Mediterranean Eggplant with Red Lentils & Thyme
What could be yummier on a warm, Spring evening than a nice dish of vegetarian goodness like this? Simple and tasty, juicy eggplant with what is essentially a lukewarm salad of red lentils and aromatic thyme... The only thing that would make a bright and sunny dish like this better would be a little less rain!
For 2 portions, the ingredients were 1 eggplant, 2 Spring onions, 1 stalk of celery, 1 carrot, a handful of cherry tomatoes and a few sprigs of thyme. I used up my baby carrots here, but as I said, 1 regular sized carrot is all you will need.
Finely chopped carrot, celery and Spring onion give the basic flavor to the lentils, tomato adds color and fruitiness and the thyme adds that little extra "zing!" that takes everything a step higher!
The eggplant was simply sliced and salted, in the usual way, prior to cooking. I let it rest for 15 minutes or so to exude any bitterness so that the cooked eggplant would be tender and mild.
To prepare the eggplant, I cut it into 1" thick slices and put them into the frying pan with just a touch of water, just enough to cover the surface of the pan. I flipped the slices over once, but only added the olive oil after this water had evaporated away... this water soaks into the pores and prevents the oil from doing the same and making the eggplant to greasy. As the eggplant cooks, that little bit of excess water also evaporates away, but the eggplant doesn't stick and it gets a lovely Holden color. I seasoned with salt and pepper and added a little crushed garlic into the pan to add a little extra aroma... Simple!
To prepare the lentils, I started off with the "sofritto"- the finely chopped carrot, celery and onion, which is the base of so many Italian recipes. I sweated these down in a little olive oil until the onion and celery were transparent and then added the lentils and tomatoes, along with just enough water to cover them. I seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked them for 5 minutes. In the meantime I plucked the leaves from half of the thyme and then added them for the final 5 minutes of cooking. After 10 minutes in all, I added a little olive oil, the juice of half a lime and little honey, stirred them through and let them sit with the lid on to rest for a further 5 minutes.
I served the lentils on top of the golden slices of eggplant and sprinkled everything generously with the remaining thyme... Simple, fresh and delicious! My kind of food... And I hope yours too!