Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mujaddara or Lentils and Rice

On my Food $ense journey somewhere along the way, I realized that I wasn't actually a horrible cook. I still have my kitchen disasters, but they are happening less and I am having lots more successes. 

This has started to spark an interest in me in food. I have become very curious about foods from different people's cultures especially comfort foods.  You know those foods that we are passionate about, that our grandmas made that we can't imagine not ever eating. People all over the world have those same feelings about food. 

Another thing that makes me so curious about comfort foods from other cultures is that almost without exception - they are low-cost. (A Big favorite of mine!) and easy to prepare, because who had the time to spend making a meal that took hours and hours over a wood stove while the chickens needed to be fed. 

When I found this Mujaddara recipe, I was instantly intrigued. It actually comes from a lot of places and the recipe can actually be traced by thousands of years.  If people have been eating for thousands of years, it has GOT to be good, right?  

I had all the ingredients - so I was prepared to make it, but to be honest, I didn't want to make it and have no one eat it.  That always hurts my feelings and wasting the food / eating it for every meal for 3 days straight is a tough position to be in. 

So last weekend, our 18 year old started talking nutrition and eating with us. He has gotten pretty serious in the gym and realizes that he isn't going to see the results he wants if he keeping in boxes of holiday snack cakes as a meal.  So he ventured deep into our pantry to look for things to cook and plan his meals for the week. He was reading labels on boxes of rice-a-roni and bags or organic quinoa. He decided to cook himself some chicken breast and was looking for something to put with it.  And I suggested lentils.  He pulled up the information on his phone and it blew his mind. He couldn't believe that there was something out there with this much protein in it.  -- 

Anyway, Long story short, I saw this as my perfect opportunity to make Majaddara. I would get to taste this recipe that I have been waiting forever to make and I could eat a few bowls and he could pack the rest for his lunches during the day. Win / Win!

I made them that night and ate some (they were SO good) And then I left them on the stove for him to pack his lunches. I could tell the exact moment he tasted them. He actually yelled, "holy crap! this is so good!"  

Since then, he has cooked them into a breakfast burrito in the morning, ate them everyday with his lunch and had them as a late night snack.  YES! that is a LOT of lentils, I probably don't recommend that you eat that many of them. But be aware, you are going to want to!


2 Tbsp olive oil 
4 yellow onions 
1 tsp cumin 
1 tsp allspice
¼ tsp ground cloves 
2.5 cups vegetable broth
1 cup rice (you can use any type - be bold and experiment) 
1 cup brown lentils 

Thinly slice up your onions and add them to a large pot ( I used my cast iron dutch oven) with the olive oil. Cook on low heat, while you stir often for one hour, or until they are really golden brown, sticky, and caramelized.

Remove half of the onions and set them aside in a bowl to use to top the dish after cooking

Add the cumin, allspice, and cloves to the pot with the remaining onions. Sauté for about one minute to lightly toast the spices.

Add the vegetable broth and stir the pot well to dissolve any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

Add the rice and lentils to the pot. Cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat up to high. Bring the contents to a boil. As soon as it reaches a full boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, turn the heat off and let it rest for 10 minutes without removing the lid. Finally, remove the lid, fluff with a spoon or fork, then top with the reserved caramelized onions.