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.

Mujaddara
Serves 6-8

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.

24 comments:

  1. I am so sorry for the loss of your friends and community members. Your delicious dish will bring comfort and nourishment. I prepare this dish also simply with salt and pepper. This dish will nourish and strengthen.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Suzanne. I'm glad to know you enjoy this dish, too - it is indeed a comforting one.

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  2. Dearest Hannah,

    Having experienced deaths of loved ones myself, I know that sometimes there are no words that can provide comfort. Only time seems to heal that type of sorrow. I hope you and your community will get through this time of sadness quickly.

    We also make this dish in Iran but we use cinnamon as the only spice. As a kid this was my favorite dish.

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    1. I appreciate your supportive words, ChefMoji. I'm sorry you've had similar sorrowful experiences. I know it's part of life, but what a difficult part.

      I like your suggestion to use cinnamon and will try it the next time I make this dish.

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  3. I'm sorry for your loss Hannah and grateful to know you have support around you at this difficult time.

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. It's a perfect Meatless Monday dish. I'll be sharing the link on my FB page today.

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    1. Thank you so much, Aunt B. There is a lot of support and I am thankful for that - we'll take care of each other.

      I appreciate you linking to this recipe - definitely a good meatless one.

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  4. Hannah, I'm so sorry for your losses. Mujaddara really is a comfort food, and perfect for soothing a troubled heart.

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    1. Thank you, Christina. It's been quite a summer so far - seeing you feels like a very long time ago. Looking forward to happier times (and to this drizzle leaving...loved yesterday's sunshine).

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  5. I never feel like I have anything very useful to say when someone dies, but I am terribly sorry to hear about your friends. Sometimes life is so tragic and unfair.

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    1. I appreciate your kind words, Lauren. Life definitely feels unfair during times like this - no real answer other than it's life, I guess. There is much to be grateful for, though, and I hold onto that.

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  6. I am so sorry for your and your loved ones loss.

    Bevi

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    1. Thank you for your support, Bevi - I appreciate it.

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  7. This looks like very comforting food at a very sad time. I am sorry to hear of your loss.

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    1. Thank you, Brooke - definitely an unexpected, sad time. Sigh...

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  8. My heart is heavy for your losses...thinking of you and sending strength. Hang in there.

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    1. Thank you, Erina, I appreciate your kind words. We just never know, do we... I'm grateful for all the communities I am part of - so many lovely, supportive people.

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  9. I am so sorry for your loss. Food, indeed, is comfort and an expression of community. Take care.

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    1. Thank you so much, Lynda. Food, community, life - they're all woven together and I certainly appreciate this fact.

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  10. Hi Hannah, I am sorry too for your loss. How very sad to lose two friends in one summer. It's good to know you are able to rely on these traditional comfort foods at this time. In Jael McHenry's book The Kitchen Daughter, the protagonist ends up volunteering to cook these types of foods. This reminds me of this.

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    1. I appreciate your kind words, Shalini. I'm not familiar with The Kitchen Daughter but will definitely check it out. Traditional foods play an important role in life.

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  11. Oh Hannah, so sorry to hear about the loss of your friends. This is one comforting dish, I love the simplicity & that it is so much greater than the sum of its parts, amazing how a few simple ingredients can be so delicious.

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    1. Thank you, Mairi - I appreciate your support. As you know, food provides comfort. So true that simple ingredients can combine into so much more!

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  12. Hannah - so sorry to hear about your losses, that sounds very hard indeed to lose two dear friends. Be kind to yourself. Lisa

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    1. Thank you, Lisa - I appreciate hearing from you. Summer did not begin as I had imagined it would, but we just never know what life holds for us. It's comforting to have community everywhere.

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