This holiday season was a special one, seeing that it was my ﬁrst married Christmas.
That alone made it wonderful. But in addition to married bliss (AND the new electric blanket with dual heating controls!), there were some fantastic cookbooks I received that immediately made me want to jump out of my holiday pajamas and into the kitchen.
One of these cookbooks, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, was the book I chose to use for our ﬁrst post-holiday dinner. The book is gorgeous, ﬁlled with some very interesting recipes accompanied by mouth-watering photos. Deciding what to make was not easy, but with my new locally-made Greek yogurt obsession to help sway the ﬁnal decision, I chose a recipe for a lentil and broiled eggplant dish topped with, you guessed it, Greek yogurt. This recipe was an ideal introduction to Yotam’s cooking and we look forward to our next Ottolenghi adventure!
Lentils with Broiled Eggplant
- 2 medium eggplants
- 2 teaspoons top-quality red wine vinegar
- salt and black pepper
- 1 cup small dark lentils (such as Puy or Castelluccio)
- 3 small carrots, rinsed
- 2 celery stalks, peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 thyme sprigs (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
- ½ white onion
- 3 teaspoon olive oil, plus extra to ﬁnish
- 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
- ⅓ tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon each roughly chopped fresh parsley, cilantro and dill
- 2 teaspoon crème fraîche (as I mentioned I used Greek yogurt and probably a bit more than 2 tablespoons)
- Place the lentils in a medium saucepan.
- Cut one carrot and half a celery stalk into large chunks and throw them in.
- Add the bay leaf, thyme and onion, cover with plenty of water and bring to a boil.
- Simmer on low heat for up to 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender, skimming away the froth from the surface from time to time.
- Drain in a sieve. Remove and discard the carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme (if in sprigs) and onion and transfer the lentils to a mixing bowl.
- Add the rest of the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper; stir and set aside somewhere warm. While the lentils are cooking, grill or broil the eggplants. (Diﬀerent options were oﬀered for how to cook the eggplant. I chose to cook it on my outdoor gas grill and really liked the result.)
- ** To cook the eggplants on a gas stovetop, which Yotam cites as the most eﬀective way, start by lining the area around the burners with foil to protect them. Put the eggplants directly on two moderate ﬂames and roast for 12 to 15 minutes, turning frequently with metal tongs, until the ﬂesh is soft and smoky and the skin is burnt all over. Keep an eye on them the whole time so they don’t catch ﬁre.
- ** For an electric stove, pierce the eggplants with a sharp knife in a few places. Put them on a foil-lined tray and place directly under a hot broiler for 1 hour, turning them a few times. The eggplants need to deﬂate completely and their skin should burn and break. (One point Yotam makes is to be sure you puncture the eggplant if you are cooking it under the broiler, as some people have reported issues with exploding eggplants!) Remove the eggplants from the heat. If you used an oven broiler, change the oven to its normal setting. Heat the oven to 275°F. Cut a slit down the center of the eggplants and scoop out the ﬂesh into a colander, avoiding the black skin. Leave to drain for at least 15 minutes and only then season with plenty of salt and pepper and ½ tablespoon of the vinegar. Cut the remaining carrot and celery into ⅜-inch dice and mix with the tomatoes, the remaining oil, the sugar and some salt. Spread in an ovenproof dish and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the carrot is tender but still ﬁrm. Add the cooked vegetables to the warm lentils, followed by the chopped herbs, and stir gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon the lentils onto serving plates.
- Pile some eggplant in the center of each portion and top it with a dollop of crème fraîche or yogurt.
- Finish with a trickle of oil.