baba Ghanoush

Baba ghanoush is essentially an eggplant dip. It’s commonly eaten throughout the Middle East, especially in Egypt (so I’ve read, never been). I started off by studying a baba ghanoush recipe from David Lebovitz, but cut the recipe in 1/3 and simplified it.

Baba ghanoush ingredients:

*1 eggplant

*2 tbsp tahini

*1/4 tsp coarse salt

*1 tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice

*1 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

*1/8 teaspoon chile powder

*1 tsp olive oil

*1/4 bunch picked flat-leaf parsley or cilantro leaves

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375°F and poke holes in the eggplant with a fork. Place it on a baking sheet and roast in oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. I placed my eggplant in cool water to speed up the process. Once cool enough to touch I opened the eggplant and scraped out the pulp and put all ingredients in the bowl. I went light on the lemon juice and salt, since I have taste sensitivity to both flavors (too much is just too much). Puree the pulp with your immersion blender and keep seasoning to taste. Best if chilled for a few hours before eating.

roasted eggplant

baba ghanoush mixtureI know what you’re thinking…Sara’s photography skills are horrible (that’s pronounced with a French accent). I’m working on it, alright. Geeesh.

Stage Two – Moussaka with Béchamel Sauce

Moussaka is commonly eaten in the Mediterranean and Middle East. I found several variations of the dish, but it’s safe to say that Moussaka almost always includes eggplant and ground beef. The ingredients are layered and the dish needs to rest after it cooks for awhile, just like a lasagna. I followed an Epicurious recipe, but I also like The Mom Chef’s version of Moussaka (it’s her mom’s original recipe, awwww).

Moussaka ingredients:

* 1/4 cup olive oil

* 2 pounds ground beef

* 1 small onion, chopped

* 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

* 3/4 cup dry red wine

* 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

* 1 tsp dried oregano, crumbled

* 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

* 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, sliced into thin rounds (I sliced long ways and did not peel the eggplant)

Ingredients for bechamel sauce

* 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

* 1/4 cup all purpose flour

* 2 cups milk

* 3 eggs

* 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: Start by warming up oil in saucepan and adding beef and onion. Cook over high for about 15 minutes and then throw in tomato sauce, red wine, and spices. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

How to Make the Béchamel Sauce

1.    Melt butter in pan over medium-low heat

2.    Slowly add flour while stirring and continue to stir for at least one minute (maybe longer) until the mixture has a nice floury aroma

3.    Slowly add milk and continue mixing all the while

4.    Turn the heat up a smidge to bring the mixture to a boil and keep stirring! (about another 2 minutes)

5.    Beat the eggs in a separate bowl

6.    Add a spoonful or two of the milk mixture into the bowl with the eggs and mix (this brings up the temperature of the eggs, so that it’s not a total shock when the two combine)

7.    Pour the egg mixture into the milk mixture and bring to boil whisking all the while

8.    Remove from heat and stir in cheese and salt and pepper to taste

Now that the sauce is ready and the oven is pre-heated, butter the baking dish and place half the eggplant slices on the bottom. Spread meat over the eggplant. Add another layer of eggplant. Pour the béchamel sauce over the top. Sprinkle cheese and cover with foil before baking for 60 minutes. Remove foil and bake until it bubbles on the edges (just a few minutes). Cool, then serve.

how to make bechamel sauce

You gotta whisk fast!

bechamel sauce for moussakaNot as smooth and creamy as it’s supposed to be, but for a first try at béchamel it wasn’t so bad.

All in all it was a good meal, but I have to say that it was the hummus and tzatziki sauce that did it for me. I’ll share those recipes next time.

20 Responses to “Turns Out I Know How to Make Bechamel Sauce and I Still Don’t Like Eggplant”

  1. Monet says:

    What a wonderful middle eastern feast. I’m sorry you don’t like eggplant…but I appreciate you sharing a recipe for baba ghanoush (because I love it!)

  2. Victoria says:

    I grew eggplant with much success this year. I was proud of each one of those pretty purple fruits.

    AND I can’t find anything to do with it. I don’t love it either.

    • saral says:

      I’ve been told that thin slices of eggplant don’t have as offensive of a texture. Maybe if we do that and follow Chung’s “sweating” technique we’ll like eggplant more.

