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Into the pantry

I love winter foods. You know I do. You’ve been listening to me yap about them for a long time now. I’m always trotting out some strange, frost-nipped something: a Brussels sprout here, an old celery root there, an unruly head of escarole that no one else wants. It’s what I do. I’ve got a reputation to keep.

But I have to tell you, this winter has rung me out. I’m tired. I’m through. If I have to eat another cabbage, I’m going to fall to my knees and cry. That’s pretty much what I felt like doing at the market on Saturday morning, as I stared out over the sea of winter produce. Pretty though it was – so many shades of neutral, like a layout from Martha Stewart Living – I could hardly muster the energy to pull out my wallet. I really tried hard to find the oomph. But there’s no two ways about it: winter and I are over. The only problem is that spring isn’t quite here yet.

Faced with such hard facts, there’s not much for a person to do, I find, but seek refuge in the pantry closet. For the past week or two, that’s what I’ve been doing, and I highly recommend it. It’s oddly inspiring, in its way. I’ve made two batches of scones with various dried fruits. I put a good dent our supply of crystallized ginger. I even organized the rice area, which had formed a sort of impromptu sandbag levee, barricading the chilies into a corner. I also made mujadara. Twice, in fact, in five days. That’s another thing I recommend.

Photogenic it is not, but in the mouth, mujadara makes up for all misgivings. I’m not sure how it should be translated, but for me, mujadara means an enviable meal made entirely from the pantry. It’s a Middle Eastern dish comprised simply of lentils, rice, and onions, with doses of olive oil and salt for good measure. Also called megadarra, mejadra, and a variety of other similar names, it most often resembles a moist pilaf, although sometimes it borders on porridge. Either way, it’s nothing fancy, nor is it particularly pretty. What it is, however, is simple, fragrant, exotic, and cheap. That’s a combination that doesn’t come around too often. In my mental recipe archive, I file mujadara in the same category as Brandon’s chickpea salad, the category for things dead-simple, delicious, and made from ingredients often on hand. Mujadara takes more foresight and time, but it also makes your kitchen smell good enough to eat.

I came upon it several years ago in Oklahoma, at the home of family friends Pam and Bill Shdeed. Pam makes a mean Lebanese meal. It was in her dining room that I had my first bite of mujadara, along with homemade labneh, the spiced lamb patties known as kibbeh, and chicken cooked under a mound of cinnamon-scented rice. Not long after, she gave me a staple-bound cookbook – with typewritten pages and a tan cardstock cover – called Our Favorite Lebanese Recipes, by Julia Bayouth and Helen Jabara. Not long after that, I started making mujadara. Using the cookbook Pam gave me, as well as hints from Claudia Roden, I worked up a formula that I liked. My boyfriend at the time was vegan, and he loved it. Mujadara was one of our staples. I made it all the time. But after we split up, I sort of forgot about it. It went the way of history, along with our hokey terms of endearment and other relationship memorabilia. It took until last week, when winter chased me into the pantry, for me to remember it again.

This time, I won’t be forgetting it so easily. It’s the ultimate between-season dinner solution. It’s not quite a lickety-split supper – those onions do take their sweet time – but that’s okay. It’ll help pass the time until spring.

Mujadara (moo-jha-dra)

The key to this dish is the onions: they must be browned well, and with patience. Caramelize them to within an inch of their lives. Heck, burn them a little, even. In cases like this, it’s almost impossible to overcook them. Their intense, deeply toasty flavor is the main player here, so don’t rush it.

As for serving, mujadara is often presented with a green salad. I like mine with a chopped romaine salad, something similar to this one. It would also be nice with some labneh on the side, and flatbread.

¼ cup olive oil
2 medium yellow onions (about 1 ½ lb.), finely chopped
1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over for stones and other debris
½ cup basmati rice
1 tsp. salt, plus more for serving

In a large (12-inch) sauté pan or skillet or a Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are deeply caramelized, a rich shade of amber. If they’re burnt and blackened in spots, even better. This is a fairly slow process. Depending on your pan and your stove, this could take between 30 minutes and 1 hour in total. On my stove, it takes about 50 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, place the lentils in a medium saucepan, add water to cover by an inch, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. Drain the lentils, and set them aside.

When the onions are ready, stir in the rice. Then add the cooked lentils, along with 2 cups of water and the salt. Stir to mix well, and bring the pan to a boil. Reduce the heat to keep the pan at a slow simmer, cover, and cook. Depending on the size and shape of your pan, this last stage – cooking the onions, rice, and lentils together – could take from 20 to 40 minutes. Basically, the dish is done when the rice is done. I use a 5-quart sauté pan, which is wide and flat, so the rice cooks pretty quickly, in about 25 minutes. I used to use a Dutch oven, however, which was narrower, and the rice took 30-40 minutes to cook.

