Friday, June 30, 2006
Jihva for DAL: Mujadarah
Jihva for ingredients, a brain-child of Indira of Mahanandi is an event that celebrates Indian ingredients. This month's host, Sailaja of Sailu's Food, has come up with the far-ranging theme of DALS or lentils. Indian cuisine is blessed with a surfeit of dals of all types, and they are invaluable to my vegetarian diet.
For this month's jihva, I decided to take a break from all my favorite dal preparations and explore lentils from a different cuisine. Two dishes that came to my mind immediately were (a) Ethiopian Yemisir wat (lentils cooked with aromatic spices and typically served with tangy injera bread). (b) Mid-Eastern Mujadarah, a simple dish of rice, lentils and fried onions. In the end, I went with the latter. Other traditional lentil dishes include the Greek Moussaka (I tried making this once, and quite liked it) and the Italian Pasta e Lenticchie (Pasta and Lentils).
My inspiration for mujadarah came from a post written by Lindy, who writes the lovely blog Toast. Lindy praised mujadarah as a dish that is "much more than the sum of its parts". It uses few ingredients, all of them inexpensive pantry staples, and is downright delicious. How could I not try it? The one modification I used was: instead of using the lentils plain, I sprouted them for this dish, to enhance their nutritive value. The resultant mujadarah is a perfect combination of carbs and protein, a complete one-dish meal. The addition of the fried chocolate-brown onions, with their complex flavors, elevates this simple dish to a whole new level.
(Click here for original recipe. Thanks, Lindy! I owe you!)
1/4 cup olive oil (see note below)
2 large onions, sliced thin
1 cup brown lentils, sprouted
1 cup basmati rice
salt and pepper to taste
minced parsley/cilantro for garnish
1. Heat oil in a frying pan, then fry the onions on *medium heat*, stirring occasionally, till they are dark brown and aromatic (this may take 20-30 minutes).
2. Meanwhile, bring 5 cups of water to a boil, then add rice and lentils and simmer till both are cooked to tenderness.
3. Season lentil-rice mixture generously with salt and pepper. Stir in the browned onions, along with the oil. Leave covered for 15 minutes.
4. Serve hot garnished with parsley/cilantro.
Note: Extra-virgin olive oil tends to break down at lower temperatures than pure olive oil, so for this type of prolonged sauteeing, I prefer using a 1:1 mixture of extra virgin olive oil and pure olive oil, so as to get the flavor of the former and the frying characteristics of the latter. It still smoked a bit, but tasted fine in the end.
The verdict: You have to eat it to believe it! The combination of fragrant onions with the rice and lentils is absolutely heavenly. With gentle seasoning and the lack of other spices, the true flavor of the fried onions comes through. This goes right on my all-time favorites list. It reheats very well and tastes even better the next day.
Serving suggestions: I served mujadarah with Fage Greek yogurt. It would be also be delicious with a refreshing tomato-cucumber-radish salad. I can envision a delicious Mid-Eastern themed picnic spread with mujadarah, salad, pitas and hummus, with maybe some feta cheese to sprinkle on top.
Thanks, Sailu for hosting this event. The round-up of this event is going to be very valuable, with lots of new ideas to use dals in everyday cooking!