Mujadara: Good Enough to Give Up Your Birthright?

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Mujadara

Mujadara - Spiced Lentils and Rice

Muja what? I can hear you from here. Mujadara! You can spell it many ways and you can cook it even more. This dish – a combo of lentils and rice, sassed up with so many wintery spices that you will want it for your BFF – seems a lovely way to break bread and bow our heads in solidarity to our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. #GreaterAs1 The culinary roots of mujadara date back to Genesis, when Jacob bought Esau’s birthright with a meal of lentils. While the version I share here with yogurt and caramelized shallots is more Lebanese, the dish is also popular with Syrian and Egyptian Jews who historically tend to eat it twice during the week: a simple (hot) meal for Thursday before a more elaborate Shabbat, and then again cold on the Sabbath. Mujadara often serves as a Lenten dish for Arab Christians.

Warm Spices

Some versions of mujadara let the caramelized onions do all the talking. But given it’s the coldest dreariest time of year, I have added all the wonderful pungent spices that you might find in other Middle-Eastern dishes: coriander, cumin, cinnamon, allspice and plenty of pepper. Trust me; they will brighten your mood. When I can, in a dish like this, I use whole spices (not peppercorns, but cumin and coriander, yes!) Since they will be simmering in liquid for a while, there is sufficient time to soften them up. As usual, they get a few minutes in oil before the liquid to toast them and to allow the spices to release their fragrance. Rarely will I add any spice directly to liquid. I can always taste that raw spice in the back of my throat if I was in too big of a hurry to take that one measly moment that I  needed to toast it. For shame.

You may also notice that I have added a healthy dose of greens to this version of mujadara. Because I can. And because it’s winter and because they are good for you and because they add a hit of color. I know it seems like a lot, but I have made it with half that and prefer it with a generous portion. Up to you. (More, more, more, more.)

Crispy Shallots

And a note on the crispy shallots: they really are caramelized not crispy here. If you want to make crispy shallots – which would be a great texture contrast – you really need to use a lot more oil and fry them. That’s not really the way I roll, but I do love the taste and texture. If you are leaning that way, you should make sure the thinly sliced shallots are patted dry and then toss them in a 50/50 combo of flour and cornmeal. Heat several cups of oil to about 300oF and drop the shallots in, frying til crispy, draining on paper towels.  I used to do something similar for a lentil salad at New World Grill and while we didn’t have a deep fryer – the horror – let’s just say our technique was not far off. I. Just. Can’t. (But by all means!)

Spices

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Mujadara

Dinner's Ready - Mujadara and Zesty Yogurt Dip

5 from 3 reviews

Mujadara is a warm and wonderful combo of lentils and rice, sassed up with so many wintery spices that you will want it for your BFF.

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 - 8
  • Category: Sides
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Middle-Eastern

Ingredients

Mujadara

  • 1 1/4 cup brown or green lentils
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 shallots, very thinly sliced by hand or in a food processor
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 5-ounce packages (about 8 cups) mixed greens, like kale, chard, and spinach, chopped

Zesty Yogurt Dip

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander, toasted and coarsely cracked
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped mint

Instructions

Make the Mujadara:

Par-cook the lentils by simmering in a medium saucepan with 4 cups of water for 10 minutes.  Drain any remaining liquid and reserve the lentils.

Divide the olive oil, placing 2 Tablespoons in a large skillet and heat over medium. When the oil is shimmering, add the shallots and cook until well browned and crispy, about 30 minutes. As the shallots brown, remove and transfer to a paper towel and drain. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. If making this ahead, store wrapped in paper towel in an airtight container, once cooled.

Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a stockpot with a tight-fitting lid and heat over medium heat. Add the chopped onion to the stockpot, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in rice and sauté 2 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, cinnamon stick, allspice, black pepper, and cayenne; sauté for one minute until fragrant.

Add 2 cups water to the pot, along with the bay leaf, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and the reserved lentils. Cover and simmer over very low heat until the lentils and rice are almost tender, about 15 minutes more.

Rinse the greens and distribute across the top of the rice and lentil mixture, checking to see if the rice/lentils require any more water. Cover and cook 5 minutes more, until rice and lentils are tender and greens are wilted. Remove from the heat and let rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Stir to combine greens.

Make the Zesty Yogurt Dip:

Combine the yogurt, coriander, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. To serve, add the lemon zest and chopped mint.

Makes 1 cup.

Serve topped with crispy shallots and Zesty Yogurt Dip, along with warm pita.

Crispy Shallots atop the Mujadara

This makes a great vegetarian entrée, but I took it to a friend’s who just happened to have a big ol’ pot of curried chicken thighs, and it was a match made in heaven. #damndelicious.

Curried Chicken Thighs and Mujadara

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12 Comments

  1. Uilani Sami Chamberlain says:

    Love ❤.

  2. Shawna says:

    Definitely making this today ! It seems like the whole spices refer to cumin and coriander…. not black pepper though, correct?

    • Katy Keck says:

      Yes indeedy – the whole peppers in the photos are just idly awaiting a match up with my pepper grinder. Thanks for asking and I am off to make that more clear. Great question! Hope you love it as much as we did.

  3. Nonie Daniels says:

    Oh my mouth is watering. There are few dishes I love more than Mujadara. I can’t wait to try this one!

  4. Carlin says:

    I’m doin’ it with the curried chicken thighs!!
    #damndelicious…. I assume that is where I find the curried chix recipe?

    • Katy Keck says:

      My friend Niki shared the “cliff” notes on how she made it. Anyone interested can comment here and I will forward. Coming your way Carlin.

  5. Jaala and Don says:

    Soooo good Katy! Even the kid was digging it. Just this and a salad was hearty and satisfying enough to be our vegetarian meal of the week. Brava!

  6. Barb says:

    Katy this was so delicious! Peter thought it was amazing and I will definitely make this again. You did not mention how heavenly the house smells while it is cooking! We made a meal of it and fortunately have leftovers but I will caramelize more shallots and make more of the yogurt sauce for round two!

    • Katy Keck says:

      Are you telling me your house doesn’t smell that delicious every day?? (wink wink). Glad it’s a hit! I found myself eating the leftovers cold. So flavorful!

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