Wednesday, March 21, 2007

kitchen alchemy: mujadarrah

There are lots of dishes that are more than the sum of their parts, but I can think of few that transform kitchen staples into something sublime quite like mujadarrah, a Lebanese comfort food made entirely of things I bet all of you have in your kitchen right now. It's rice, lentils, and caramelized onions, and that's about it. But it tastes like so much more.

I'm almost ashamed to admit that the recipe I use also calls for some garlic and cumin, and that's practically heresy. They really are strictly optional -- the key is the onions. Don't be shy about the caramelization -- I practically burn them for this dish. When blended with the other flavors, they'll work their magic.

And as with so many Middle Eastern dishes, there are as many variations as there are ways to spell its name. Mark even recently got an invitation to attend a mujadarrah cookoff! He tells me there's an Egyptian version that uses some sort of pasta instead of rice. I've had versions of mujadarrah where the rice and lentils keep their texture; Mark's aunt makes a version that's almost more like a thick spread (nice with pita and all the standard accoutrements: hummus, baba ghanoush, etc.). I like to let the lentils break down enough that it thickens the dish and sort of ties everything together.

4 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped; 2 onions sliced thinly
3 garlic cloves
2 t. cumin
3/4 t. allspice
2 cans vegetable stock (or one carton)
3/4 c. lentils
3/4 c. brown rice (you can also do white rice*)
salt/pepper to taste

Heat half the oil in saucepan. Saute chopped onion, garlic, and spices until the onion is soft and translucent. Add broth, rice, and lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 40 minutes. Meanwhile, caramelize sliced onions in skillet in the remaining olive oil. Add caramelized onions to lentil/rice mixture; taste for salt & pepper.

Serve topped with plain yogurt.

*If using white rice: After sauteeing onions and garlic, add only the lentils with the stock; bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Then add rice, return to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes.


Blogger kate said...

That sounds delicious! I'm going to try it. And, why are garlic and cumin heresy???

6:19 AM  
Blogger tara said...

Oh, just in this dish, traditionally. By no means are garlic and cumin generally heresy for me :)

6:23 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

Hi Tara, I just made the recipe (because of the garlic & cumin!) and it tastes delicious! But I must have different sizes of broth cartons than you since I had too much liquid. How many ounces of broth are in your two cans/one carton? Thanks!

11:17 AM  
Anonymous SK said...

Thanks for posting the recipe, it was fantastic! We topped it with parsley and a sprinkle of sumac.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three cups of broth is the same as two cans - I use water and bullion cause I never have cans or cartons lying around. Also, when making with white rice, the lentils were still a little hard after just boiling 10 minutes before adding the rice. I'd boil for at least 15.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Ana Karina Luna said...

I do mine with garam masala instead of all spice. And 1 1/3 cup of lentil, so there's slightly more lentils than rice. I use water so I start it with a mix of 3 ,mashed garlics and a half-onion cut in small pieces as my base (which I use half olive oil, half coconut oil - kkkk!). My cumin my grandma sent in from Brasil, so it's a little stronger than the ones around here. This dish is a hit here at home. My husband who's the chef usually can't stop asking me to do it!

Great post!

7:35 PM  

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