You got this – now go to the kitchen and have fun! Moussaka Moussaka melds all the flavors of summer veggies into one dish. Layer it like you do lasagna instead use potatoes and eggplant instead of noodles and sauteed meat in tomato and bechamel sauce instead of spagetti sauce. Easy peesy. To Hellenes, this brings memories of family summer vacations, warm weather and comfort food. Ingredients • 4 eggplants sliced • 4-5 potatoes sliced • 3-4 large zucchini (optional) • 2 pounds of ground beef (or a combination of beef and lamb) • 1 large white onion finely chopped • 2 garlic cloves mashed • 2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil • 150 ml red or white wine • 2-3 bay leaves • 3 cups of fresh tomatoes chopped or 1 large can • 1 tbsp. tomato paste • Vegetable oil for sauteing veggies. Bechamel sauce ingredients: • ½ c of butter • ½ c flour • 4-1/2 cups of milk • Salt and pepper to taste • Freshly ground nutmeg and/or cinnamon • Handful of Greek graviera cheese or gruyere or any other salty hard cheese (pecorino Grana Padano parmesan etc.) Here’s how it’s done: 1. Heat the oil in a deep pan and start browning the ground beef. Sautee till brown. 2. Add the finely chopped onion and minced garlic and cook and sauté till almost soft. 3. As soon as the onions are soft, pour the wine and let it simmer for a few minutes and let the alcohol evaporates. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves. 4. Slice the carrots potatoes, and eggplant in 1/4” thick slices. 5. Heat vegetable oil in a pan and lightly sauté. The vegetables for a few minutes. You can do a few at a time because the vegetables don’t need to be fully cooked. They will finish cooking in the oven. 3. Once half-fried, remove and rest the sliced vegetables on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil. (Note: for a healthier option you can lay the vegetables in a single layer in lightly oiled baking trays, season with salt and pepper, brush with a little extra oil and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F for 5 minutes until half-done. You may have to do this in two or three batches, depending on the size of your oven and trays). Bechamel sauce: 1. Warm the milk in a separate milk pot or in the microwave and set aside. Slightly warm – not boiling or hot – but definitely not ice cold from the refrig. 2. Place the butter in a heavy saucepan over low-medium heat and melt it completely, but do not let the milk solids turn brown. Whisk to help it melt better 3. Add the flour and stir it quickly into the butter using your whisk. At this stage the mix may crumble and it may start catching a little. 4. Continue stirring the flour-butter mix until it turns slightly golden in color. Do not let it turn dark! 5. Pour in just a cup of the warm milk, just enough to loosen the mix and stir thoroughly. 6. Start adding the rest of the milk, a cupful at a time, whisking constantly. Whisk vigorously to make sure the ingredients are incorporated fully and you cannot see any lumps. 7. Keep whisking and cook until you have a thick, velvety creamy sauce. The more you cook the thicker it gets. 8. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper and freshly ground nutmeg to your taste. My grandmother used cinnamon sometimes – but she was from Turkey – although she was Greek. You can also add a small handful of grated cheese and whisk until it is fully melted into the béchamel. Assembly: 1. While making the béchamel, preheat the oven 350F 2. Lightly oil a large, deep ovenproof dish and start layering the half-cooked vegetables: first the sliced potatoes and the after the first layer of potatoes add the layer of eggplants and finely the carrots. 3. Next, layer the ground beef mix distributing evenly with a spoon or spatula. Finally, pour over the béchamel, spread it evenly with a spatula and finish it off with plenty of grated cheese. 4. Bake in the oven for at least 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. let it rest till it’s not blazing hot and is able to be cut. enjoy!