Lightened-Up Moussaka

2 medium eggplants
sea salt
1/4 cup Terra Delyssa Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided in half
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef (or ground lamb)
1 14.5-ounce can organic diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 tablespoon organic tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 cup red wine (optional)
2 cups baby spinach
salt and pepper, to taste

Ingredients - Grain-free Bechamel and Egg Topping
1/4 cup Terra Delyssa Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons tapioca or arrowroot starch
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups non-dairy milk (unsweetened almond and/or coconut)*
1/2 cup sheep’s milk Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (optional)
3 large farm fresh eggs, lightly beaten

Prep the eggplant. Peel the eggplants, either entirely or leave strips of peel, giving you a striped eggplant, which I find helps keep them together a bit, but still keeps the moussaka easy to cut into when serving. Slice the eggplant into 1/3-inch thick rounds. Place in a single layer on a paper towel-lined baking pan. Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside to let some of the moisture get pulled out. About an hour.

Make the tomato sauce filling. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of Terra Delyssa Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic. Sauté for another minute or two. Add the ground meat (or vegetarian substitute) and cook until lightly browned, breaking it up with a fork. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, ground cinnamon, parsley, and red wine. Give it all a good stir. Drop the heat to a medium and allow to simmer, covered, for about 35-40 minutes.  At the end, add the baby spinach and salt and pepper, to taste, give it a good stir to incorporate, and allow the spinach to wilt. Remove from the heat.

Grill or broil the eggplant. To prepare the eggplant, after it has sat salted for about an hour, take paper towels and blot off any excess moisture and salt. Heat your grill to medium-high heat. Brush one side of the eggplant rounds with Terra Delyssa Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil and place oiled side down on the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes. They should have nice grill marks. When they are done on one side, brush the other side with Terra Delyssa Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil and flip over. When the eggplants are nicely grilled and tender, they are done. Remove from the heat and set aside. To broil, line a pan with aluminum foil. Brush both sides of the eggplant rounds with olive oil. Broil for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned on one side, then flip them over and broil for a few minutes more. They should be tender and slightly browned. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease an 8″ x 8″ baking pan (or something similar in size). Set aside.

Make the béchamel sauce. Heat the non-dairy milk in a small saucepan, to a simmer. Set aside and keep warm. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the Terra Delyssa Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot and has a slight shimmer to it, add the tapioca (or arrowroot) starch and a little salt and pepper. Begin whisking together to avoid any lumps. Make sure you don’t burn the starch. After a minute or so, you will have a thick, creamy paste-like sauce. Slowly begin adding in the warmed non-dairy milk. Whisking constantly to blend well and remove any lumps. Increase the heat to a high and bring the mixture to a boil so it thickens. Once thick, add in half of the Pecorino Romano cheese and allow it to melt. Remove the sauce from the heat.

Give the béchamel sauce a minute or two to cool down. Very slowly add the beaten eggs to the mixture, whisking constantly while slowly pouring in. Add the remaining cheese. Set the mixture aside.

Assemble the moussaka. Add a layer of the eggplant rounds to the bottom of the pan, making sure to layer so there are no holes where you can see the bottom of the greased pan. Next, add the tomato sauce on top of the eggplant. Using a spatula flatten and even it out. Then add the remaining eggplant, layering as necessary. Finally, pour the béchamel sauce over the top. It’s totally OK if is starts seeping into the below layers, this actually helps hold it all together. Sprinkle a little ground cinnamon and just a wee little pinch of ground nutmeg over top.

Place the pan in the preheated oven and allow it to bake for 45 minutes until the top is totally set and it is nice and golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before cutting into and serving.

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