Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lentils and Rice - Mujadara

This is one of those recipes that got stuck in the Recipes-that-I've-cut-out-or-been-given-that-I-intend-to make-someday - - really! file folder, that just seems to keep swelling year-in and year-out. Well, I was going through and cleaning out ones that I had second thoughts about when I came across this one that my mom had given me some years back. It even had her hand-written notes on it that said "Delicious!" and some other variations she employed. Good enough for me, so I decided to give it a go.

Mujadara is a simple, filling and very healthy no-meat dish that is eaten throughout the Middle East. I was reading about the variations: tomato paste, crushed red pepper, different kinds of lentils. It will be fun to try them in future versions. Mom used Persian lentils, as indicated in her margin notes, so I hunted them down at a nearby health food store, but feel free to use whatever lentils you use and like. The Persian lentils aren't easy to find. There is a version of this dish that uses the small red lentils that completely break down after cooking a short while, but for this version you should use a lentil that holds it shape well.

We had this along with a hearty green salad for a light dinner. It would also serve as an excellent side dish for roasted lamb or another grilled meat. The caramelized onions really make this dish, and add the needed moisture to balance the otherwise drier rice and lentils out. Give this a go, I think you'll like it. Your stomach and heart will!

Lentils and Rice - Mujadara
serves 3-4 as a main dish, more if used as a side

8 oz lentils
1 1/2 cup water
1 tsp fine sea salt
8 oz Basmati Rice
2 cups more water
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium brown onions, peeled and sliced

Persian lentils have a pleasant, not-as-earthy-taste as the common lentil, and hold their shape well.

Rinse the lentils in cold water and drain. Place the lentils in a 4-qt saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water. Add the salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until almost all of the water is absorbed and the lentils are partially cooked, 15-25 minutes, depending on the type of lentil.

Rinse the rice several times in a bowl of cool water to remove the starch. After the 3rd washing, the water should be fairly clear. Drain. Add the rice to the lentils with 2 cups more water, black pepper and cumin, stir. Bring to a boil and continue to simmer slowly on low heat, covered for 20 minutes, until rice is done.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, covered for about 10 minutes to soften. Uncover, lightly salt, and cook until the onions are caramelized to a nice golden brown.

Spread the rice and lentils onto a large serving plate. Pour the oil from the onions all over the rice-lentil mixture. Spoon the onions evenly on top. Garnish with a little chopped parsley, if desired

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