Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mujaddara, My Way

Every year about this time it happens: I get uninspired. Blah. My cooking falls into a bit of a rut. I blog half heartedly and irregularly. Instead of my usual full-speed-ahead approach, I find myself moving in slow motion.  In other words, I get a bit burned out.

Luckily I have a holiday coming up - more details later! - and I am trying to let the anticipation breathe some life into me. It's working, a little.

Another thing that works? This dish. It is the perfect thing to make when you want something simple and unfussy that's still flavorful and filling. It's comforting and homemade, and there will be leftovers so you won't have to think about the next day's meal. Best of all, I can make this on autopilot - and everyone needs a few dishes like that in their repertoire, especially when inspiration is elusive.

I am not going to pretend that this is the definitive version of mujaddara - the  Middle Eastern lentils and rice dishes has many, many variations depending upon the country and region of its origin. Some versions call for a method that yields a fluffy rice; others have you practically turn it into pudding. Mine is somewhere in between - in this dish, I like the rice to be just shy of sticky, so I cook the lentils and the rice together, giving the pot a gentle stir every so often. Also this saves time and dish washing, perfect for my lazy state of mind these days.

Mujaddara, My Way

3 medium yellow onions, sliced very thinly
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup green lentils
1 cup jasmine rice
3 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 heaping teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 heaping teaspoon hot paprika
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch all spice
pinch cinnamon
salt, to taste

For the yogurt:
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon sumac
dash of salt
drizzle olive oil

In a sautoir, saute the onions in olive oil and a dash of salt over medium low heat until caramelized. Stir occasionally but not too often. It will take up to an hour for the onions to caramelize. Meanwhile, combine the rice, lentils, water or broth and spices in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender. Check occasionally to see if you need to add more liquid, and stir gently. Don't add salt until the end or the lentil will get tough. Add more spices to taste. 

For the yogurt, combine all ingredients, stir, and refrigerate until ready to serve. 

When the lentil and rice are finished, stir in all but a few tablespoons of the onions, along with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil . Salt to taste - be bold with the salt! To serve, garnish with the yogurt, reserved caramelized onions,  a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of sumac. 

There. It won't change the world or revolutionize cooking as we know it, but sometimes, simple is all I need. 


  1. Looks delicious and easy! I'd top mine with some Turkish suzme yogurt and maybe some spicy pul biber flakes. Thanks for the idea!

  2. Ooh, I love mujaddara, but it's one of those things I've oddly never thought of making at home. When Kalustyan's Deli was but a few blocks from my office, it was a go-to lunch spot for a great pita sandwich they made stuffed with it. Plus, the adorable gentleman who worked at the upstairs counter (owner?) could make even the worst day brighter. Man, I miss him.

  3. I've never heard of this dish, but from the list of ingredients I know I would love it. I'm with you on the being in a rut thing...we've had too much winter...

  4. I don't have a sautoir but I do have a saute pan with lid, would that work just as well? I do understand your mid season blah. I get it too and when I do I like to dive unplanned into the pantry and see what I can make with what is there. Not surprisingly all of these things are usually at hand but have never been so expertly combined as you prescribe here. I will definitely make this and maybe even tonight. I may add bacon.

  5. Gorgeous, simple and perfect... pictures are divine. sometimes things that are simple are just right.. and catapult the imagination to the new plateau... onward and upward.

  6. I have those times too, and simple really is the way to go. Your Mujaddara may be simple but surely packed with flavor. I'll have to try it soon. I was wondering if you had already left, I see not yet:)

  7. Yes, inspiration and motivation is hard to come by on certain days for me, so I have to take a breather from it all.
    Sometimes going simple is the best break and those simple dishes can be the most appealing to others. Your dish here, while you call simple is new to me and looks like something I would enjoy. Glad you posted this, even though you are uninspired! Have a great day!

  8. Lentils, rice and spice??? Sounds wonderful...and your photos are so enticing :) Have a great weekend, Trix!

  9. I can't wait to make this. It looks like my kind of dish, for sure. I'm a bit burned out myself so I certainly feel you (full time school, work, helping husband with the business, blogging... there aren't enough hours in the day)

    Can't wait to hear about that "holiday". :)

  10. Simple is sometimes essential. This is a lovely comforting warm easy dish. I keep saying I need to eat more lentils. I like them and never cook them. Ha you blogged about Greek yogurt too hi hi.

  11. simple lovely flavor this is the way to go. Your Mujaddara looks and sounds wonderful!

  12. This is comfort food at it's best. So flavorful and filling. It looks simply delicious!

  13. Hi Trix! I wish I had a bowl this for lunch, I know it's good coming out of your kitchen;-)

  14. Not familiar with this dish, thanks for exposing me to something new. I can get with the flavor profile though.

    Best of luck on your holiday.

  15. It's so interesting to hear from you who's so great at blogging that you feel burned out. I don't sense a slightest of that from your blog. But I know exactly what you mean. I had that feeling just 2 weeks ago and it lasted more than 3 weeks or so. I did not want to take any pictures and food that I cook was very boring. I needed time. I hope your holiday will allow you to relax a bit and feel refreshed! Never heard of Mujaddara before but it looks very comforting. :-)

  16. oooh, the perfect dish as we move into Spring "detox" season...looks lovely. Theresa

  17. I so need this in my life :) Looks absolutely delicious...beautiful flavors!

  18. I can relate. After all the heavy eating of winter, it's only natural that we run out of steam around now. Could that have been the origin of Lent, I wonder?

    I'll have to try this. I love lentils and pasta, it was my favorite pasta when I was a kid. I'm sure this would really appeal.

  19. Got all the ingredients and giving this a go tomorrow night! Fingers crossed I'll finally have a lentil dish my other half will eat!