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Mujaddara

By Nancy Eisman

Mujaddara is a classic Middle Eastern dish that was first recorded in a cookbook in Iraq in 1226. It noted, “A hungry man would be willing to sell his soul for a dish of mujaddara.” Very high praise for a recipe consisting mainly of lentils, rice, and onions, don’t you think?

What takes those three staple ingredients to another level are the spices that enhance the lentils and rice, along with the savory, sweet and satisfying flavors of slow-cooked and caramelized onions. This dish is budget-friendly, perfect for potlucks, and will make a much-appreciated, plant-based entrée for your holiday table.

I’ve added a little something to play off the sweetness of the onions – dried cherries make a welcome addition to the mujaddara. And to elevate the recipe to single-serve entrée portions, split roasted sweet potatoes are a very fine vessel for the rice, lentils, and onions.

Versions of mujaddara vary from country to county, with some playing around with texture and some substituting bulgur for the rice. You might also consider using freekeh, an ancient grain from the Eastern Mediterranean, for unique texture, flavor, and considerably more nutrition.

Melissa’s Organic Steamed Lentils shorten the prep and cooking time, and the varieties available for onions (Maui, Italian Sweet, Red, Perfect Sweet, etc.) and potatoes (Organic Sweet or Garnet Sweet, etc.) give you choices to customize the dish to your liking.

Delicious when first prepared and great for leftovers, mujaddara can inexpensively serve a crowd or be portioned down to whatever works for you. Do try this simple, flavorful, and aromatic dish. I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the results.

Mujaddara

Ingredients for Mujaddara

Ingredients:

4 large sweet potatoes
1 cup rice (white or brown)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons fresh turmeric, minced
Vegetable oil
4 medium-large onions
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 package Melissa’s Dried Cherries
1 package Melissa’s Organic Steamed Lentils
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

Garnish:

4 teaspoons fresh cilantro
4 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted

Punch three holes in the sweet potatoes and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Punch three holes in the sweet potatoes and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

While the potatoes are baking, thinly slice the onions and add to a large sauté pan with about 1/3” of hot vegetable oil, over medium-high heat.

While the potatoes are baking, thinly slice the onions and add to a large sauté pan with about 1/3” of hot vegetable oil, over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté about 30-35 minutes, stirring periodically, until the onions are browned and caramelized. At about the 20-minute mark, stir in the dried cherries.

Cook the rice according to package directions, substituting the vegetable broth for the water and add in the minced turmeric.

Rinse and fork to separate the lentils.

Rinse and fork to separate the lentils. When the rice is cooked, stir in the lentils, cilantro, cumin, and cinnamon, and combine well.

The traditional way to serve mujaddara is to pile the lentil and rice mixture on a serving platter and then cover the top with caramelized onions. Garnish with cilantro and pine nuts.

For this recipe, you’ll want to cut open each sweet potato down the center. Fill each one with some of the rice and lentil mixture. Top with caramelized onions and garnish with fresh cilantro and toasted pine nuts.
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