Monday, July 16, 2012
Mujaddara: Lentils and Rice
My heart is heavy. I had prepared something different for today, but tragic circumstances are keeping me from sharing it. I will come back to that recipe at a later time, but when I read over what I had written it did not fit my frame of mind at all.
In this past month, I have lost two friends to untimely deaths. Both people leave behind beautiful young families. One death, quite sudden last week, has left our community in a state of shock. This past week has been a blur as I am reminded of how quickly life can change. Sometimes (hopefully most of the time) the change is sweet and wonderful and easy to celebrate. When the change is a devastating one, we lean on each other and grieve together.
One of the many ways we support and nurture each other, especially in times of sorrow, is through the food we prepare. Food comforts and sustains. In Judaism, traditional foods to eat during mourning are eggs, bread and lentils. They symbolize the cycle of life and life itself.
Mujaddara is a Middle Eastern dish made with humble ingredients, lentils and rice. The lentils and rice are cooked together with caramelized onions to create a bowl of soft, soothing goodness. If desired, cumin, coriander, dill or mint can be added, as can a dollop of thick yogurt. I chose to season the mujaddara simply this time, with just salt and pepper.
We say that we never know what life will bring, and it really is true. I am grateful to be part of this kind, caring community, knowing that we will take care of and strengthen each other no matter what comes.
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 onions, cut in half and sliced thinly
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 cups lentils, green or brown
5 cups water
1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice
Freshly ground pepper
Plain yogurt to top (optional)
In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the sliced onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir and cook the onions until they soften, then lower the heat and continue cooking until golden brown, about half an hour.
Rinse the lentils and place them in a large pot with the 5 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the lentils are soft but still have a bite. Stir in the rice and half of the caramelized onions. Cover and simmer until the rice is soft, about 20 minutes.
Season to taste with a few grinds of black pepper and additional salt. Serve topped with the remaining half of caramelized onions and a dollop of yogurt, if desired.