Moussaka RecipeServes 6-8

2 medium or 1 extra large eggplant

sea salt

3-4 medium potatoes

salt and pepper

1 lb. lean ground beef (or lamb)

1 large white onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, pressed

2-3 T. EVOO + extra 

1 cinnamon stick (or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon)

1-2 bay leaves

pinch all spice

3-4 fresh tomatoes or 1 large can whole peeled tomatoes, processed

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 -1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs 

Bechamel Sauce Recipe

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 stick of unsalted butter

4-5 cups hot whole milk (substitute 2% milk if preferred)

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

½ tsp nutmeg

3 egg yolks, beaten

1 1/2 - 2 cups hard cheese (kefalotyri, parmesan, or romano) 

Eggplant and potato preparation: Wash eggplants and trim the steams. Leave or peel off the skin and cut lengthwise or round thinly sliced pieces. Place in a large strainer and sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to let sweat out the bitter juices of the eggplant. Rinse with chilled water and pat dry with paper towels. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and either grill, broil, or fry until soft and tender. Grill for just a few minutes on each side or broil for 10-15 minutes on a baking tray or fry lightly, until the eggplant is lightly browned and soft. Set aside to cool.

Clean the potatoes really well, removing the skins if desired. Thinly slice with a sharp knife into 1/4" rounds. Let soak in a large bowl of cold water for 15 minutes and then pat dry. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill for just a few minutes on each side or broil for 10-15 minutes on a baking tray or fry lightly, cooking until centers are softSet aside to cool.

Meat sauce preparation:

Heat a lightly oiled skillet on medium-low heat. Sauté the onions for 5 minutes and then add the garlic and cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until transparent and soft. Add the meat and sauté until lightly browned, season lightly with salt and pepper.

Carefully drain of any excess fat and then add tomatoes, and sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs. Mix thoroughly and then add all the spices (cinnamon, all spice, and bay leaf) and wine. Cover lightly and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until all liquids are absorbed. Turn off the heat and set aside uncovered. Before assembling, add 1 ladle of the bechamel sauce to the meat mixture and combine well.

Bechamel sauce preparation: 

To save time, prepare the sauce while the meat is simmering. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Gradually add the sifted flour, ¼ cup at a time whisking quickly until smooth. Repeat until all of the flour is added and there are no clumps. Increase the heat to medium-low and slowly add the milk continuing to whisk constantly. The sauce will slowly begin to thicken, about 10-15 minutes. Once it coats a spoon, remove from heat and slowly add the beaten eggs in a stream and then the spices. Return sauce to the heat and whisk for an additional minute or two until all ingredients are combined. Set aside to cool.

Assembling the moussaka:

Preheat the oven to 350/180 degrees. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of your baking dish (square for thicker, rectangle for thinner). Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs over the bottom of your pan, align the potato slices on top of the breadcrumbs, overlapping slightly. Spread half the meat mixture (remember to have added 1 ladle of bechamel sauce) on top of the potatoes, and then layer the eggplant slices, also overlapping slightly - making sure to cover the entire dish. Spread the remaining meat mixture over the eggplants and top with the remaining bechamel sauce. 

Bake for 30 minutes, and then sprinkle the cheese on top. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the top becomes golden brown and bubbly. Leave the moussaka in the oven with the oven door cracked open for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the moussaka to cool for an additional 15-20 minutes before serving, this ensures that it sets up properly.