A few Hanukkah’s ago my mother got me a book called Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi. I had read the book cover to cover and swooned over the recipes inspired Jerusalem and the slew of culture that dwells there, yet have never actually cooked anything from the book. As any fan of middle eastern and Mediterranean cooking knows, eggplant is a staple—and Jerusalem: A Cookbook has copious amounts of recipes regarding the purple plant.
Their recipe is a little daunting, calling for pine nuts, roasted lamb, and other seasonings that I rarely see at Whole Foods, so I decided to give it a little try and substitute some of the seasonings and ingredients for vegetarian ones. This can also easily be made vegan, however, I still have a difficult time giving up cheese. Below is the recipe, give it a try, and let me know what you think. It seems rather daunting, especially because there are a lot of spices, but it’s really simple and should relatively only have easy cleanup.
I N G R E D I E N T S
Yield: 2 – 4 servings
E G G P L A N T
2 small eggplant
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
L E N T I L S
This recipe is best with leftover lentils, however, if you don’t have lentils on hand then you can make them from scratch, this will add about 20 min to the cooking time of the finished eggplant.
2 cups water
1 cup green lentils, rinsed and well drained
S A U C E
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped *save the other half for your rice*
1 red bell pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 3/4 cups crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp kosher sea salt, to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp smoked paprika, to taste
1 tsp cumin, to taste
1/2 tsp ground coriander, to taste
1 tsp ginger, minced, to taste
1/2 tsp ground turmeric, to taste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, more or less to preferred spice level
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
R I C E
This recipe can be served alone or with rice, I personally love to have it with a saffron rice, but a simple jasmine rice or basmati will do.
2 pinches saffron threads
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion, minced
1 cups white basmati rice
2 cups chicken stock
M E T H O D
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
First, cook lentils by bringing 2 cups water to a boil and adding lentils. Bring back to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer (uncovered) for about 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.
While those are cooking begin dicing your onions and bell peppers and mincing the garlic and the ginger, then add to a saucepan and cook until slightly tender. Once the onions and bell peppers are slightly tender, add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, lemon juice, sea salt, paprika, cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. Mix to thoroughly combine seasoning. Taste and adjust flavor as needed. Set aside.
Once the lentils have cooked, drain off any excess liquid and then add the sauce mixture and parsley or cilantro together. Mix well to combine and then set aside.
Take out the properly sized baking dish, and coat the base with a drizzle of olive oil.
Next, use a knife to cut an angled divot out of the center of your eggplants. Then use a spoon to scrape out a hollow center. Leave enough eggplant flesh so it’s sturdy enough to hold the lentils.
Over a grill or in a large skillet, place eggplant cut side down and cook until slightly charred, 4 – 5 minutes. Then flip the eggplant over on the other side, cover, and cook for 4 – 5 minutes more. The eggplant should look softened and browned on the outside.
Once the eggplant is cooked, place cut-side up in your baking dish and top with lentils. There should be plenty to fill the eggplant and some overflow, which can be spooned down into the dish. *If there is excess, save the lentils, they can be kept in the fridge for 4 – 5 days or 1 month frozen.*
Bake uncovered for 30 – 40 minutes or until the eggplant is soft and browned and the lentils are bubbling.
While the eggplant is cooking, begin making your rice. Take the other half of the diced onion and add to a saucepan with olive oil. Cook the onions until they caramelize.
While the onions cook, add saffron to a tsp of olive oil and crush them together.
Add the rice to the saucepan and mix in the onions and rice, be careful not to let the rice stick to the saucepan. Drizzle over the saffron oil blend, mix in the rice and onions. Add 2 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce heat to medium-low, let it cook until the broth is absorbed and below the top of the rice, then turn the heat off and allow it to cook until the eggplant is finished.
Serve together and enjoy.