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Mujadara: Good Enough to Give Up Your Birthright?

Mujadara: Good Enough to Give Up Your Birthright?

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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Dinner's Ready - Mujadara and Zesty Yogurt Dip

Mujadara


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 - 8 1x

Description

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.


Ingredients

Scale

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.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Category: Sides
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Middle-Eastern

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

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2017. All rights reserved.

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Summer Grilling: South of the Border Texmati Rice & Grilled Veggie Salad Bowl

Summer Grilling: South of the Border Texmati Rice & Grilled Veggie Salad Bowl

It was a perfect confluence of events.  I was invited to a dedication at a local yacht club, complete with naval officers and Girl Scouts, and asked to bring a side to share.   I had just loaded up with fresh corn, heirloom tomatoes, peppers and tomatillos (it’s true, I have been to five farmers market in six days – it’s that time of year – and no, I don’t have a problem, but thanks for your concern)!   And then a fabulous box filled with RiceSelect Texmati Rice appeared on my doorstep awaiting a review (two thumbs up), courtesy of culinary friends at Mambo Sprouts.  The wheels were already turning.  Rice. Grilled Veggies. Salad Bowl. Rice & Grilled Veggie Salad Bowl. Voila! A summer salad jammed packed with flavor was born.

RiceSelect Texmati Rice

RiceSelect Texmati, in case you don’t know, combines the best qualities of basmati and American long-grain rice and has a popcorn-y aroma and nutty taste. Because the grains cook up dry, separate and fluffy, it is the ideal choice for a rice salad.  Flavor + Texture.  Win. Win.  I was off and running to whip up a big batch of South of the Border Texmati Rice & Grilled Vegetable Salad.  With Lime Cilantro Dressing!!  Oh, yeah!

As my mind was spinning around southwestern flavors, I remembered a vinaigrette that was a fan-favorite in my earliest catering days.  Lots of cumin.  It was pretty basic – a bit of a one note samba by today’s palate’s cries for layers of flavor – so I dosed it with Sriracha, a serious hit of lime (juice and zest) and cilantro. Yum.   I can’t be sure, though there are rumors of hoarding and hiding the leftovers, but I do believe this dish got better the next day.   Even the grilled romaine held up.  Especially with starch based dishes, it’s always important to re-taste for seasonings and acid both before you serve it and again the next day.  To my palate, it was still well-seasoned the next day, but it’s your kitchen, you be the judge.

Couple of quick notes to keep in mind as you are cooking:

  • Once the rice sits off the heat to absorb the final liquid, remove the lid, fluff it with a fork.  Since we are making a cold salad, drizzle a couple tablespoons of olive oil to coat and seal each grain. This will keep the rice from over-absorbing dressing later. And that friends, will let you serve it again over the next couple days.
  • The dressing recipe below makes a double batch and is a good one to keep on hand in the fridge. However if you want to store it for longer than a few days, add the cilantro to the salad, not the dressing.  The cilantro-free dressing will keep refrigerated for a couple weeks.
  • When chopping the grilled tomatillos, be sure to catch and add the juices to the salad. These liquids are a great way to add depth of flavor to your salad.  Single-handedly they add a rare combo – smoke AND acid
  • And zesting: if you aren’t fully stocked with a Microplane Zester/Grater, why are we even friends? For real. These zesters put the joy in zesting.  No chance of getting too much bitter white pith in the zest. No more scraped knuckles. Perfect every time.  And they are awesome for grating hard cheeses or spices like nutmeg. Run. Now.

Let’s get busy. This flavorful salad pairs perfectly with grilled meats or fish, or is a stand out as a vegetarian entrée.  Add toasted pepitas for a dose of protein if serving as a main.

Drizzling Little Gems with EVOO

South of the Border Texmati Rice & Grilled Veggie Salad Bowl

  • 1 cup RiceSelect Texmati White Rice
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more to drizzle on Little Gems
  • 3 tomatillos, husks removed
  • 3 ears corn, husks and silk removed
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, trimmed and seeded and cut into 4 sides and tossed in olive oil
  • ½ 6-pack Little Gems baby romaine (3 heads), trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
  • Ground coriander
  • 6 ounces heirloom cherry and/or grape tomatoes cut in quarter wedges
  • 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
  • 1 Avocado, chopped

Cook RiceSelect Texmati rice according to package directions.  After you remove the pan from the heat and let it stand 5-10 minutes, transfer the rice to a mixing bowl and drizzle with 1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil, fluffing with a fork.  Set aside.

Corn, Tomatillos, Bell Peppers and Poblano on the Grill

Grill the vegetables over a hot grill: tomatillos, corn, poblano pepper and yellow bell pepper.  Let the poblano char completely and transfer to a plastic bag to sweat.  When cool enough to handle, pull off the char under running water and remove stem and seeds.

Coarsely chop the tomatillos, poblano and bell pepper and cut corn from cob.  Add to the rice, along with any juices that release from the tomatillos.

Drizzle the Little Gems with olive oil and sprinkle with coriander.  Grill cut side down until the lettuce just starts to wilt and gets grill marks.  Chop coarsely and add to the salad.

Grilled Little Jem Baby Romaine Heads

Add tomatoes, queso fresco and avocado, and dress the salad with the Cumin Lime Cilantro Dressing.

Adjust seasonings before serving.

Makes about 3 quarts and is a fabulous leftover.

 

Cumin Lime Cilantro Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup EVOO
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro (see note)
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Sriracha
  • Zest and Juice of 2 limes
  • ½ Tablespoon ground cumin
  • ½ Tablespoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Note: This will make twice the dressing needed for this salad and it will keep for several weeks refrigerated if you add the cilantro to the salad instead of  the dressing itself.  Or make a double batch of the salad and use it all!

Southwest RiceSelect Texmati and Grilled Veggie Salad Bowl

This post contains affiliate links.  For more of my must-have faves, check out my shop.

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2016. All rights reserved.

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