I love the food of the Levant and the Middle East. I’m an unrepentant omnivore, but the vegetarian dishes from this region are so hearty and delicious on their own, meatless eating doesn’t seem like a punishment.
One of my favorites dishes is a rice and lentil one called mujaddara. Or megadarra. Or imjadara. The medieval Arabic cookbook, The Book of Dishes, aka Kitab al-Tabikh, from 1226 featured a recipe for mujaddara, which originally included meat, but has evolved over time to be strictly vegetarian. Variations in nomenclature, and rice to lentil proportions, depend on the local culture and traditions of whomever is cooking it. It’s deceptively flavorful with just a few ingredients, and super cheap to make.
Since I’m not in the Middle East I decided to try out: native American wild rice instead of the usual long grain white or brown. Score! It not only tastes even better, it looks nicer and doesn’t get mushy.
RECIPE: Mujaddara, Megadarra, Imjadara, GO!
- 1 cup wild rice
- 1 cup french lentils
- 3 medium onions, sliced in thin half-moons
- Olive oil
- Salt or Homemade Veggie Bouillon
- Black pepper
Start the wild rice cooking first, boil 3 cups water then add the rice, turn to simmer gently and cover. Let cook for 50-60 minutes, check toward the end to see if more water is needed to keep from burning.
While that’s going, slice the onions and fry in about ⅛” olive oil at medium to medium high heat in a cast iron or other heavy pan until they are nicely caramelized and getting crispy. I like to add some salt, or veggie bouillon, to the onions to help get them crispy and flavorful as they cook – about ½ teaspoon should do it.
While the onions are doing their thing, start the lentils, add them to a pot with 2 cups water, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, or until just tender but not mushy.
When everything is finished, combine the wild rice, lentils and caramelized onions in a big bowl with some pepper, and optional extra olive oil (about a tablespoon is what I find works for me – you can omit if you like). Some people like to mix the rice and lentils, and use the onions as a big garnish, but I like to mix them all together for maximum flavor punch, so you have some room to experiment. Taste the mix, and adjust salt as needed.
Mujaddara keeps well in the fridge, and can be frozen for future meals. You can serve it as a main dish, a side dish, or as a filling in a sandwich. It works well hot, room temperature, or chilled.