Eggplant Baked with Lentils

(2 votes)

2 medium eggplants, sliced but not peeled
coarse salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 whole cloves
1 tablespoon crumbled dried oregano
1 tablespoon crumbled dried basil
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups fresh or canned chopped tomatoes
1 cup uncooked lentils, preferable lentilles, de puy
1 cup water
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

White Sauce with Jack Cheese
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot
1/2 cup evaporated skim milk
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Spread the eggplant slices on a nonstick baking sheet (you'll probably need two), and sprinkle both sides liberally with coarse salt. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, add the onion, garlic, cloves, oregano, basil, and cinnamon. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté, stirring often, until the onion is soft and limp, about 10 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and lentils. Stir in the water. Turn up the heat to medium-high, bring the mixture to a gentle boil, cover, turn down the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, rinse the eggplant slices with cold water and pat them dry with fresh paper towels. Spread them on the baking sheets in a single layer, and bake until soft and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Turn down the oven heat to 350° F.

When the lentils are cooked, drain off any excess liquid, remove the cloves, and season with salt and pepper. Spread about ½ cup on the bottom of an 8-inch baking dish. Top with a layer of half the eggplant. Cover with half of the remaining lentil mixture, then top that with half of the cheese sauce. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Cover loosely with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the cheese is brown and bubbly, about 10 minutes more. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

White Sauce:
Bring the vegetable broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, keeping the broth at a simmer.
In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch or arrowroot with 2 tablespoons of the evaporated milk to make a thick paste. Stir it into the broth along with the rest of the evaporated milk, nonfat milk, and Jack cheese, and whisk until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.

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