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Lentil stew with eggplant & tomatoes

Unsurprisingly, I’ve been wanting to make more eggplant dishes, not to mention more lentil dishes. Elise Bauer’s Eggplant Lentil Stew with Pomegranate Molasses became a great inspiration for this rich (and vegetarian) stew. However, my rendition uses already cooked eggplants and onion, as well as additional Middle Eastern spices. Another bit of rationalizing: if I do this during the off season, I could use frozen roasted eggplants!

bowl of stew

Warning: This stew is somewhat time consuming, but you could do some of the steps ahead of time, or even in parallel, such as roasting the eggplants and cooking the lentils. Don’t skimp on the final long simmer, otherwise the flavors won’t mesh together as well as they could.


  • 1/2 cup brown lentils (unhulled masoor), picked over and rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 3/4 to 2 pounds (before being roasted) of roasted eggplant, sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • salt, to taste; I used about 1/2 teaspoon
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • (optional) 1/4 teaspoon red Indian chili powder
  • 3/4 pound tomatoes, roughly chopped; a 14-ounce can of tomatoes could also work.
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 sweet (mild) red chili peppers, seeds removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons mint leaves, minced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup garlic-infused olive oil
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (depending on your tomatoes’ flavor) + 2 tablespoons water
  • optional garnishes: roasted pine nuts or almonds, crumbled cheese, more mint, parsley, etc.


  1. In a small sauce pan, cover the lentils with about an inch or so of water, about 3ish cups. Toss in the bay leaf, and bring to a boil and cook covered until tender; make sure the lentils don’t go dry — it’s okay if there’s a bit too much water. Depending on how desiccated the lentils are, this could take from 20 to 40 minutes. When done, discard the bay leaf and drain off any excess water, then set aside.
  2. In the meantime, sauté the onions in 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat, until barely translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the salt, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, allspice, cloves and chili powder, if using, until they become fragrant. Lower heat to medium. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and chilis, and simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes until those become a slightly (but not completely) softened.
  4. Transfer the tomato-onion mixture to a large bowl, and stir in the mint.
  5. Coat the bottom of a large pot (a Dutch oven would work) with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Evenly spread a scant cup of the tomato-onions on the bottom.
  6. Layer in half the eggplants, followed by spreading a layer of half the lentils. Drizzle half of the garlic oil (2 tablespoons).
  7. Add half of the remaining tomato-onions, and repeat the previous step with the remaining eggplants and lentils, then ending with the last of the tomato-onion mixture.
  8. Drizzle the top with the rest of the garlic oil, plus an additional tablespoon of olive oil. Then drizzle the pomegranate molasses and water. Bring the stew to a gentle boil, and simmer covered over low heat for 1 hour.
  9. Add garnishes, if desired. Serve with flatbread, basmati rice, a mild, crumbly cheese (e.g., paneer, or even queso fresco!), or simply by itself.

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