I have a new cookbook crush. In fact it may even be an infatuation. It started innocently enough, with a link from Heidi to a video interview with Yottam Ottolenghi. Now I had heard the name Ottolenghi mentioned before in vegetarian circles- always with proclamations of incredible food and concepts. Yet watching the video brought the passion and love embodied in Ottolenghi’s food to life. An Israeli born restauranteur who runs several eponymous restaurants in London with a Palestinian head chef, I immediately jumped over to Amazon and bought his new vegetarian cookbook, Plenty.

Once the book arrived I read it cover to cover giving the top of the book a colorful plumage of flagged pages. Containing a beautifully eclectic mix of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and yes even Japanese flavors- everything sounded good. With the change of seasons I must admit I was in a bit of a cooking funk. Traditionally this is the time of year I break out braised dishes and slow cooked comfort food. My now vegan and gluten free diet took my standby fall recipes off the menu and left me staring in the fridge wondering what to do. Ottolenghi saved the day and firmly pulled me out of the funk with dishes like roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes with a caper dip, soba noodles with eggplant and mango, and this beautiful dish of lentils with broiled eggplant.

The recipe begins with two innocent looking eggplant. You place them on a foil lined baking sheet, poke a few holes in them with a fork, and then broil them to smithereens. Once the outside of the eggplant is completely charred black, you let them cool slightly and then cut a long slit down the length of each eggplant.

The blackened skin pulls back to reveal a soft, slippery, and oh so tasty interior. The eggplant flesh has a delicate smoky flavor that reminds me of the best baba ghanoush. While the eggplants are broiling you prepare a basic lentil recipe and ready several tomatoes, carrots, and celery for their turn in the oven. In the end roasted vegetables are folded into savory lentils and sprinkled with fresh herbs. The silky eggplant is piled on top and the entire dish holds a warm earthy flavor that tastes exactly like fall. Inspired, infatuated- it doesn’t really matter. Thanks to Ottolenghi the kitchen is warm and we are well fed!

Lentils with Broiled Eggplant Print Recipe

Recipe Thumbnail

Minimally Adapted from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 4

Calories per serving: 296

Fat per serving: 10.7 Grams

Ingredients

  • 2 Medium Eggplants
  • 2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar (use a high quality vinegar)
  • Salt and Black Pepper
  • 1 cup Small Green Lentils (use a variety that will hold their shape like Puy)
  • 3 small Carrots, peeled
  • 2 stalks Celery, strings removed
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 3 Thyme Sprigs
  • 1/2 Medium White Onion
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 12 Cherry tomatoes, halved (or 4 medium tomatoes quartered)
  • 1/3 teaspoon Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Dill, chopped

Cooking Directions

Turn the oven to broil with a rack in the upper third. Use a fork to poke several holes in the eggplants and then place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Set the baking sheet directly under the broiler and broil the eggplants until the skin is blackened, about 40-50 minutes. Check on the eggplants frequently and use an oven mitt and tongs to turn the eggplant over frequently ensuring that all sides are blackened. When the eggplants have deflated and the skin is burned and breaking, pull the baking sheet out of the oven and let cool slightly. Reduce the oven to 300 degrees.
With a sharp knife, cut a slit lengthwise in each eggplant. Scoop out the flesh, being careful to avoid the blackened skin, and place the flesh in a colander. Let the flesh drain for at least 15 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper and drizzle 1/2 Tablespoon of red wine vinegar on top.
While the eggplants are under the broiler, place a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the lentils to the pot. Cut one carrot and half of one celery stalk into large pieces. Place them in the pot along with the bay leaf, thyme, and onion. Pour water into the pot until the lentils are covered by about 2 inches of water. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for 25 minutes, or until the lentils are softened. When the lentils are cooked, drain the pot into a fine mesh sieve and discard the carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, and onion. Place the lentils in a large mixing bowl, and add in the remaining red wine vinegar, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and plenty of salt and pepper. Mix to combine, set aside and keep warm.
Cut the remaining carrot and celery into a small dice and in a small bowl mix with the tomatoes, 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, brown sugar, and a generous pinch of salt. Spread the vegetables in an oven proof dish and roast for 20-30 minutes, until the carrot is al dente (tender but not mushy).
Add the cooked vegetables to the lentils. Stir in the chopped herbs and taste, adjusting salt and pepper as necessary. Pile the lentils onto individual plates and top with a mound of eggplant. If desired drizzle a little more olive oil over the top to finish.

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