So, a lot has happened in the last few months. For one, our lease ran out on our shitty, tiny, cramped little house in Kansas City. Being the rational and adventure-loving people we are, Nick and I decided that the most logical next step was to gather up our possessions and our puppies, put them all in a U-Haul, and move to Austin, Texas. Now we live in an awesome, tiny, cramped little apartment. But oddly enough, the kitchen is bigger, so we’re all happier!
We’ve been here for quite a few months, but between a new city and new jobs and a new life, I had completely forgotten to keep up the blog. And to be honest, I don’t think I could have written anything anyway – inspiration is a funny, finicky little thing.
But I digress – I can across this Pin of a recipe for mujadarra, which – according to the pin’s description – is a Middle Eastern dish made of lentils, rice and caramelized onions. Sounded simple. Sounded oddly delicious for something so simple. And as we were short on money after our move and I am a generally lazy cook, I decided to give it a try. It was so good, I was suddenly inspired to write all about it. Coincidently enough, I was pleased to remember I also had a fledgeling little food blog.
THE RECIPE: NEEDS ADJUSTING
This pin links to a great little blog article with wonderful step-by-step instructions and beautiful pictures along the way. However, the trickiest part of making mujadarra is getting the lentils and the rice to finish cooking at the same time. I found that the recipe – which suggested cooking the lentils for 20 – 30 minutes before adding rice – made my mujadarra too mushy. Maybe I just like my lentils al dente.
Anyway, I ended up using this recipe which unfortunately has no pretty pictures, but suggests 15 minutes for the lentils and an extra 20 minutes when you add the rice. It’s worked really well for me.
A note about the rice: I used long grain white rice and it cooked perfectly with these directions. My mom tried her hand at this recipe and used brown rice, and she said she had to cook it to death – upwards for 40 minutes – before the rice was cooked through. And by then, the lentils were (you guessed it) a mushy mess. So, take care what rice you use! If you insist on brown rice, maybe cook it first, and add the lentils second.
THE TASTE: DELICIOUS. LIKE, I COULD KIND OF EAT THIS EVERY DAY DELICIOUS.
I’ve mentioned before that Nick is very gracious when it comes to my cooking. As a chef with crazy hours, he comes home very late at night and is grateful for anything home-cooked. And he makes a point of getting seconds of my often overcooked, under-seasoned, half-assed attempts at domestication. That being said, mujadarra is first (and only) dish that he has specifically asked me to make again. That, my friends, is what I call a victory.
With only three ingredients, you’d expect this dish to be a little bland. That’d be a big ol’ NOPE. And a cup of lentils and a cup of rice looks like a ton of food for two (and it probably is), but we eat ALL of it. Because it’s that good. Just simple, wholesome, filling goodness. Best of all, it’s really inexpensive to make. A bag of lentils, a bag of rice, and a few onions means all the mujadarra we can handle for quite a while! That means a great post-moving budget meal.
DIFFICULTY: SO EASY. ESPECIALLY THE WAY I DO IT.
If you’ve read about my Cheese & Potato Perogies, you know how I feel about caramelizing onions. As in, it’s a time-suck. And as I mentioned before, I can be quite the lazy cook. Stirring onions around for an hour does not quicken my heart in anxious anticipation. So, I cheat.
First, I chop the onions into really small pieces. Not exactly a dice, but pretty small. It helps them cook a little quicker. And here’s another pro tip from Nick: heat your skillet while you’re chopping. No oil or anything, just put the pan on the burner and turn the heat to a medium setting. Let it warm up for a minute or two, then put in your olive oil – and let that heat up as well. It should get all shimmery when you swirl it around – that’s how you know it’s hot enough. The idea behind this is that whatever you’re about to sauté won’t stick to your pan. Plus, it saves you a little time as everything is nice and hot and you don’t have to wait for your onions to start cooking. They start that pleasant little sizzle immediately.
Once you put your lentils on to boil, it’s time to cook those little onionettes. Here’s where the cheating comes in – I don’t exactly caramelize them. Caramelization is a very science-y thing that happens to the sugars in food. And it takes a very long time to get those sugars to do the science-y thing. So, I just sauté them until they are cooked through and just starting to brown. And I add salt and pepper, because Nick tells me to always season vegetables. Always. This process takes about 15 minutes – when the lentils are done with the first round of cooking, I am ready to add my pseudo-caramelized onions and the rice!
The best thing about this dish is that it’s easy. Most of the work is chopping up & cooking those onions. I love that once that 15 minutes of cooking is done, all that’s left is to cue up an episode of House of Cards and let the pot simmer for 20 minutes. So easy.
We eat our mujadarra with a side salad if we’re feeling particularly healthful. I’ve also had it as the filling for a lettuce wrap (it’s wonderful at covering up the taste of lettuce – yuck!) and with some toasted pita bread. It really is one of the yummiest, easiest dishes ever. Mmm… maybe I’ll make some tonight.