A couple important thoughts came to me while I was eating dinner tonight. The first was that Spanish fútbol announcers are so adorably poetic and enthusiastic – even when talking about teams that aren’t Spain (tonight’s game was Russia v. Poland). The second was that in my hands I was holding proof that I’m the most boring person alive. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I was eating lentils and eggplant topped with a poached egg. Normally this wouldn’t be cause for reevaluating my lifestyle – but good GOD. I’m in SPAIN. Land of PORK! And it’s worse than that, actually, because really I should more properly say I’m in CATALUNYA, land of FISHS! Situated as I am smack in between Mercat de Santa Caterina and Mercat de San Josep, both renowned markets and resplendent with animally deliciousness of all kinds, it’s abominable that I have not yet in this trip purchased pork or fishs.
Coming up later this week: I fix that, and take pictures, and tell you all about it. I have plans for adventures in making boquerones (Alex’s uncle does it and told me how!) and boiling snails like the ones I had in Portugal and so loved last summer. And maybe maybe maybe I’ll get some langostino and make a nice fideuá. Definitely I will have jamón and tetilla for lunch tomorrow, perhaps with some pimientos de Padrón and gazpacho. I will, in short, glory in Spain’s bounty to make up for my culinary sins of the past week. But for now you’ll have to content yourself with sharing my shame: the lentil dish I labored over, and enjoyed, as I cheered Poland to their well-earned draw.
To be honest, my creativity has floundered a bit this week since Alex is in Madrid for research and I’m in Barcelona alone and cooking for one. I wandered through the Boqueria today and walked out with only mango, radishes, and a dozen eggs. And when I went to Mercat de Santa Caterina it was closed and I had to settle for a stop in at Caprabo (read: Kroger, but for Spain). I walked up and down the aisles enough times to feel self-conscious about it, but couldn’t hit on a dinner idea to save my life. Finally I just admitted defeat and bought a collection of things I knew would taste good together: lentils, eggplant, cucumber, cumin. These ultimately paired nicely with the greek yogurt, mint, parsley, and garlic I had waiting in my flat and I ended up with a dish I would definitely make again (though tomorrow I’ll add chopped Marcona almonds, which were also in my pantry and which I forgot about until I was halfway through the meal and too lazy to get back up).
Eggplant Lentil Salad
1 cup dry lentils*
some olive oil
handful finely chopped mint
handful finely chopped parsley
3/4 cup greek yogurt**
about half a cucumber, finely chopped
zest of half a lemon
couple squeezes lemon juice
1/2 tsp or so cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
In a medium pot (I used a 3 qt and it had room to spare) heat lentils and enough water to cover them by about two inches. When it boils, turn to a simmer and stir periodically until the lentils are tender, but retain some of their shape and bite. Mush is bad here. When the lentils are the consistency you like – but again, not mush – pour them into a strainer, run them over with cold water, and leave to drain.
Now it’s time for the yogurt sauce. The longer it sits, the garlickier it gets. I love garlic, so I do this early on. Put the yogurt in a small bowl with the cucumber, lemon zest, garlic, cumin, and some lemon juice and salt to taste. Then stir and let it rest as it becomes tastified.
Next, put a grill pan on the burner on high heat. As it heats, slice the eggplant and brush the tops with olive oil. Use enough to cover each slice fully, but be careful: eggplant will soak up as much oil as you’re willing to put into it. I use one or two brushes of oil at the most to keep this a healthy meal! Lay the slices across the pan in one layer to cook. No matter how tempted you are, let the slices sit and cook for a few minutes before you flip them. Then repeat the process of patiently waiting a few minutes before messing with them again. It’s done when the slices have cooked down a bit and are soft and gooey. Sounds gross, looks gross, tastes fucking amazing.
When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, cut it into small squares and toss it into a large bowl with the mint, parsley, and lentils. Sprinkle with salt and lemon juice to taste.
To serve: Put a serving size’s worth of lentils in a bowl. Spoon some sauce over top. Put a poached egg over that. Sprinkle with salt. Voila! Dinner. Enjoy! And I promise I’ll give you something more exciting and Spanish next time!
*mine were called lentejas pardina. don’t know what that means, but they’re slightly smaller and firmer than the standard brown ones
**i haven’t been able to buy greek yogurt in a big tub like I would in NYC, and so keep buying packages of four individual serving sized yogurts. i used one of these.