Middle Eastern Mujaddara (Insanely Good Lentil and Rice dish with Caramelized Onions and Warm Spices)
Mujaddara is a common dish in the Arab world that consists of rice, lentils, onions and seasoned with cumin. There seems to be some different variations, but after making this several times in my own home, this recipe is where I have landed. This dish dates back to the 11th century. Rice & Lentils mixed with meat was a traditional celebratory meal.
For the record, I absolutely adore Mujaddara. I honestly crave it, and it has become something that I prepare often to have in the fridge for busy weeknight meals. I use brown rice and brown lentils seasoned with cumin, coriander, cinnamon and garlic. I fold in LOTS of caramelized onions, raisins, then top the dish with vegan sour cream or yogurt, crispy fried onions and chopped parsley, cilantro &/or mint. I also like to sprinkle chili flakes over the dish for a bit of heat.
I really like to serve this with chopped romaine lettuce. I don't typically even make a salad, I just have that along side, though I had some salsa verde (parsley, olive oil, chili flakes, garlic) kicking around in the fridge and I used that as a bit of a dressing on my romaine one night and it was extra special. (which makes sense because the ingredients work with the Mujaddara as well.)
Finally, the recipe is a bit wordy, but I want to explain my process well. Read it a couple of times. It's really simple, and once you make this dish a couple of times, it really becomes something you can whip up without much thought, and the results are amazing.
Serves 3 - 4
For the Fried Onions:
Espinacas Con Garbanzo is a common tapas dish in some areas of Spain. The way it is prepared will undoubtedly vary depending on the region, and then it will vary even just depending who is cooking! (every family might do things differently, no different than anywhere else in the world.) I have never been to Spain so, I just take inspiration from what I do know and then prepare it to my taste! Next time I'll add even more spinach than what is pictured above, I did two big handfuls this time...I want at least double that.)
I made my Spinach with Chickpeas simply, with onion, garlic, smoked paprika, and olive oil. I was serving it with Calçots Con Romesco (Grilled Scallions with Romesco), Crusty Bread, and Extra Romesco Sauce on the side. (these 3 posts are meant to be read together for full effect) The romesco has lots of tomato and red pepper flavours, with acidity from sherry vinegar, so I didn't feel the need to add any of these nuances to this recipe. If I WASN'T serving it with Romesco, I would definitely be adding a splash of something. Tomato and or Lemon/Sherry Vinegar to add some brightness. I think I always want crusty multigrain bread grilled with olive oil when I'm eating this. Especially with the other tapas dishes I made. Piling all the deliciousness onto bread is perfection!
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I first had this dish in a Spanish Tapas Restaurant in Orlando, Florida. It was many years ago, so I can't recall much other than I really enjoyed it...enough to store it as one of my manyyyy food memories. Calçots are a variety of onion and a delicacy in Spain. They are similar to the scallions we get here in North America, so that is what I used. For this dish, you drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and grill them, ideally until there are some blackened/charred bits happening. Then you simply serve them with a swirl of romesco sauce. A garnish of more chopped toasted almonds is nice too. Not only are they delicious, they are really fun to eat, just use your hands and drag the scallions through the romesco. Pile them onto olive oil grilled bread... DELICIOUS. (bonus if you have some char on the bread too...something about the combination of char and romesco is heaven.)
Calçots con Romesco is a common tapas dish in Spain, so it's nice served with other bites on the table to make up a larger spread. I made a simple meal out of this dish, crusty bread grilled with olive oil, and Espinacas con Garbanzo (Spinach with Chickpeas, another common tapas dish in Spain of which I will share and link below soon). I really recommend giving this dish a try, it's simple but incredibly delicious, and also a fun way to eat especially with friends.
Romesco is a classic sauce originating from Catalonia, Spain. It is typically made from roasted tomatoes and garlic, toasted almonds, or hazelnuts, olive oil, and nyora peppers. Day old bread toasted in olive oil is used to thicken the sauce. This version uses almonds, roasted red peppers (from a jar to keep it simple) and smoked paprika. The sauce comes together quickly in a food processor. I like to eat Romesco with grilled vegetables, potatoes, crusty bread, or as a sandwich spread. I think the recipe is a bit forgiving. If you have more tomatoes and less peppers, you could make it work. Really it's just about balancing the flavours. A bit of acidity, seasoned with salt and pepper, a bit of smoked paprika and bread as needed to thicken. I always take a taste and adjust these things until it seems balanced.
I made this sauce and then prepared the following things for a simple tasty meal (pictured/linked below.)
Yield: about 3 cups
These Red wine braised lentils are like a warm hug. Perfect healthy comfort food for the cooler months. There is so much richness and depth happening for a simple pot of lentils. Lentils and Mushrooms are simmered with mirepoix, lots of garlic, red wine, rosemary, smoked paprika, a few other ingredients for complexity and finished with green peas and a touch of vegan butter. I really like the addition of peas but if that isn't your thing you can leave them out. I use brown or green lentils, whatever I happen to have on hand works.
This dish is delicious if you just take a taste out of the pot, but I don't find the flavour profile complete until it is served with rich mashed potatoes. That's when the magic really happens. So I guess I'm saying, don't skip that part, and this isn't the time to avoid a bit of added fat from vegan butter and sour cream in your taters either. (I don't think of fat as a bad thing anyhow. I might not want to eat rich things like this every single day, but when you are literally eating a whole food plant-based diet every single day with very little added sugar, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, adding some fat once in a while is no big deal, it isn't the enemy. I used to say, make sure to keep the lentils al dente, but honestly, by the third day I was reheating it, the peas lost their bright green hue, the lentils had softened a bit...and it was delicious. So, like most soups and stews, I think this gets better with a bit of time.
I definitely can see myself playing around with the recipe. Maybe sometime make something similar with more mushrooms and less lentils but flavoured the same way. I can't see it being bad with other herbs, I like rosemary in this context, but fresh thyme would undoubtedly be good too.
I boiled yellow potatoes in salted water, strained, and then mashed them with vegan butter, minced garlic, chopped scallions and s&p. The amount of potatoes you would need for this whole recipe probably depends on the person. Just for reference, into 2 lbs 13 oz of potatoes (almost 3 lbs) I mashed in 1/2 cup melt organic vegan butter, 3 cloves minced garlic, and two chopped scallions. Season with s&p to taste. You'd probably need more than that for all the stew. A 5 lb bag of potatoes would likely do the trick. The garlic and onion adds a lot to the finished dish in my opinion so I personally wouldn't leave it out.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Serve with different sides of vegetables. I made a grated carrot salad with raisins and pecans, and I also roasted green beans with olive oil, S&P.
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