Debbie and David Younger are vegetarian friends of mine who have been all over the world, sampled many cuisines and collected many recipes. Being traveling vegetarians can be strenous indeed, and they have moved so much that most of Debbie's own recipes are still in trunks, but she's passed on a couple of close and delicious approximations: SOUR LENTIL SOUP (6 servings)
2 cups brown lentils
8 cups water
1 cup finely chopped scallions
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup vinegar or to taste
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Wash lentils and drain. Place them in a large pot with the water, scallions, garlic, oil and coriander.
Bring to a boil, cover pan and simmer on low heat for 1 hour or until lentils are soft.
Pour water and flour in a small jar and shake until thoroughly combined. Pour gradually into boiling soup, stirring constantly, until thickened slightly. Add vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Return to boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
BABA GHANOUJ (4 servings)
1 medium eggplant
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 cloves garlic
Salt to taste
1/2 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Grill eggplant over a charcoal fire or gas flame for 30 to 40 minutes, turning often until charred on all sides. Or place the eggplant in a 375-degree oven and cook until soft, about 20 to 30 minutes (depending on size,) turning often.
Peel off skin while hot and remove stem.
Chop eggplant flesh and pure'e in a blender, food processor or mortar with pestle. Blend in lemon juice and tahini. Crush garlic through a press and add to pure'e. Adjust flavor with lemon juice and salt to taste.
Beat in oil, if used, and parsley.
Serve with whole-grain pocket breads as an appetizer.