This very flavorful vegetarian stew comes from the coastal town of Antakya in Turkey. I adapted the recipe from Food and Wine magazine and adjusted it to my taste. I also made my own Pomegranate Molasses. This dish is best when made ahead and allowed to mellow for some time before serving. I cooked the stew in the morning and we had it for a late lunch with French Fries and topped with a delicious garlic, herbs and walnut yogurt sauce. —Kukla
For the Pomegranate Molasses (makes 1 cup)
• 3 cups 100% Pomegranate juice, no sugar added
• 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
• 1/2 a packed cup organic brown sugar
• 1 cinnamon stick + 2 star anise
For the stew
• 3 medium eggplants, about 2 pounds
• 1/2 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained
• 3/4 cups olive oil, divided, (I used Kalamata olive oil)
• 1 medium onion, finely chopped
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 3- 4 medium Roma tomatoes, quickly blanched, peeled and chopped
• 3 long green Anaheim chiles, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
• About 10-12 petted Kalamata olives, cut in half
• 2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 1 (8oz) can tomato sauce (I used 100% natural Hunt’s, no salt added)
Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan, bring to boil over medium heat, reduce heat to medium- low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy, for about 1 1/2 hours. Discard cinnamon stick and star anise, cool to room temperature and chill until ready to use.
This is an easy way to make pomegranate molasses if you do not have access to a Middle Eastern grocery store, but can get a good quality Pomegranate juice.
For the stew
Partially peel the eggplants so they have lengthwise stripes; then cut it lengthwise into 4 slices. Cut each slice crosswise into 3 pieces and place in a large colander over a bowl. Sprinkle each side with some salt. Let stand for 1 hour.
In a small saucepan, cover the lentils with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the lentils.
Coat a wide (3-4quarts) enameled cast-iron pot with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. In a large bowl, toss the onion with the garlic, tomatoes, green chilies, mint, tomato paste and sauce, olives, crushed red pepper and about 2 teaspoons of salt.
Rinse well the eggplant slices and thoroughly pat dry. Spread about 1 cup of the vegetable mixture in the casserole and top with half of the eggplant. Cover with half of the lentils and half of the remaining vegetable mixture, drizzle with half of pomegranate molasses.
Top with the remaining eggplant slices, lentils and vegetables. Pour the remaining olive oil around the side and over the vegetables, and then drizzle with the remaining pomegranate molasses.
Bring the stew to a boil; cover and cook over low heat, occasionally shaking the pot (to prevent scorching the bottom layer), until the eggplant is very tender, about 1 hour or a little more. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
To make the yogurt sauce: In the bowl of food processor combine 3 chopped garlic cloves, 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, 2 tablespoons of each, parsley and mint, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, a few grinds of black pepper and 2 tablespoons good olive oil. Process until the mixture resembles pesto consistency. Scrape into a mixing bowl and stir in 2/3 cup of Greek yogurt. Refrigerate until ready to use.