Why It Works
- Puréeing the garlic in lemon juice tames its flavor, creating a tahini that's flavorful but not pungent.
- Cooking the eggplant at high heat evaporates its moisture quickly.
This dish of eggplant roasted until caramelized and tender, served over stewed lentils with an extraordinarily light and creamy tahini sauce and crunchy pine nuts, was dinner and lunch for more meals than I care to count a couple of weeks back. Not that I'm complaining: It's extremely good.
It's very rare that I'm completely satisfied with a technique the first time I try it, but after some serious tinkering with the technique for making tahini sauce that Michael Solomonov details in his book, Zahav, I couldn't find any way to really improve upon it. With the exception of a few minor changes in ratios, it's essentially step for step how he does it. It works wonders as an ingredient in dips, in a salad dressing, or, as I'm using it here, as a sauce for roasted eggplant.
- For the Lentils:
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (about 1 cup; 170g)
- 2 small stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 1 cup; 115g)
- 1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 cup; 225g)
- 6 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 12 ounces (340g) brown or de Puy lentils
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups homemade vegetable stock or water (about 1L) (see note)
- Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or sherry vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the Eggplant:
- 2 large Italian or small globe eggplants, about 1 pound (450g) each
- 4 tablespoons (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large sprigs fresh rosemary
- To Serve:
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (about 2 1/2 ounces; 70g)
- 1 recipe Tahini Sauce With Garlic and Lemon
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
For the Lentils: Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 450°F to prepare for roasting eggplant. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add carrots, celery, and onion and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add lentils, bay leaves, stock or water, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer, cover with the lid partially ajar, and cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. (Top up with water if lentils are at any point not fully submerged.) Remove lid, stir in vinegar, and reduce until lentils are moist but not soupy. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover, and keep warm until ready to serve.
For the Eggplant: While lentils cook, cut each eggplant in half. Score flesh with the tip of a paring knife in a cross-hatch pattern at 1-inch intervals. Transfer to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, cut side up, and brush each eggplant half with 1 tablespoon oil, letting each brushstroke be fully absorbed before brushing with more. Season with salt and pepper. Place a rosemary sprig on top of each one. Transfer to oven and roast until completely tender and well charred, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and discard rosemary.
To Serve: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and pine nuts in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Cook, tossing nuts frequently, until golden brown and aromatic, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to halt cooking. Stir half of parsley and rosemary into lentils and transfer to a serving platter. Arrange eggplant halves on top. Spread a few tablespoons of tahini sauce over each eggplant half and sprinkle with pine nuts. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and rosemary, drizzle with additional olive oil, and serve.
Rimmed baking sheet, fine-mesh strainer, pastry brush, blender
Do not use store-bought vegetable stock. It is never very good.