Make Ahead

Sephardic Megedarra with Garlicky Brown Rice Pilaf

December 26, 2010
1 Rating
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Megedarra is a Middle Eastern staple of savory rice and lentils. My version is based on a recipe by Gilda Angel from her book, Sephardic Holiday Cooking, and my standard garlicky brown rice pilaf is based on a Brazilian way of preparing rice I learned from my babysitter years ago. Instead of brown lentils, I use French green or black beluga lentils since I like their flavor and firmness. A tangle of sauteed onions and shallots, a dollop of yogurt, and some minced scallions garnish the dish. It can be cooked as a meatless main dish or served as a side. It is delicious made a day ahead and re-heated the next day. It is easily doubled (or, indeed, halved). I cook the components separately to maintain the distinct flavors of each. Note that the technique for cooking the brown rice ensures that it will be non-gloppy! - creamtea —creamtea

Test Kitchen Notes

The lentil megedarra makes for an ideal comfort food, even for someone unfamiliar with Middle Eastern cuisine. The lentils are cooked soft and the sautéed alliums lend support to its nutty meaty character without overpowering it. The well-sauteed shallot/onion mix add those little morsels of caramelized taste complemented by the bites of the fresh ground peppercorn. The garlicky characteristic in the rice is toned down due to the long cooking time, resulting in little bites of sweetness from the garlic. —Panfusine

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 6 as a main or 8 as a side dish
  • Garlicky Brown Rice Pilaf
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh bay leaves, slightly torn and bruised
  • 3 cups short grain brown rice
  • More than enough water to cover rice (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • Lentils with sautéed onions and shallots
  • 2 cups French green or black beluga lentils
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium to large onions, halved lengthwise
  • 1 to 3 large shallots, thinly sliced vertically (the more the better)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 dash freshly ground pepper
  • Plain or goat's milk yogurt, for garnish
  • Sliced scallions, for garnish
In This Recipe
  1. Garlicky Brown Rice Pilaf
  2. Heat plenty of water in a kettle until boiling. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil until hot but not smoking over medium high heat. Add garlic and bay leaves, and saute until fragrant and bubbly. Add rice, stirring until rice appears "tweedy." Add boiling water -- it should be about one "finger joint" above the level of the rice. Important note: Stand back when adding boiling water! If the rice kernels are very hot and your flame is a little higher than normal, it may bubble up furiously -- as it did for me today. Stir in salt (be careful to avert face), then raise heat to high. At this time, set a timer for 40 minutes, and boil until the water evaporates to the level of rice, about 10 minutes. (A small pool of olive oil and garlic will migrate to the center of the rice -- this is okay.) Cover pan, lower heat to lowest setting and simmer for remainder of the time (about 30 minutes). Rice should be tender and water absorbed. Remove and discard bay leaves, then stir to distribute garlic bits and fluff slightly.
  1. Lentils with sautéed onions and shallots
  2. Sort and rinse lentils, draining excess water. Dice one onion half and thinly slice the rest. In a 2-quart saucepan, sauté the minced onion and about a clove's worth of the minced garlic until fragrant. Add the water and the lentils and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, adding salt to taste during the last 5 minutes of cooking, until everything is tender and most of the water has been absorbed (I like mine just barely soupy).
  3. While lentils are simmering, heat oil in a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and shallots and stir until slightly softened. Add garlic and stir, sautéing until garlic is fragrant and the onion mixture is translucent and starting to brown at the edges. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper to taste -- a little more than you think you need. Continue to sauté until nicely browned, adjusting heat as necessary. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In individual bowls, layer rice and lentils. Garnish with the sautéed onion mixture, yogurt, and scallions.

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