Mujadara, a Lebanese medley of onions, rice and lentils, is delicious proof that the simplest of recipes can sometimes be the most satisfying and flavorful.
I came across a recipe for a one-pot version of this already easy-to-make dish in the New York Times while looking for dinner inspiration the other night. I was captivated. Mujadara is typically started by caramelizing onions but the cook in this case had used leeks. She had also cooked the lentils and rice together instead of cooking the lentils first as most recipes would do. And she had added greens to the pot too, making it a true one-pot meal and a supremely healthy one at that.
But the best part of it all was the time required to make the recipe. Just 35 minutes. How could I say no?
So I pulled out my big pot and my lentils and my rice and some wonderful spring greens and kale that were sitting in the refrigerator and went to work. I increased the flavor by adding more garlic and cayenne than the recipe called for. And I did have one brainwave that I used to ensure that the lentils did cook thoroughly because lentils take longer to cook than rice. The New York Times recommended soaking them for 10 minutes, but I put them in a microwave-safe bowl, covered them with an inch of water, and then I zapped them for seven minutes before adding them to the pot. When the dish was all ready the lentils were perfectly tender without being mushy and the rice was not overcooked. Divine.
This is an almost foolproof recipe and it packs so much flavor for so little work that it’s almost criminal. Oh, and did I say it was quick? But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s the recipe.
- 2 leeks, cleaned thoroughly. Trim the roots and slice the white and green parts into thin ribbons (use a large onion if you can’t find leeks)
- 1 cup brown lentils (whole masoor, sabut masoor). Place in a microwave-safe bowl with enough water to cover the lentils by an inch, then microwave for about seven minutes. You can do this while chopping your vegetables. Drain the lentils.
- ¾ cup basmati or other long-grain rice
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp allspice powder
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1-inch stick of cinnamon
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups leafy greens (use any combination of vegetables. I used 3 cups of spring greens and 1 cup of baby kale), finely chopped
- Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the leeks and saute, stirring, over medium-high heat until the leeks are golden and crispy, about 8 minutes. If you use too little oil the leeks won’t crisp up.
- Remove half the leeks to a bowl and sprinkle with a little salt while still warm.
- To the pot with the remaining leeks, add the garlic and bay leaves, stir for about 30 seconds, and then add the cumin, allspice and cayenne. Stir for a few seconds to coat with the oil and then add the rice. Saute for a few seconds until the rice turns opaque.
- Add the drained lentils, cinnamon, and salt to taste. Stir well, then add 4 cups of water.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to low until the water just simmers. Place a tight-fitting lid on the pot and let it steam away for 15 minutes.
- Open the pot, arrange the greens on top in an even layer, cover, and cook for five more minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Let the mujadara stand at least 10 minutes before opening the pot. Garnish with the reserved leeks and serve hot.