Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
Moussaka—the Greek casserole with layers of eggplant, spiced lamb and potato under a béchamel sauce—is one of the great eggplant dishes of the world. Unfortunately, a warming casserole doesn’t necessarily appeal during late summer, the height of eggplant season. With the waning days of summer in mind, this edition’s recipe borrows the core ingredients of moussaka (minus the béchamel) for a more seasonally appropriate grilled kebab.
For a wine pairing, Syrah was a logical starting point. The grape has a natural affinity for lamb, and its assertive character can often stand up to the bold flavors of grilled food. In my local market, I found a bottle of Yalumba Shiraz South Australia The Y Series 2011 for $13 and began to build a recipe off the tasting note. With its description of “expressive,” “red berry” and “cinnamon” flavors, the wine seemed to skew more toward a fruit-forward and spicy character than the herbal, olive-driven Syrahs of the Northern Rhône.
For my first test, I marinated cubes of lamb, eggplant and potato in a simple mixture of olive oil, red wine vinegar and black pepper before cuing them up on a skewer on the grill. Paired with the Shiraz, there was already much to like: The gamy character of the lamb meshed especially well with the wine, and the charred bits of vegetable created a nice bridge to the bold red. But what else could be done?
Finding inspiration from a few moussaka recipes, I decided to add some ground cinnamon to the marinade to line up with the accents of baking spices in the Shiraz. To hint at the wine’s ripe red berry note, I swapped red wine vinegar for sweeter, fruitier balsamic vinegar. The result? A winner: The additions to the marinade played up the warm spiciness in the red, and the balsamic helped further the connection between the veggies—especially the onion—and the wine. To round out the meal, serve with a fresh, bright cucumber salad for contrast.
Pair with an Australian Shiraz, such as Yalumba Shiraz South Australia The Y Series 2011 (89 points, $12)
Total time: 50 minutes
Approximate food cost: $25
1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. In a medium-size saucepan, bring salted water to a boil. Add the diced potatoes and cook for 10 minutes, or to just before they are tender. Strain and reserve.
2. Mix the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon and black pepper in a nonreactive pan or freezer bag. Add the lamb, eggplant and onions, and stir to coat the pieces. Let the lamb marinate for at least 30 minutes.
3. Lightly pack skewers with alternating pieces of lamb, eggplant, onion and potatoes. Season with salt and put on the grill. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning two or three times, until the lamb is medium-rare and the eggplant cooked through. Serve immediately. Serves 4.