RECIPES

Béchamel MOUSSAKA: LIKE LASAGNA, BUT BETTER!

I’m done with pasta. Sorry Italians, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you. It’s that the more I learn about food  Béchamel and how we use it to build health, I realize I have completely changed my mind about a few things, pasta being one of them. In a ‘Real Food’ diet, vegetables and organic meat & dairy take center stage.

In fact, the reason diets, such as Paleo, GAPS, Traditional Foods and Real Food are becoming so popular and successful is because they are removing foods that cause a lot of health issues, such as gluten, corn and soy. That being said, regardless of which diet works best for you, I support and suggest a ‘vegetable-heavy’ diet. What does that mean? That my goal is to eat at least 2-3 servings of vegetables with every meal, and proportionately more vegetables than meat or starch…which is why this is one of my new favorite dishes!

This dish is so easy to love!

{*Vegetarians: follow the same rules, but without the meat. Mixed veg/omnivore families: see combination option below}

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 Large, or 2 Medium Eggplants

1 Lb. Organic Ground Beef

2 Zucchini, sliced thin, or cut into matchsticks with a mandolin

1-2 Large Handfuls of Spinach, chopped

1 Large or 2 Regular Cans of BPA-free Tomatoes

1 Medium Onion

3 Cloves Garlic, minced

Olive Oil

Spray Oil (optional)

A Few Dashes of Cinnamon

Oregano

Salt & Pepper

 

FOR THE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE:

3 Tablespoons Butter (+1 Tbsp. for the sauce)

3 Tablespoons of Flour or Gluten-Free Substitute (I like Bob’s Red Mill)

2-3 Cups of Organic Milk 8oz Feta, Asiago, Parmesan, or Kefalotiri Cheese

1-2 Pinches Nutmeg

1-2 Farm Eggs

 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Slice Eggplant about 1/4″ thick, lightly salt each piece on both sides, and leave them in a colander in the sink for about an hour.

2. Chop onions and Sautee them in 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil + 1 Tbsp. Butter until translucent.

3. Add Ground Beef, Garlic and Salt & Pepper. Sautee and stir until Ground Beef is fully cooked.

4. Add Tomatoes and 1 Tablespoon Oregano. Stir, then cover the pot. After bringing to a rigorous simmer, reduce heat and let the sauce cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. If it starts to burn or loses too much fluid, your heat is too high. Add some water, and reduce the heat a bit.

5. After about 25 minutes, check the flavor, add a few dashes of Ground Cinnamon, a bit more Oregano, and adjust Salt & Pepper. If you are happy with the sauce’s flavor & consistency, turn off the heat and let the sauce sit. If you want it to stew a bit more, leave on low to medium heat and continue stirring occasionally.

 

MAKE THE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE:

Using a medium saucepan, melt Butter on medium-high heat. Once Butter starts to melt, add 3 Tbsp. flour or Gluten/Grain-free Substitute. Start whisking the butter & {flour} together–you will have to work fast to keep it from clumping. This will create a pasty consistency, called ‘roux’ (pronounced Rue).

Once it looks pasty & is fully combined, slowly start to add the milk–about 1/2 cup at a time, while constantly whisking. At first it will sizzle, then thicken. Continue adding a little milk at a time until it resembles the consistency of gravy. You don’t necessarily need to measure, you can pour right from the carton. Just keep adding a little at a time, and keep whisking. This is the fun part!

After your sauce starts to look awesome, either stick your finger in it (with caution–it IS hot & will stick, but typically not hot enough to burn you), or the back of a spoon. Either way, the sauce should stick to your finger or the spoon without clumping. That is the right consistency. You want it to be a bit thick now, because adding the cheese will thin it out a bit. It should look like this before adding the cheese.

Next, add the cheese, a little at a time, while continuing to whisk. I prefer Feta, because it makes the sauce kind of zippy. I also added a bit of Asiago to this recipe. You really can’t go wrong here :). Once you have added enough cheese and the sauce is starting to taste pretty awesome, add salt & pepper and a few pinches of nutmeg. Turn off the heat.

In a bowl or big Pyrex measuring cup, whisk 1-2 eggs together.

{This step is important! Follow my directions closely!} Using a ladle, coffee cup or measuring cup, scoop about 1/4 cup of the hot Béchamel into the egg mixture, and quickly whisk. Add another 1/4 to 1/3 cup and whisk again. Then add this mixture back to the original sauce for thickening, flavor, richness, and protein.

*The reason for this is that if you put raw eggs into a hot sauce, the sauce will cook the eggs immediately & you will have nasty egg chunks in your sauce. This step is worth it. Whisk the sauce, taste it again and adjust seasonings to your preference.

By the way, Béchamel is one of the primary ‘mother’ sauces all chefs are taught in culinary training. So…now you’re officially a chef in training! If you add Swiss cheese instead of these, it’s called ‘Mornay’ sauce, and is delicious on top of poached eggs with ham & asparagus.

 

ASSEMBLY:

Turn your oven on 350*, and heat up a frying pan or cast iron griddle on the stove.

Rinse the salt off of your eggplant, then pat each piece dry with a clean kitchen towel. Brush each piece with olive oil, or use spray oil on your pan. Sear each eggplant slice on both sides until it softens completely. When they are finished, start assembling the casserole.

In a casserole dish, make 1 layer of eggplant slices, then top with some chopped spinach & sliced zucchini. Spoon a nice layer of red sauce onto the veggies, then repeat with another layer of eggplant, zucchini, spinach & sauce for 3-5 layers, until your casserole dish is at full capacity. Once you have completed your layers, with eggplant on the top, pour the Béchamel sauce over the top of the casserole.

Bake at 350* for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The Béchamel should get slightly brown, and the tomato sauce should bubble a bit around the edges. Let the casserole sit for 15 minutes prior to serving.

 

  • A FEW VARIATIONS:

Vegetarians: Consider sautéing mushrooms in a little butter & olive oil, then  putting into a blender or food processor and ‘pulse’ about 8-10 times to grind them up. Add directly to your red sauce, or spread it in between one of the layers for added flavor.

 

Mixed Vegetarian & Omnivore Households: 

You can make this for both preferences without a lot of extra effort. Sautee the Beef separately with some onions, salt & pepper, while making the tomato sauce totally vegetarian in another pot. When the sauce is well combined, spoon out about 40% into the pot with the beef mixture.

Make 2 separate smaller casseroles–1 with the meat sauce, and 1 with just the tomato sauce

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