Mujadarah, made with lentils and rice, is a popular vegetarian dish of Arabian origin, eaten as a staple food by Middle Easterns for thousands of years. Recently, it was the subject of a cooking contest by members of the Arab-American Democratic Club fund-raising event.
Anoush Rayyis, who won first prize for her version of the dish, prepares it for her family on a regular basis. "It's a terrific family dish because it's not only highly nutritious but also inexpensive," she said. "I've served it as a company dish with roasts as well."
Seasonings can be varied easily. Second-place winner Florence Hattar adds red pepper, while third-place winner, Omaima Nusridine, adds a pinch of cinnamon. The garnish of sauteed, sliced, browned onions used by all the cooks, enhances the flavor of the dish, but is optional.
Some cooks use brown and other red lentils found in Middle Eastern grocery stores. Basmati rice is normally used, but any long-grain rice can be added.
One of the nice things about this dish is that you can turn it into a one-dish meal by adding diced chicken, fish or meat. Vegetables, such as broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower or chopped spinach, can also be added for variation.
LENTILS AND RICE (Mujadarah)
1 pound brown or red lentils
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 pound Basmati rice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 cup olive oil
3 pounds onions, sliced (about 4)
Rinse lentils in cold water and drain. Place lentils in 5-quart saucepan with 3 cups water. Add salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until almost all water is absorbed and lentils are partially cooked.
Rinse rice in cold water to remove starch, and drain. Add to cooked lentils with 2 cups more water, black pepper and cumin. Bring to boil and continue to simmer over low heat 20 minutes or until rice is done.
Heat oil in skillet. Add onions and cook until browned. Remove onions and pour hot oil over cooked rice and lentils. Spread onions evenly over rice and lentils. Makes 6 to 8 servings.