Photo Credit: Alexandra Grablewski
Originating from the area around Mount Lebanon, Mjadrah is a very traditional and simple stew often served during Lent, as it is a meatless dish. Even though Mjadrah contains only three main ingredients, it has a complex, satisfying flavor, thanks to the deeply caramelized onions. Make sure that your onions are very caramelized (probably darker than you’ve seen before) to ensure the most flavorful stew possible. I’ve swapped in brown rice for white rice here, to make it even more wholesome and healthy. I often serve this stew with Fattoush (Lebanese peasant bread salad), or Khoudra wa Kabis (pickled vegetables).
MAKES 8 TO 10 SERVINGS
2 cups Pardina or green lentils
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, finely diced
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 cup whole-grain or brown or long-grain rice
Spread the lentils out onto a clean kitchen towel or paper towels, and run your fingers through the lentils to ensure that there are no small stones or impurities, and discard any. Rinse the lentils in a fine-mesh sieve under cold running water and drain. Put the lentils in a heavy-bottomed pot on the stovetop but do not turn on the heat. Cover with 8 cups of cold water.
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring continuously, until they turn from translucent to golden brown to very dark brown, almost black, about 15 minutes. After 7 or 8 minutes (when the onions are light brown), turn on the heat under the pot of lentils to medium, keeping the pot uncovered.
Once the onions are blackish, turn off the heat, and strain the onions over the pot of lentils, allowing the hot onion oil to drip into the pot, and stir into the lentils. Immediately return the caramelized onions to the sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 cups of cold water and the salt and stir. Bring the onions to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions have softened. Turn off the heat and strain the onion liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into the pot of lentils and stir in. Add the rice and stir to distribute evenly throughout the lentils.
Return the caramelized onions to the unheated sauté pan and mash them into a smooth paste. You can also use a food processor to create the onion paste. Add the paste to the lentils and rice, and stir to incorporate thoroughly. When the lentils and rice begin to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils and rice are tender and soft but not mushy. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.
Copyright 2017 by Julie Ann Sageer in Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen, St. Martin’s Press/St. Martin’s Griffin. All Rights Reserved.
RECIPE BY JULIE ANN SAGEER (JULIE TABOULIE)
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