This unusual late-summer vegetarian dish, also known as "habbit rumanna" by Palestinians from Jaffa, combines sour pomegranate juice -- extracted from a particular local variety of little green pomegranates -- with lentils and eggplants (diluted pomegranate molasses may be substituted). It is a perfect dish for bidding goodbye to summer on the first cool day of fall.
Serve with Arabic bread and olives.
Servings: 4 - 6
Yield: Makes 5 1/2 cups
- 1/2 cup dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups water, plus more as needed
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dill seed
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 1/2 pounds eggplant (unpeeled), cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped, for garnish
- Pomegranate seeds (arils), for garnish (optional)
- Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)
Combine the lentils and 4 to 5 cups of water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook (uncovered) for about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat; do not drain.
Combine the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and 1/2 cup of water in a liquid measuring cup, then whisk in the flour to form a slurry.
Use a mortar and pestle to crush a combination of 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, the dill seed and crushed red pepper flakes, then add the garlic and mash to form a sort of paste. (If you don't have a mortar and pestle, combine those ingredients in a small zip-top bag and crush with the flat side of a large knife.)
Heat the lentils (still in the water) over medium heat; add the eggplant and cook until it has softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the spice-garlic mixture, the cumin, tahini, toasted sesame oil and the remaining teaspoon of salt.
Gradually stir in the pomegranate-flour slurry; cook, stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes. If the stew becomes too thick to stir, add water to achieve a better consistency.
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onion and fry for about 10 minutes, until golden.
Divide the stew among individual bowls. Garnish each portion with onion and a little of the oil left over in the skillet, and some pomegranate seeds and parsley, if desired. Serve at room temperature.
Adapted from "The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey," by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt (Just World Books, 2012).
Tested by Laila El-Haddad and Becky Krystal.
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