I can’t think of a better way to celebrate late summer produce than with these stewed eggplant tomato lentils! They’re my first eggplant recipe of the season and a great one to start with.
Soup vs. stew vs. topping
I couldn’t quite decide on what kind of recipe I was trying to make as I made the stewed eggplant tomato lentils. At first, I had the idea of an eggplant and lentil soup. But then I thought to myself that it would be even better to have something for serving over toast and pasta, along the lines of a caponata.
This recipe is neither and both. It’s stewy enough to be eaten in a bowl, if you like. But it’s also hearty enough to be served over a whole grain, like quinoa or farro, or scooped over a slice of your favorite toast.
Maybe I should have pushed it to be something less amorphous, but then, a lot of my favorite recipes are the same kind of in-betweens. I’m thinking of my red wine braised lentils, braised beans & kale, slow cooker chipotle lentils, and Moroccan chickpea tomato stew. All go-to recipes in my home, all similarly adaptable.
Stewed eggplant tomato lentils ingredients
These stewed eggplant tomato lentils are simple and unfussy. I think this is how it should be with recipes that show off the beauty of late summer produce. You’ll need the following for it:
I used fresh tomatoes for the recipe, since they’re perfect right now. The recipe calls for four small or three large vine or beefsteak tomatoes. You could also use 5 Roma tomatoes in their place. It’s about a pound total.
If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, you can use either a 14.5 or a 28 ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes instead. Use what you have in your pantry; obviously, the larger can size will yield a stew that’s heavier on the tomatoes. Not a bad thing, if you ask me!
I used one medium/large globe eggplant for the stewed eggplant tomato lentils (more on eggplant varieties here, if you’re curious). It was about one and a half pounds, and just over a pound of eggplant after preparation. You could use Italian, Indian, or Japanese eggplant as well. Just be sure that the total amount of eggplant you use is equivalent to 1 – 1.5 pounds.
My go-to lentils these days are pardina lentils. These are sometimes called “Spanish brown” lentils, too. They’re a bit rounder and hold their shape better than regular brown lentils in recipes. If you don’t have them, it’s no problem. Brown, green, black and even red lentils will work nicely in the recipe.
Balsamic vinegar gives the recipe both a little acidity and some sweetness. I tend to save the pricier, more syrupy balsamic vinegar for drizzling. It always ends up on top of my red wine braised lentils. And I use less expensive balsamic for salad dressings, pasta salad, or as a marinade for burgers or tempeh.
If you’d like a different variation that’s still bright and sweet/sour, I’ve seen recipes that call for eggplant and lentils with pomegranate molasses.
Storing & serving stewed eggplant tomato lentils
Store the lentils in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days, or freeze them for up to six weeks. Like most stewy dishes, they taste even better after they sit for a day or two.
You can sprinkle another handful of fresh herbs over the lentils after you reheat them, simply to add a little freshness to the dish. Vegan parmesan (or hemp parmesan) and an extra drizzle of balsamic are also very nice on top!
Yields: 4 servings
- 1/2 cup (90 g) brown or pardina lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 1 medium or large globe or Italian eggplant (see notes for substitutions), trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 1 1/4 lb/567 g after preparation)
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped (about 150 g)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (15 g)
- 4 medium sized vine (or 5 roma) tomatoes, trimmed and chopped (about 1 lb/454 g) or 1 14.5- or 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes*
- 1 tablespoon (12 g) cane or brown sugar (optional, to bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for salting the eggplant
- 3/4 cup (177 mL) water
- dash crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup each fresh, chopped parsley and basil leaves
Bring 2 1/2 cups water to boil in a pot. Add the lentils. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Gently drain off any excess water in the pot and set the lentils aside. (NB: you can also skip this step and use 1 cup pre-cooked or canned lentils in the recipe.)
While the lentils are cooking, place the cubed eggplant into a colander. Sprinkle it generously with kosher salt and allow it to sit for 15 minutes. Then, rinse the eggplant and pat it dry firmly with paper towels or a clean dish towel.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium. Add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, or until the onion is soft and clear. Add the garlic. Cook for another minute, or until the garlic is fragrant, stirring constantly.
Add the eggplant, tomatoes, sugar, and salt. Cover the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the eggplant is getting soft and the tomatoes have released their juices. Add 3/4 cup water to the skillet, along with the crushed red pepper flakes and vinegar. When the ingredients reach a simmer, reduce the heat to low. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for another 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture resembles a thick stew.
Add additional salt, vinegar, and pepper to taste. Stir in the fresh herbs. Serve.
If using whole, peeled, canned tomatoes, add them to the recipe at the same time you’d add fresh tomatoes. Then, use a spoon or a potato masher to crush the canned tomatoes directly in your skillet. Continue with the recipe.
To salt or not to salt eggplant?
Whether or not to salt eggplant is one of those hotly debated preparation methods. The idea behind salting is to eliminate bitterness, but some argue that eggplants have been bred not to be bitter anymore.
Personally, I think salted eggplant tastes better. Bitterness (or lack thereof) aside, I think that salting improves the texture, making the eggplant softer once it’s cooked. If you don’t have the time or don’t like to salt eggplant, you can skip the step in this recipe. I’m a fan of salting, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
I made the stewed eggplant tomato lentils right after I got back from my refreshing long weekend away with friends. They were inspired by my time outside of the city and the farm stands that I passed by while I was gone.
The recipe was perfect for a Sunday afternoon when I didn’t have much time or energy to cook, but wanted something rustic, homemade, and summery to eat. I’m still enjoying the leftovers, mostly over toast, but tonight I’ve got big plans to serve it over pasta. I’m sure it’ll be tasty, and I’m excited to hear how you serve the dish, too.