Toasted Lentils, Onions & Brown Rice (A version of muhadara)
Serves 4 with a side salad
A whole grain version of muhadara, the flawless combination of lentils, rice (sometimes bulgur) and caramelized onions so popular throughout many Middle Eastern countries. It’s the perfect meal, perhaps with sauteed greens, or at room temperature as a hearty salad, there’s really nothing this healthy dish can’t do. Secret onion confession: I love caramelized onions so much I’ve doubled the batch to make super-oniony muhadara, that’s how crazy it gets. The addition of gently toasted pasta is a tip I learned from eating at the Queens-famous Kebab Cafe on Steinway Street, where Ali’s muhadara is sweetly the most memorable version of this dish I’ve ever had.
Tip: Use non-traditional aromatic brown basmati rice for a very aromatic dish
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound yellow onions, peeled, sliced in half and cut into 1/4 thin half moons
½ cup Israeli large couscous or orzo pasta
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup brown long grain rice
4 ½ cups water
1 cup brown, black or green lentils
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Handful chopped flat leaf parsley
1. In a large heavy pot with a tight fitting lid or a cast iron Dutch oven, saute over medium high heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the sliced onions. Fry the onions, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onions are deep golden brown and caramelized, about 15-18 minutes. Set aside about 1/4 cup of onion for garnish if desired…if I’m just making this for a simple dinner or a a few lunches I don’t bother with garnishes! Move the remaining onions to a plate for now.
2. Heat the remaining oil and saute the couscous or orzo for 3-4 minutes or until golden, add the rice and fennel seeds and continue to saute for another 3 minutes. Stir in the water, lentils, coriander, cumin and salt, then increase the heat and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, stir the pot a few times and cover tightly. Simmer for 45-55 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Pour the sauteed onions (except for the garnish if using) onto the rice, add a few twists of ground pepper and use the wooden spoon or a spatula to stir the onions into the rice. Mound the rice onto a large serving platter or bowl, garnish with the remaining fried onions and the chopped parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature.