1 ½ lbs. eggplant
salt (2 tsp. + extra for sprinkling eggplant)
½ c. lentils
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil or mint
1-2 chile peppers (depending on your preference), seeded and minced
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
⅓ c. olive oil
½ c. cranberry or pomegranate juice (or use broth or water + 1 Tbs. honey)
Cut eggplant(s) lengthwise into 3-4 slabs and use a small knife to score each slice on one side in a crosshatch pattern. Cut each slice crosswise into 3 pieces and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle each slice with salt and let stand for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, add the lentils to a small saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until tender (about 15 minutes). Drain.
In a mixing bowl, toss together the onion, garlic, tomatoes, basil, chiles, red pepper flakes (if using), and 2 tsp. of salt. Use 1 Tbs. of the olive oil to coat the bottom and sides of a Dutch oven or stock pot. Rinse the eggplant slices and pat dry. Spread half of the chopped vegetable mixture into the stock pot and top with half of the eggplant slices, then half of the lentils. Repeat the layers, starting with the chopped vegetables and ending with the lentils. Drizzle with the cranberry or pomegranate juice and the remaining olive oil. Heat over medium-high heat until simmering, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until eggplant is very tender, about 1 ½ hours. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary before serving.