This truly has to be one of the most frugal recipes we have ever shared. It wasn’t long ago that I posted a simple lentil salad using little more than caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar – and then I find out about this delicious staple dish, also using lentils and caramelized onions as the foundation, along with rice; omitting the balsamic and adding a bit of spice completes the flavor profile. Mujaddara is a Middle Eastern vegetarian/vegan dish which relies on pantry ingredients, with the exception of onions (which are quite economical anyway) and the optional fresh parsley. Perfect for a Meatless Monday.
The 3 cups of lentils and rice expand to what can accurately be described as a VAT, plenty for at least 6 people to have hearty servings, 8 or more as a side dish. But the protein and fiber certainly make it a contender for a great vegetarian main dish; I prefer a ratio that’s higher in lentils to rice, personally, but you could adjust this if you like. You’re going to have three pots going at once (unless you want to prepare the lentils and/or rice ahead of time), but don’t worry, it’s all VERY simple stuff.
1 cup brown rice (I like short grain)
2 cups green lentils, rinsed and sorted
3 large onions, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided (perhaps regular for cooking, and extra-virgin for finishing)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (optional)
Place the rice in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and a dash of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 45-50 minutes. In another pot, cover the lentils with 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil – continue boiling for 20-25 minutes. Drain when cooked through and tender but not mushy. At the same time and for about the same duration, we’ll caramelize the onions. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large saute pan, add the onions and stir them around, making sure the slices are separated and then coated. Reduce the heat to low and cover, cooking for the same 25 minutes, approximately, making sure to stir occasionally.
When all three components are done, toss together with spices, salt, remaining olive oil and parsley. Serves a crowd!
The spices involved could also be considered optional, so subtle is the flavor, and I did try it without. The sweetness of the onions gives it plenty of flavor all by themselves. I can honestly recommend either version.
A sampling of other approaches to mujaddara:
— posted by Anne