Appearances are deceiving when it comes to this stew. Its deep Mediterranean flavors more than compensate for the brown color, and a few sauces fix even that.
- 3 T olive oil, divided
- 2 C chopped yellow onion or shallots
- 1 celery rib or 1/2 cup sliced fennel, finely chopped
- 5 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 C dry French green lentils, rinsed
- 1 can (14 to 15 oz.) diced tomatoes, preferably no salt added
- 2 qts. vegetable stock
- Splash of red wine (optional)
- 2 eggplants (around 2 lbs. total)
- 2 T harissa, plus extra for serving
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- Tzatziki, for serving (recipe in my free eBook)
- Pesto, any type, for serving (or fresh parsley)
- Bread or rolls, for serving (optional)
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium. Add onion, celery, garlic, and bay leaf. Cook until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add lentils and stir constantly to toast, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, stock, and wine, if using. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender.
- Meanwhile, turn on broiler (low setting, if applicable) and line a sheet or 9×13 inch pan with foil. Coat clean, dry eggplants with olive oil (1 tablespoon total) using your hands. Broil on baking pan 6 inches from heat, about 25 minutes, turning eggplants onto a new side every 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool when heavy and blackened. Cut tops off eggplant and peel off the skin. Pull into strips, removing conspicuous chunks of seeds, if desired, and place in a colander set over a bowl or the sink for 5 to 10 minutes. Pulse eggplant in food processor until long fibers are broken up and mixture has just turned creamy and spreadable.
- Uncover stew and reduce heat to low. Stir in eggplant puree and 2 tablespoons harissa, plus salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 1/2 and 1/2 teaspoons, respectively). Once well mixed and warm throughout, serve in bowls with extra condiments and bread.
Nutrition: the stew alone is vegan. Depending on your choice of condiments, it’s likely gluten free and vegetarian after adding sauces. Pesto will be the most likely culprit in spoiling either of these classifications, so be sure to check your ingredients in the case of allergies or strict adherence.
If you don’t have harissa, I’d recommend adding chili powder (even better: ancho chili powder), ground cumin, ground coriander, ground caraway seeds, and a bit of cayenne pepper to the onions when they’re almost softened. Stir for a couple minutes, until the spices are aromatic. You may also wish to add smaller quantities “raw” at the end, to finish the soup. In lieu of all that, sriracha will provide some heat and flavor, although it won’t match the complexity of the harissa.
The lentils make this stew insanely filling, especially when served with bread. The recipe will likely feed 12 or more–just don’t use giant soup bowls, or you may end up throwing a lot out. The recipe halves fairly well (you can still add the full can of tomatoes) and freezes great.
Feel free to make a day or two ahead–the flavors noticeably deepen after just 12 hours in the refrigerator.
Recipe adapted from Food & Wine magazine, December 2014 print issue.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 45 mins
- Category: Stew
- Cuisine: Vegan