Author Notes: This earthy Lebanese dish has a rock-star following, and with good reason. The healthy quotient is as high as it could be, rivaled only by mujadara's super-delicious flavors. Cracked wheat can be used in place of the rice, and happens to be my favorite way to eat mujadara. There is some question as to how far the onions should be taken in the caramelization process. They must be dark, very dark golden brown. Some of the onions will verge on burnt. But entirely burnt onions will produce a bitter mujadara and the onions won’t ‘melt’ into the lentils and rice as they should when they are soft. Mujadara is good eaten with labne, flatbread, a green salad, and if you want to get fancy, some crispy fried onions strings on top. —Maureen Abood
For the Lentils
- 1 cup whole brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
- 1/4 cup canola or grapeseed oil
- 4 cups diced yellow onion (1/2-inch)
- 1 cup long grain white rice OR bulghur wheat (#3 coarse grade)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- High-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Place lentils in a small saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are par-cooked, 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat. Be careful not to overcook here; the idea is to par-cook the lentils.
- In a large, heavy sauté or sauce pan (with a lid), heat the canola or grapeseed oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt as the onions cook.
- Take the onions off the heat and add 2 cups of water. Place back on the heat and boil, over high heat, for five minutes. The liquid will take on the deep golden color of the onions and the onions will continue to soften.
- Add the rice and par-cooked lentils to the onion mixture. Cover and bring to a boil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice and lentils are cooked through. The texture of the rice and lentils is somewhat al dente. Take care not to overcook or the mixture will become mushy. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature drizzled with olive oil.
For Fried Onion Strings
- 1 large onion, cut into very thin rounds
- Canola oil for frying
- Salt to taste
- For fried onion garnish, heat canola oil over high heat in a small saucepan (the small saucepan reduces the amount of oil needed for depth). When a small piece of onion dropped into the oil floats to the top and bubbles vigorously, the oil is ready. Fry the onion rings in batches until golden brown, reducing heat as needed to prevent burning. Remove and drain on paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Place the onions on top of the mujadara on a serving platter or individual plates.