I was making the turkey and date meatballs again and wanted to try something different on the side besides cinnamon-garlic lentils (besides, I was running low on lentils). But I didn’t want to go to the market, so I needed a pantry side. And then I remembered Mujadara. A dish I’ve become acquainted with in Israel, it’s often translated as “rice, lentil, and caramelized onion pilaf.” Also spelled moujadara, mejadara, mujaddara and megadarra, it’s a delicious, homey recipe common throughout the Middle East (it pops up in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and, of course, Israel). If you share a love for healthy food and cooking then an online nutrition degree might be a great choice. The more we learn about health, the more we can make delicious things like this that are also good for us.
Caramelizing the onions takes a bit of time, but other than that it’s an easy peasy recipe that transforms humble pantry staples into a hearty side or even a vegetarian main. Anything based on caramelized onions is good in my book, and here it provides the flavor base for an otherwise unassuming combination of onions, rice, and lentils. Warm spices add another layer of complexity and, well, warmth. And Mujudara is great any time of year; it’s substantial enough for a cold winter’s day and yet not too heavy to be enjoyed in the midst of summer’s heat.
The garlic-lemon yogurt sauce is not necessarily a traditional accompaniment, but it adds just the right creamy tang and definitely makes it a viable main. The Mujudara and yogurt were perfect alongside the turkey-date meatballs, but would also go well with any number of items from grilled chicken to roasted vegetables.
While it’s best to prepare the lentils and rice separately, I was lazy and cooked them together (with only two working burners preparing them separately just takes up too much valuable stove top real estate). I was also a little short on lentils so only used ½ cup, but you can use up to 1½ and up the rice to 2 cups. There are many variations of Mujudara and this particular recipe is adapted from the incredible blog Herbivoracious, which is chock full of tantalizing vegetarian recipes and stunning photos to boot. If you haven’t checked it out before go now!
- 3 pounds white onions, sliced moderately thin
- 2 tablespoons butter (use margarine to make vegan or parve)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ¼ cups white wine or vermouth (optional)
- ½ cups brown or green lentils (not red or french lentils)
- 1½ cups long grain white or brown rice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinammon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt and pepper
- Melt the butter along with the oil and 1 teaspoon salt in a larg skillet, and add the onions. Set heat on medium-high and stir occasionally until soft and very brown, about 30 minutes. De-glaze pan with white wine or vermouth (or water) and stir into the onions to get more flavor.
- Meanwhile, combine the rice, lentils and cinnamon stick in a pot. Cover with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over moderately low heat until the lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and transfer to a bowl; pick out and discard the cinnamon stick. When everything is cooked combine the rice, lentils, spices, half of the onions, and more salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- To serve, form a large mound of rice and top with the remaining caramelized onions. Pass a bowl of garlic-lemon yogurt (recipe below) to mix in as desired. It is excellent hot and at room temperature, and just gets better after a day in the refrigerator.
- 1 cup yogurt
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- juice of ½ lemon
- ½ tsp dried coriander
- Combine the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, and dried coriander in a bowl and stir to mix thoroughly. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Linked up at the Back to Basics Rice Recipe Link-Up over at The Local Cook