Spinach, plus garnishes of roasted red pepper and pomegranate molasses, enrich this satisfying Mediterranean soup with antioxidants, including beta-carotene, anthocyanins, and lutein/zeaxanthin.
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups dried lentils
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
4 cups diced Japanese eggplant (about 2)
1 cup chopped onion
1 thyme sprig
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
4 cups less-sodium beef broth, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 (6-ounce) package baby spinach
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1/2 cup thinly sliced bottled roasted red bell pepper
How to Make It
Place first 5 ingredients in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Set lentils aside.
Preheat oven to 450°.
Place the eggplant, onion, and thyme in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Drizzle with oil; toss to coat. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Stir in 1 cup broth; bake 10 minutes. Discard thyme; add eggplant mixture to lentils.
Stir in remaining 3 cups broth and parsley; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add spinach; stir gently until spinach wilts. Stir in salt and pepper. Ladle about 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; drizzle each serving with 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses, and top with about 1 tablespoon roasted red bell pepper.
Wine Note: One wine works well with the earthy, bitter, and sweet flavors in this soup: pinot noir. Good pinot noir demonstrates an earthiness of its own, plus an attractive bitterness and a "sweet spot" of cherry-pomegranate fruitiness. Try Pedroncelli "F. Johnson Vineyard" 2003 from Sonoma County, California ($15). -Karen MacNeil