I have been making some version of Moussaka for more than 40 years. I have been inspired to try Greek recipes by our neighbors, Tarakis, when I was very young in Detroit and my in-laws, Tsouras. This latest incarnation is made lighter in fat by baking the eggplant slices instead of breading and frying. The preparation of the Béchamel sauce is simplified by using a blender and microwave.
3 large eggplants (2 - 3 lbs. total)
½ cup salt
¼ cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel the eggplants and cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices. Layer them in a colander, salting each layer. Let them set for 15 minutes. Run water over the eggplant to rinse off the salt. Lay them out in layers of paper towels and pat dry. Coat a large baking sheet or two lightly with canola or olive oil spray. Lay the eggplant slices, slightly overlapping, on the baking sheets. Drizzle lightly with olive oil or use an olive oil spray. Bake for 15 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside. Turn oven temperature down to 350°F.
Prepare meat sauce:
1 ½ lbs. extra lean ground beef
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground allspice
Dash ground cloves
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
3 bay leaves
Heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet until hot and dry. Remove from heat and lightly coat with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat while dicing onion. Sauté beef, garlic, onion and spices, breaking up beef into crumbles, until onion is translucent and beef is no longer pink. Stir in tomato paste. Stir in red wine and add bay leaves. Simmer five minutes. Adjust seasoning. Remove the bay leaves and set the sauce aside.
Prepare Béchamel sauce:
½ cup flour
4 cups 1% milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
pinch of grated nutmeg
Dash of salt and ground white pepper
Stir 2 cups of milk and flour in blender. Pour into 2 quart microwaveable bowl and stir in remaining 2 cups of milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir with whisk, scraping sides and bottom of bowl and breaking up any lumps that may have formed. Microwave for 1 ½ minutes. Repeat stirring with whisk. Microwave for 1 minute. Repeat stirring. Microwave another minute and stir, if needed, to thicken. In a 1 qt. bowl, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Temper eggs by gradually stirring 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into beaten yolks. Pour back into hot milk mixture, stirring constantly. Microwave for 1 more minute.
1 cup grated Romano cheese
Coat a 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking dish lightly with canola or olive oil spray. Place half of eggplant on the bottom, then spread half of meat sauce over top. Repeat with remaining eggplant and meat sauce. Pour the Béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden brown. Allow the Moussaka to rest for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.
Delicious with a crusty bread and tossed salad.