I got a new cookbook! In foodie world, this is considered most exciting news. The concept of ‘foodie world’ amuses me. I often forget that outside foodie world, things like say, Cook’s Illustrated, Tastespotting, or Giada DeLaurentiis, are neither common knowledge nor truly exciting. How sad right? Glad I don’t live there! For instance, the grocery I frequent has Giada coming next week for a book signing and they’ve got flyers at every register advertising the event. And still when I exclaimed to my cashier, ‘Wow, Giada’s coming here?!’ I was met with a blank stare and a puzzled ‘who’? This is what I mean, said cashier needs to take a trip to foodie world.
But I digress. My new cookbook is fantastic! It’s everything I love about a cookbook, mouth-watering photography, inspiring food concepts and a multitude of recipes perfect for each season. And even better, I got this latest cookbook for free! Yep, that’s right. I won a raffle the other week (I know, who does that?) and the prize was a Barnes and Noble giftcard. And in foodie world, is there really any question what one uses a raffle-winning Barnes and Noble giftcard for? Right. Besides I already have the Hunger Games trilogy.
So that is how I came to have London’s Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Plenty, which is a vegetarian cookbook organized by ingredients, rather than by course or season as most cookbooks are. He’s got a section called ‘Funny Onions’, another dedicated to ‘Pulses’ (which I came to learn means beans, gotta love British terminology), ‘Grains’ and many others. This recipe was from ‘The Mighty Eggplant’ section, and as an eggplant fanatic I have only the utmost respect for a chef who considers eggplant worthy of its very own section most appropriately preceded with ‘mighty’. What I like most about this cookbook is even though it’s vegetarian, it’s not written by a vegetarian (Ottolenghi himself isn’t vegetarian). Nothing against vegetarians of course, but as an omnivore, I appreciate the side notes he includes suggesting seared fish or grilled chicken as accompaniments to his dishes. I served these lentils alongside sear-roasted salmon. I am nothing short of obsessed with the book at the moment and look forward to trying and sharing many new dishes with you, starting with these lentils! Which are fantastic and well worth the few (but not hard) steps that are involved. As I did, I’m sure you’ll find yourself enjoying inspired, expectation-exceeding results.
ottolenghi’s lentils with broiled eggplant
- 2 medium eggplants
- 2 Tbs top-quality red wine vinegar
- 1 cup small dark lentils (Puy or Castelluccio), rinsed
- 3 small carrots, peeled
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 thyme sprigs
- 1/2 white onion
- 3 Tbs olive oil, plus extra to finish
- 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/3 tsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbs each roughly chopped parsley, cilantro and dill
- 2 Tbs Greek yogurt or creme fraiche
1. Pierce eggplants with a sharp knife in a few places. Put them on a foil-lined baking sheet and place directly under a heated broiler for 1 hour, turning them a quarter turn every 15 minutes. The eggplants need to deflate completely and their skin should burn and break.
2. Remove eggplants from heat. Reset oven to 275. Cut a slit down the center of the eggplants and scoop out the flesh into a colander, avoiding the black skin. Leave to drain at least 15 minutes and only then season with plenty of salt and pepper and 1/2 Tbs of the red wine vinegar.
3. While eggplants are broiling, place 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, and cover with plenty of water (water should cover lentils and vegetables by 2 inches). Simmer over low heat for up to 25 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Drain. Remove and discard the carrot, celery, bay leaf, onion and thyme and transfer lentils to a bowl. Add the remaining vinegar, 2 Tbs olive oil, and salt/pepper to taste. Set aside.
4. Dice the remaining carrot and celery and mix with the tomatoes, remaining Tbs oil, sugar and some salt. Spread in ovenproof dish and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the carrot is tender but still firm.
5. Add the cooked vegetables to the warm lentils, followed by the chopped herbs and stir gently. Taste and adjust seasonings as you like. Spoon lentils onto serving plates. Pile some eggplant in the center of each portion and top it off with a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche. Finish with a drizzle of oil.
Recipe barely adapted from Ottolenghi’s Plenty