Spiced Eggplant and Lentils

This dish can be eaten by itself, hot or cold; served as an accompaniment to fish and meats; stuffed into onions or other vegetables; or made into a hot or cold soup.

The lentils should be du Puy lentils from France, which have a wonderful flavor and hold their shape. Even better are the “black beluga” lentils, not only for their texture, appearance, and flavor, but because they can be cooked in no time at all. It’s worth the time and energy to visit some specialty food stores or search the Internet to find these wonderful lentils.

If you use large (non-Japanese) eggplants, you’ll need to cut them in half lengthwise, score them 1 inch deep on the cut side, press kosher salt into the cuts, and leave them face down on a rack for one hour. Then rinse them and cook according to the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 10 Japanese eggplants
  • 1 large red onion, peeled, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon Indian spice mix
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sear the eggplants over gas burners (or a wood or charcoal fire), turning them constantly, for about 5 minutes each. Remove the stems from the eggplants and put them in an ovenproof dish. Add the onion, thyme, and 2 pinches salt. Add ¼ cup water, cover, and bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until they are tender but still holding their shape. Take them out of the oven to cool.

When the eggplants are cool, put them on a board and chop until almost pureed. Put the eggplant in a bowl, then add the lentils and all the other ingredients. Mix, let sit for 2 hours for all the flavors to mingle, season, and mix again.

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