Striking in appearance, black beluga lentils are said to be the caviar of lentils. Tiny, round and black jewels, they glisten when they’re cooked and look a lot like beluga caviar, the most prized of all caviar varieties. Unlike many lentil varieties that tend to disintegrate and become a bit mushy when cooked, beluga lentils hold their shape pretty well, which makes them great for salads, pilafs, or these starters that I recently served for dinner one evening. Here, I’ve put them on a bed of roasted eggplant dressed with a savory cashew cream sauce.
Beluga Lentils with Roasted Eggplant Canapés
2 medium eggplants, cut in ½-inch slices
½ cup olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
salt and pepper
1 cup black beluga lentils
2½ cups water
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dill, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
3-4 small carrots, julienned
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tomato, diced (or use ½ cherry tomatoes)
Savory Cashew Cream Sauce
1 cup cashew cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
Preheat oven to 400F.
Place the slices of eggplant on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a small sharp knife to make two incisions. Brush well with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Roast until browned, but not too soft, about 20 to 30 minutes. When done, allow to cool then move to serving tray.
Rinse lentils and drain. In a saucepan combine lentils with water, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain.
In a large bowl, combine hot lentils with 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, and salt and black pepper. Stir, taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. When the lentils are cool, add the dill, parsley and cilantro and gently stir. Set aside.
In another saucepan, sauté carrots in olive oil, a pinch of salt and brown sugar until softened. Add tomatoes. Sauté for about 30 seconds then remove from heat.
To make the sauce: Whisk together cashew cream, olive oil, and garlic and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning.
To assemble: Spread a small dollop of savory cashew cream sauce on eggplant slice. Add a layer of carrots (formed a little nest), followed by a spoonful of lentils. Garnish with tomato and herbs.
Notes: I also tried putting the carrots directly on the eggplant, followed by lentils then topped with savory cashew cream sauce, garnished with tomatoes.
Canapés are usually eaten with the fingers and often in one bite. Here, the roasted eggplant becomes soft and perhaps a little challenging for some to eat with fingers. For a more hearty base, sliced bread (like a baguette) could also work nicely as an added base with this recipe.