Full Moons and Moussaka

Remember how I said the weather turned, and I dug out all my sweaters? It was a fluke. It was 60 degrees yesterday, maybe warmer in the sun. I still wore a sweater, and it was the complete opposite of fun. It was un-fun. My building at work had the heat on, too. Because it’s November, right? It should be cold, right? No, because it’s 2017 and we are very much into global warming right now. Yet — today, I walked out of my house in a light shirt, only to find I need the same warm type of sweater now that I thought I needed yesterday.

This weekend was also a full moon. Every time a full moon comes along, I have every intention of doing something special – doing yoga outside, doing some sort of special meditation, or cooking some earthy dish to complement a beautiful night with a bright, clear moon. I end up doing none of those things, but I do notice that without fail, stuff gets weird around a full moon.

The logic in me says, “This is just confirmation bias! Nothing weird happens on a night with a full moon.” The logic needs to be quiet, because that’s no fun, whatsoever. While crazy stuff can happen all the time, I have always found that people act particularly strange and noticeably different during this moon phase.
Since full and new moons happen when the sun, earth and moon are all in alignment, this impacts the tides more than normal, making them stronger and in turn, falling higher and lower. While we don’t notice it on land, don’t you think it’d be a little silly to not consider what impact it has on us if it can move trillions of gallons of water in a cyclical motion? We are more aware and in tune with the vibrations going on around us during a full moon, which, quite literally, is able to illuminate things more than usual.

November is already a powerful month with the vibration of the number 11, so it’s not surprising that people are getting quirky when the entire moon is exposed. As a double digit of the same number, 11 is thought of as a “master number” — so anything occurring during this time is magnified.. both good and bad, because with a double number like this, there’s also balance. This particular full moon could’ve potentially been very confusing — a full moon is the end of a revolving cycle — yet the number 1 has a common understanding of beginnings.  Truthfully, you can take from it what you want. Moon phases are consistent and cyclical, and people tend to see the moon as feminine because of this. At this point in time, the entire moon is exposed, bright and clear – which could be symbolic of moving energy, unearthing problems, concerns, chores or tasks, and approaching them with full clarity.

Whatever the case may be, it is truly beautiful. You can see the little craters, and just thinking how there are footsteps that remain untouched since the landing on the moon is really surreal. Something so still, quiet, and distant can have such an impact on the world around us, to the point where people’s moods change.. it is really cool, is it not? A little floating sky rock moves water next to us from hundreds of thousands of miles away.

We tried to  come up with something we’ve never made this weekend — we landed on Greek cuisine. Fitting for a full moon, as some of the greatest discoveries in astronomy and moon phases happened in ancient Greek culture… things like Ptolemy, Hipparchus, Aristarchus… all the things you learned about but forgot how brilliant these minds were. Greek culture is so rich, so our tribute to that for the full moon was the heartiest and most flavorful dish we could think of — Moussaka! While I know it’s not made by your family Yia Yia, I think Greek grandmas everywhere might say we did pretty well.

Make a note to keep an eye out for everything around you on the next full moon – you might be surprised with what you notice. In the meantime, as it gets colder (and hopefully stays colder), enjoy this delicious dinner 🙂

 

Moussaka

note: this picture was taken from healthyfood.co.uk, which reserves all rights to the photo. Unfortunately, the kitchen was dark and people ravaged the moussaka before I could get a good picture of it. Mine did resemble this image almost identically (in person), and I promise it looks this delicious when you make it.

Prep time: 40 min

Cook time: 30 min

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

Eggplant and Lamb

  • 8 garlic cloves, finely grated, divided
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp chopped mint
  • 3 tbsp chopped oregano
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 3 medium eggplants (about 3½ pounds total), sliced in half lengthwise and then cut into ½-inch-thick rounds
  • 2½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 lb ground lamb
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 large jalapeño, finely chopped (ribs and seeds removed)
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes

Béchamel

  • 3/4 stick of unsalted butter (if using salted butter, add a pinch less of salt once mixed)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 oz of farmer’s cheese, crumbled
  • 4 oz grated Pecorino, grated
  • 3 large egg yolks

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Whisk half of the garlic, ½ cup oil, 1 tbsp mint and 1 tbsp oregano in a small bowl.
  2. Thoroughly coat the eggplant rounds with the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Transfer eggplant to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast until tender and browned, about 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400°.
  3. Meanwhile, add about 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Cook lamb and ground beef, breaking up with a spoon, until browned and liquid starts to evaporate, about 12–16 minutes. Drain fat from the meat and transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  4. In the same pan, add another tsp of oil and allow to heat. Add onion, garlic, ~2½ tsp. salt, and ½ tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 8–10 minutes. Add jalapeño and cinnamon and continue to cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until onion has browned, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add paprika, cinnamon and tomato paste and allow to cook for about 1 minute.
  6. Add wine, stirring to mix thoroughly, until reduced and alcohol burns off — about 3 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes and all of the juice. Carefully break up the tomatoes with a spoon or spatula into smaller pieces… as they heat, they will pop, so be aware.
  8. Add lamb and remainder of mint and oregano and stir to combine. Allow to cook until most of the liquid is evaporated, and remove from heat.

 

Béchamel

  1. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium until completely melted and starting to froth. Add flour and cook, whisking quickly and constantly, until combined, about 1 minute.
  2. Whisk in milk, slowly and a little at a time, and continue to heat, allowing to bubble. Whisk often, until mixture becomes very thick (like pudding), about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in salt. Remove from heat and whisk in farmer cheese and half of the Pecorino. Let sit 10 minutes for cheese to melt, then add egg yolks and vigorously whisk until combined and béchamel is golden yellow.
  4. Brush a 13×9″ baking pan with 1 tbsp olive oil. Layer half of eggplant pieces in the pan, covering the bottom entirely. Spread half of lamb/beef mixture over eggplant in an even layer. Repeat with remaining eggplant and lamb/beef to make another layer of each.
  5. Top with béchamel and smooth surface; sprinkle with remaining Pecorino cheese.
  6. Bake moussaka until bubbling and béchamel topping starts to brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

-S

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