After about 20 minutes, remove the lid, and give the pot a gentle stir. If there is still some liquid visible, replace the lid and keep cooking until it is fully absorbed. On the other hand, if there is no obvious liquid, take a taste. If the rice is tender, the mujadara is ready. If the rice is not yet ready, add another splash of water, replace the lid, and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. The mujadara is ready to eat when the rice is tender and there is no liquid left in the pan.

Serve, with additional salt, if needed.

Note: Mujadara is even better on the second day, so if you can, make it ahead. Reheat before serving. I like to eat the leftovers for lunch, with a grapefruit for dessert.

Yield: 4-6 servings


Blogger Natalia said...

I am sooo done with winter too. If it snows out here one more time, I think I'll cry. I guess we'll just have to wait a little longer for the fresh spring produce to come around. This dish sounds great in the meantime.

6:19 PM, March 19, 2007  
Blogger shari said...

ooh! we love lentils. dead simple and delicious sound good too. thanks molly! xo

7:05 PM, March 19, 2007  
Anonymous Nicolette said...

How bizarre! Just a few hours ago my sister and I were swooning over the lentil soup at my local Lebanese, and reminiscing about Madhur Jaffrey's lentils. We grew up with her recipes, and most notably was a poem I composed at age 7 about my dear sister, and involving tandoori chicken. But I do love the lentil!

7:15 PM, March 19, 2007  
Blogger Randa said...

a woman after my own heart...my family is originally from Lebanon, but it's been a while since I made mujadra. Thanks for the reminder! The lentils are calling...

8:04 PM, March 19, 2007  
Blogger cchang said...

I actually have those ingredients on hand! I need to try that...how funny, I never thought of putting rice and lentils together. I can't wait to try it.

9:27 PM, March 19, 2007  
Blogger dc365 said...


I really like your blog, and I would be honored if you glanced at mine. It is still fairly new and I appreciate any words of encouragement you could lend me. dc365.blogspot.com

AND, I too am done with winter. I keep having fantasies about peach pies and tomato salads. grrr.

9:30 PM, March 19, 2007  
Blogger foodiechickie said...

Mmmm my mom made that for our family growing up.Although I'm Armenian we are pretty close to the middle east and acquired recipes from countries in that area and of course the former USSR(which we were a part of). Anyway so glad you enjoy Middle Eastern foods!

3:47 AM, March 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh YUM, Molly! Being on a student budget, I do love my lentils dearly but I have yet to try them with rice. I envisage a big dollop of yoghurt, a splash of lemon and a handful of chopped parsley on top of your lovely dish...dinner tonight is sorted!
Much love,

5:29 AM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger Patty said...

I too want to dive into spring but alas we just had a foot of snow in NJ over the weekend and so I've resigned myself to a bit more cold for now. But this recipe comes in so handy as I am Greek Orthodox and we are currently in the middle of our 40 day Easter fast from meat, fish and dairy. I'm always looking for new dishes to spice up these long in-between weeks. There's another lentil dish that I often rely on from the Barefoot Contessa that uses finely chopped vegetables, chicken stock and tomato paste. It's delicious. If you don't have her books, I can email you the recipe. Thanks for sharing yours!

6:28 AM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger Ales said...

sometimes the simplest recipes are also the tastier. And those that are best prepared days ahead also very welcomed for their practicality factor (or it will be another rice-with-olive-oil-and-parmeasan-cheese-on-top-for-lunch day, gulp!)

6:29 AM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger Ellen said...

Hi Molly. It sounds good...I eat a lot of rice & lentils, but not usually cooked together...will have to try it.
I'm sure it's delicious with the deep onion flavor, but do you ever add anything else? Lemon juice, spices?

6:31 AM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger GoodbyeCityLife said...

Oh my gosh -- I have that same little cookbook. It was made by my aunties!

7:10 AM, March 20, 2007  
Anonymous courtney said...

OH I can't wait to try this. I bought some lentils a couple of months ago for the first time, but haven't tried them because I didn't know what to do with them. But now I do.

If you are ready for spring and summer, may I suggest that you look for ugly ripe tomatos. They are grown here in Florida, and are pretty darn good for a dead of winter Florida tomato. I believe whole foods is supposed to carry them.

Right now is one of my favorite times of year though, as it is usually in the 80's and sunny.

8:01 AM, March 20, 2007  
Anonymous ann said...

wow. We're cooking on the same wavelength on the two outer coasts. I stumbled upon Claudia Rosen's original Middle Eastern cookbook a few weekends ago and have been completely smitten with it ever since. I've cooked at least a half dozen recipes out of it in that time and they're all winners.

