5/21/11

Mujadara

THIS IS A GUARANTEED NO-COMPLAINTS DISH


Mujadara is a delicious Middle Eastern staple dish made with rice and lentils and onions. Because of the rice and legume combination it is high in protein, not to mention the iron in the lentils. It’s the kind of dish that “puts hair on your chest”. That is, if you are male; females get bigger breasts. Don’t take our word for it, try it for yourself.

To make a proper mujadara you need a proper pot, a “tunjara” in Arabic. The word is onomatopoeic for the sound of a rolling cooking pot. There is an Arabic folktale that tells the story of a bereft woman, who prays to God for a child, any child, even if it be a pot. Be careful what you pray for… she gets a pot. This little rambunctious daughter pot, however, has no moral compass and gets inappropriately involved with the neighbors. She gets her appropriate comeuppance. There is a book that tells the tale. CLICK here to a link to the book with commentaries.

Rice and lentils are one of those combinations that on the fork seem to be in the divine order of things. Like apple pie and vanilla ice cream (or a nice slice of sharp cheddar—“apple pie without a slice of cheese is like a kiss, without a squeeze”). Or, grated beets and horseradish (with ham or hard boiled eggs). Asparagus and hollandaise. Gin and tonic (generous lime wedge, of course). Buffalo/bison grass and vodka (FYI: The Zubrowka brand bison grass vodka can only be produced in Poland at the Bialystok distillery. On our way back from Europe recently we brought back a bottle of Grasovka bison grass vodka. Our bottle is distinctive in that it has a furry “bison hair” wrapper. How cool it that! You've heard the expression, "The Hair of the Dog"? This dog got some hair!)


Other perfect combinations that come to mind: PBJ, tomatoes and basil, strawberries and whipped cream, bagels and lox, beer and tomato juice, bacon and just about anything, pepperoni and pizza, potato chips and onion dip, Slim Jims and beer, cretons and cornichons, lobster and butter, fresh pears with Roquefort and brie (but, make that a good brie), cucumbers and sour cream. You will doubtless have your own personal preferences; we merely list the absolutely 100% everybody-agrees pairings. Yet, the list is not exhaustive; and, if you would, please leave a recommendation in the comments section.

As for mujudara, here is what to do:

You’ll need equal parts brown lentils, long grain rice (basmati is good), and finely diced onion.

Sauté the diced onion in a bit of olive oil (too much or they just boil) until just beginning to caramelize. Stir in lentils, sauté together briefly. Add 2 parts water to lentils, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Next add the rice. The rice gets additional water; how much? Enough to total 2 parts liquid to rice; but factor in that 2 parts including the liquid already in the pot. Salt to taste. Bring back to boil, reduce to very low heat and cook covered for 17 minutes, or until rice is cooked.

Spices: Notice there is no spicing indicated. You can add ground pepper and ground cumin. As you like. Later on you might try a teensie pinch of allspice and/or clove. Just to remember, the dish stands well on its own with only some salt.

Whilst things are cooking in the tunjara, sauté lots of thinly sliced onion until well caramelized. Also, treat the cook. Have a shot of Zubrovka, or two. A dill pickle is a perfect accompaniment. Plus a beer chaser, even better.

Take off heat and let stand for a few minutes. Fluff and serve. Texture should be close to that of well cooked rice, perhaps a little more moist.

Garnish with browned onions. A nice salad to accompany and you’re good to go.

As far as a tunjara is concerned, we are partial to enameled cast iron. Something like this...











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