Monday, August 27, 2007

Eggplant and Lentil Stew

Of course my first recipe on here has to feature eggplants! Eggplants have always been one of my favorite vegetables, and I've been buying lots of lovely heirlooms at the market this summer. I have found them to be more tender and less bitter than the traditional purple-skinned variety.

I was recently told by a friend that pomegranate molasses and eggplant are a traditional Middle Eastern combination, so I decided to top off this stew with a generous drizzle of the ruby goodness.

Because this dish takes so long to cook, it's ideal for preparing the night before and then reheating to serve the next day. In fact, it really does taste better the next day, as the flavors have had time to blend together. It also makes for an incredibly quick dinner; I serve it over couscous with fresh parsley, which literally takes 10 minutes to prepare.

Eggplant and Lentil Stew
(serves 4-6)
1 medium sized eggplant, preferably heirloom
2/3 cup green lentils
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic (from 3 large or 4 medium garlic cloves)
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 or 2 small green chiles (such as serrano or thai), seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Crushed red pepper flakes (¼ or ½ tsp, to taste)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup pomegranate molasses*
*Pomegranate molasses can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores or at specialty grocery stores. Al-Wadi brand is by far the best. You can get it from The Chef's Warehouse or Kalustyan's, but I think that Kalustyan's is terribly overpriced. Alternately, you can make your own by reducing pomegranate juice (such as Pom) to 1/4 of its original volume.

Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise, and slice each half lengthwise so that you have 4 long pieces, each about ½ inch thick. Lightly score one side of each eggplant in a diamond pattern (do not go through to the other side), then cut each slice into thirds. (You should have 12 pieces.) Sprinkle with salt and let sit on a lined baking sheet for 30 minutes (up to 1 hour) while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Meanwhile, put the lentils in a saucepan and cover with plenty of water (at least 2 inches). Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then simmer for 12-15 minutes or until tender. Drain the lentils.
In a large bowl, combine onion, garlic, tomatoes, chiles, mint, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes.
Coat a medium-sized stockpot or covered casserole pot with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Put 1/3 of the vegetable mixture on the bottom of the pot. Arrange half of the eggplant slices in a single layer over the vegetables. Top with half of the lentils. Repeat the layering process, ending with the vegetable mixture.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil and then the pomegranate molasses over the vegetables.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then simmer over very low heat for 1 ½ hours.
For best taste, let sit overnight (refrigerated, of course!) to let the flavors combine, then reheat to serve.


M^2 said...

I'm usually not a huge fan of eggplant, but this dish was absolutely delectable. My favorite eggplant dish yet!

malini said...

The pictures are so descriptive and make my mouth water. I can't wait to make this dish. It's good to know that there are many delicious ways, to be a vegetarian.

malini said...

I made this dish recently and it was so deliious and pretty easy to make.

annulla said...

I was googling for a great eggplant recipe and found your blog. This sounds amazing; I will definitely make it when local eggplants come into the market. BTW, pomegranate molasses is also available at Sahadi's.

Blather From Brooklyn

Pink Thumb said...

Do you think it would speed up the process by soaking the lentils overnight? Or would that take the flavor out of them?

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