Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lentil and Eggplant Stew

This past summer, I grew eggplant successfully for the first time.  Maybe it was the new raised beds we made with fresh dirt and compost that did the trick.

Or maybe it was the ample rain we got throughout the season. (We barely had to water the plants all summer!)

In years past, my eggplant just didn't produce, but in the summer of 2013 we had the nicest crop of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant that I've ever seen.  I didn't do anything differently, and I don't ever use fertilizers or pesticides.  I'm always amazed at how many tomatoes can grow on just one plant without any fussing at all.  Tying up the tomatoes was the only thing I made sure to do.

 Since I'd never been able to grow eggplant in any quantity before, I was at a loss of what to do with them.

Then I found a recipe for Turkish Lentil and Eggplant Stew at Simply Recipes.  The recipe is similar to another favorite of mine - Lively Yourself Up Lentil Soup.   I made a few changes to Elise's recipe and the result is a new favorite meatless lentil soup!  I recommend doubling the recipe and freezing to enjoy the goodness all winter long.

Eggplant and Lentil Stew
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut into cubes (Can substitute butternut squash or sweet potato)
1/2 cup brown or green lentils
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting eggplant
1 medium onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 quart whole tomatoes, undrained (or 4 large fresh tomatoes, seeded, peeled and chopped)
1 jalapeño pepper, some or all of the seeds removed for desired heat, minced
2 sprigs fresh oregano, or 1/2 tsp dried
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Two big handfuls of hearty greens such as kale or swiss chard, stems removed and leaves chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro for garnish, chopped (optional)

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the eggplant cubes in a colander and sprinkle with salt.  Let sit in the sink for 1/2 hour while the oven is preheating.  Spread the eggplant out onto a baking sheet and drizzle with ample amount of olive oil.  Bake until eggplant is soft and beginning to caramelize.

2.  Check that the lentils do not contain any small rocks or dirt.  Place the lentils in a saucepan add enough water so that the lentils are covered by an inch of water.  Bring the lentils to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain.

3.  Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and jalapeño and cook until soft.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute.  Add the tomato paste and cook until heated through.  Add the tomatoes, cooked lentils, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and parsley and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add water to obtain the desired thickness of the stew.   Add eggplant and greens, if using, and continue to cook until greens are wilted and tender, about 10 minutes.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Remove from heat, pull out oregano stems and stir in the fresh cilantro, or garnish each bowl with cilantro and a drizzle of olive oil to taste. (I add extra cilantro to my bowl!)

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