1/2cup(90 g) brown or pardina lentils, picked over and rinsed
1medium 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)
2tablespoons(30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1small white or yellow onion, chopped (about 150 g)
4cloves garlic, minced (15 g)
4medium sized vine (or 5 roma) tomatoes, trimmed and chopped (about 1 lb/454 g) or1 14.5- or 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes*
1tablespoon(12 g) cane or brown sugar (optional, to bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes)
1teaspoonkosher salt, plus extra for salting the eggplant
3/4cup(177 mL) water
dashcrushed red pepper flakes, to taste
2tablespoons(30 mL) balsamic vinegar
1/4cupeach 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 cooked lentils, 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.