10: Turkish-Style Eggplant & Lentils with Garlic Yogurt — Forking Fantastic!
Lesson of the week: Read the recipe thoroughly first.
To appropriately quote The Good Place (YAY SEASON 3 IS HERE), “Holy motherforking shirtballs.”
Not sure how many times I’m going to need to learn this the hard way, but here we are again. And once again, I’m doing all of this on a Monday night, cutting it down to the wire. (Roll background music…)
The Assignment: Turkish-Style Eggplant & Lentils with Garlic Yogurt from Forking Fanstastic! Put the Party Back in Dinner Party by Zora O’Neill and Tamara Reynolds
First off, everything about this book is total Dana-bait. The title that alludes at swear words, the fact that it’s written by a pair of lady-friends, the promise that throwing a dinner party is not that hard and even my high-strung perfectionist ass can pull it off.
That’s right. I’ve never hosted a dinner party. It’s a huge personal shame of mine and has been a yearly goal of mine for the last, oh, 8 years.
Anyhow, this book breaks it down. It gives you menus, it gives you ideas, it gives you intel based on mistakes they made themselves, which is the kind of honesty I dig in a book. It really makes you feel like this is a thing you can do.
And yet, I still haven’t done it. My fault, not theirs.
The Recipe (directly from the book, which you might want to buy):
Things to Note About the Recipe:
Here we come back to today’s lesson. I’m not gonna lie; I was rushing this one. I put it all off, then decided last night that this week, I’d tackle this eggplant-lentil recipe that’s been taunting me. Because it’s full of things I love, pretty healthy seeming, and the kind of dish where I feel sure I’d be OK eating all 8 servings myself.
THIS RECIPE IS A LOT MORE INVOLVED THAN YOU’D EXPECT FROM A STEW.
My first roadblock hit when I realized that, oh duh, pomegranate molasses isn’t exactly the kind of thing I can grab from Ralph’s. I’m standing in the grocery store, Googling “substitutes for pomegranate molasses.” Most of the hits were like “I GUESS you could use reduced balsamic vinegar if you only need a little, but you really should just get pomegranate molasses, because it’s great.” Helpful. Then I discovered that it’s basically super-reduced pomegranate juice, gone beyond the syrup state. Alton Brown had a recipe for how to make it; FABULOUS. I grabbed a bunch of pomegranate juice and headed home.
I get my molasses going (which took for-goddamn-ever), and started on the rest of the prep. Ye gods… Everything needed to be handled in some way separately before it ALL GOES INTO A POT TO COOK TOGETHER. So I’ve got the eggplant salted, trying to get some excess liquid off; the lentils cooking; the pomegranate juice reducing; the big bowl of tomatoes, onions, etc. hanging out and being gloriously fragrant… and then there were the mushrooms.
I’M CONFUSED, YOU GUYS. This recipe lists the mushrooms as optional… but calls for about 40 oz. of them. An optional FORTY OUNCES of mushrooms???
Also, all of the seasoning is haphazard AF. And the oil amounts are imprecise. As a rather lackadaisical cook when it comes to obeying measurements, I’m OK with that. As someone who has been writing recipes for other people — doing her damnedest to make them as user-friendly as possible — for the past decade, I’m less than amused.
I was terrified all this insanity wasn’t even going to fit into the pot ultimately. It kind of did; it barely did, and then the veggies cooked down.
I know I know I know I know that it’s gonna be OK anyway.
Additionally, the directions tell you to mix up the yogurt sauce right at the very beginning. That’s not necessary. Do that while the rest is in the oven.
ALSO! You might want to leave it in the oven a little longer; I added another 20 minutes to the cook time, since the eggplant was still looking pretty springy. Gave it a good stir and some extra time, and was much better.
How did it taste?
You know what? After all this hassle… it’s pretty forking great. Now, I’d feel a bit more vindicated if I WAS making this for a dinner party and not just for myself to be eating for the next week ‘n change, but I am not mad at this dish. And the notes say that it’s even better the next day, so I’m real excited to taste it tomorrow. Plus, this is one of those dishes that’s good at any temperature, so that’s great too. “Do I need the yogurt topping?” Maybe not, vegans, but I really like it with. (Also, has ANYONE found a non-dairy yogurt that doesn’t taste like weird slime?) Note: #mustlovegarlic
Would I make this again?
… I think I would. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, but knowing what I was getting into, I would happily make this for a pack of my vegetarian buddies.
Do I recommend this cookbook?
I dunno. I’m concerned that in the hands of someone less willing to make the recipe their own and figure out some tricky bits, while not getting distracted by all the text, it might get a bit frustrating. The lack of times given for prep and cook are significant… especially if one WAS actually cooking for a dinner party! Hmmm, I love the concept and energy of this book, but a lot of the execution feels incomplete and haphazard. (Plus, I just noted that there are incorrect page numbers in the Table of Contents and, as an editor currently scanning a formatted manuscript for such errors, that gets under my skin.)
What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?
The Baci di Ricotta. They’re sweet little ricotta fritters and I’ve been lusting over them for quite some time. This would require that I get over my fear of frying things in hot oil… but it could happen!
“I did it! I did the thing!” Dana climbed up from her living room floor and stumbled toward her bedroom. And she never put anything off ’til the last minute again. The End.
P.S. After all these sessions of cooking mostly barefoot on hard tile floor, I think I’m starting to understand on a marrow-deep level why chefs rock the Crocs.