  3. Laura says:

    I learned something new! Working in Dearborn, I am in the heart of Middle Eastern cooking in the Michigan area. I’ve never tried Moussaka because I assumed it would have lamb in it, which I don’t like. The next time I’m visiting one of my favorite restaurants, I will venture away from the beef kabobs and try this. 🙂

  4. Chung says:

    I could put bechamel on everything. Literally. I think heaven is made out of bechamel sauce. Kudos to you for making a beautiful looking bechamel! I love eggplant but it is definitely tricky to make tasty. I finally learned that “sweating” the eggplant with salt is the key to eliminating the bitterness. I usually let the slices sweat for over an hour, then rinse off all the salt. It doesn’t end up being too salty, I promise. I think eggplants are wonderful, so I hope you’ll keep trying other recipes!

    • saral says:

      Thanks, Chung! I read a little bit about sweating before I made the recipe, but the lazy dipper in me didn’t make the time. I won’t give up on eggplant, but I definitely won’t be going as crazy as I did here.

  5. I think I’ve been cheating myself because I love eggplant and I’ve never tried baba ghanoush! Thanks for sharing because now I’m going to have to try it! 🙂

  6. Lisa says:

    great to meet you at blogher! i’ll try this out and see if i can entice my kids to eat eggplant. probably an exercise in futility but who knows…

    • saral says:

      If you fry up small pieces of eggplant and let your kids dip them in ranch, I bet they’ll eat it. They might even ask for more!

  7. Baking Serendipity says:

    Love this post! So many delicious recipes, and I really love your eggplant confession 🙂 I like it when it’s covered in mozzarella!

  8. I agree with you. I’m still trying to make myself like eggplant too. Ugh. I try, but for me it’s the mushy texture. I will tolerate it, but never crave it. Anyways, nice job! It’s labor intensive but so much fun. thanks for the comment on my post, girl! cheers!

  9. sweetlife says:

    sorry you don’t like eggplant, It took me awhile to get begin to enjoy to it, and the first time I ade bechamel..it was a diaster..

    sweetlife

  10. What a cute post…sorry you do not care for eggplant:( But the sauce is wonderful, and looks like you did a good job 🙂

  11. Dana says:

    Wow, I love this Middle Eastern feast! I love eggplant, but I can see how it might not be everyone’s favorite. Definitely try sweating it with salt to eliminate the bitterness. Also, If you peel it and slice it very thinly and make eggplant parm, you may have better luck. This way, you won’t feel as much of the spongy texture.

  12. sara says:

    Mmmm, looks delish! I have those foods as well, that I feel like I really should like as an adult, but I can’t help turning up my nose at them! For me, the biggest one is mushrooms – I just can’t get over the texture! Anyway, both these dishes look awesome to me, since I am an eggplant fan. I made some baba ghanoush recently too, and it was good but not the best I’ve ever had – I’ll have to give this recipe a try! 🙂

  13. saral says:

    Thanks for all your comments, ladies! Sounds like I’m not alone in disliking eggplant. Maybe it’s one of those “you love it or you hate it” kind of foods. I think yams might be that way, too. Though, I love yams…especially with pecans.

  14. Debbie says:

    This post title made me laugh, I have recently found out that I DO like eggplant, but I give props to you for trying it again knowing it wasn’t your fav. And making a meal for 12 would freak me out! Looks like you did a nice job!

  15. Alaa says:

    It’s so cool to see people’s reactions to middle eastern food. I’m Egyptian and it is true, we do like baba ganoush. As for the moussaka, although this is a recipe, it’s not the real moussaka, it’s just béchamel eggplant. The real recipe is very easy too. You make minced meat by chopping up an onion and adding the minced meat into a cooking pan on low heat and let it absorb all the water in it first, then you add a glass of water or less until it cooks, season with salt and pepper.
    After pealing the eggplant (you really do want to peal it), you actually deep fry the slices. The texture that you don’t appreciate, that’s because it was raw. I tried it raw and really didn’t like it. It only takes seconds in the frying pan to turn into a delicious golden. In another pan, heat a bit of oil, and add 3 table spoons of chopped garlic and one big chopped onion, stir for a bit until golden as well, and then add 3 cups of tomato juice. stir for a bit, and ten leave on medium heat to boil, after that you turn down the heat and let it simmer for a little while.
    after all of this is done, you butter the baking dish, put half of the eggplants, a layer of minced meat, another layer of eggplants and then add the tomato sauce. of course you put it in the oven, same heat, but it only takes around 30 minutes. Check it after, 15 and 20 minutes though, because it might differ based on the size of the baking dish and the thickness of the layers, you’ll know when it’s all perfect and ready to eat.

    This may not be that different, but deep-frying the eggplant and adding the tomato sauce (we call it taaleya) makes a huge deal of difference. some people make the same dish with no meat, so if u’re a vegetarian this could be a fun thing to try, it’s very flavorful. Another thing is that some people add chili peppers to the dish, they add flavor and spice 😉

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