I also came up with my own version of mujadara recently, using just ginger, onions and cayenne. It's ridiculously good, and, just like yours, better the next day, and even more delicious cold. Good stuff this Middle Eastern cuisine.

8:15 AM, March 20, 2007  
Anonymous elarael said...

Hi, my mom got this recipe from a Palestinian friend of hers. It was a bit different: lentils only, a big scoop of sour cream or yogurt, then an enourmous pile of deeply caramelized onions on top, with a big pour of good olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. This was a favorite comfort food when I moved out on my own. So much tastier than it seems!

11:45 AM, March 20, 2007  
Anonymous Patricia said...

First, I love your blog and am very much looking forward to your cookbook.
Second, the recipe looks yummy.
Third, and the real reason for the post...
I was wondering if you had any suggestions on building up a solidly stocked pantry for next winter.
I would like to take full advantage of all that Seattle has to offer over the spring and summer in terms of fresh farmers market fruits and vegetables. I'm planning on clearing out my hall closet and trying my hand at canning and preserving. Do you have any tips?


12:05 PM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger cindy said...

yum. one of my favourites!
i like to squeeze a bit of lemon in at the end it plays against the sweetness of the onions.
it's so good the next day eaten cold too.

1:14 PM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger Mercedes said...

Yes, isn't mujadara great. Not to quibble, but just to mention that traditionally at least half the onions are set aside and used as garnish, so that they can be enjoyed in their own plenary form as well.

2:17 PM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger leya said...

thanks, molly
that sounds like just the ticket.
I had written a note to myself to prepare this before I was even done reading. can't wait.

2:51 PM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger BipolarLawyerCook said...

Thanks for the inspiration- it's been a while since I made this. I sometimes make it with bulgur stirred in at the end instead of rice, if that's what I have in my pantry.

I have also been known to fry some walnuts in walnut oil and pour it on top with a little pomegranate molasses to jazz things up a little. Sometimes I'll add chopped raw apple too. Mmm... I think I hear my pantry calling!

3:24 PM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger Lydia said...

I learned to make this dish from the owner of a Middle East market in Providence. I was amazed at how delicious it is, and with such humble ingredients from the pantry.

4:47 PM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger Deb said...

Pathetic, but I feel actually hurt that my Bloglines didn't tell me you updated and now I must learn that you mad mujadara -- mujadara! -- a whole day later than everyone else. I love, love love this stuff. They make a mean one at Kalustyans, that temple of spice and worldly ingredients on the East Side (28th Street) and I get it often for lunch. Even a little bit is crazy filling. I love the idea of pairing it with a grapefruit, and will have to try that next time. Thank you for sharing!

5:39 PM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger Susannah said...

Mmm, this sounds delicious, and makes me dream of French onion soup to... thank you inspiring my lunch today :-)

4:45 AM, March 21, 2007  
Anonymous Meryl said...

How perfect - I've been on a HUGE Middle Eastern food kick for the last month and I've been collecting recipes left and right - this is definitely going to be added to the collection... My poor husband, all he wants is a hamburger and fries and I'm going to feed him mujadra!

6:43 AM, March 21, 2007  
Blogger hannah said...

i have limited lentil experience, but it does involve combining them with rice! this sounds like the perfect make-a-huge-batch-sunday-afternoon-for -the-rest-of-the-week type thing. and of course now i am extremely hungry for something savory and its only nine in the morning...

6:55 AM, March 21, 2007  
Anonymous hb. said...

simple, exotic and cheap!?! hooray. i am really looking forward to making this... and am sharing the recipe with friends!

9:24 AM, March 21, 2007  
Blogger Julie said...

I've been crazy for lentils lately, all types. I've made the same lentil soup with coconut milk from the book, Once Upon a Tart twice this month. Your dish here sounds like a nice change, and Middle Eastern food is my favorite. I truly hope Beirut returns to its former self eventually so I can visit. I would love that staple-bound cookbook of yours. And truly caramelized onions, not just sauteed, are an art I've just recently developed the patience and appreciation to master. Here's hoping the sun finds you soon!

2:09 PM, March 21, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Wow! I step away from the computer for a day and - poof! - 27 of you stop by to cheer about lentils! You guys are great. With no further ado:

Natalia, I just bought my first asparagus of the year, but I did so with three layers of clothing on. Harumph!

Shari, I hope you and T approve! Happy lentiling... xo

Nicolette, which Madhur Jaffrey lentil recipe was this? Do tell. I'd love to try it.

You're welcome, Randa! Is there a platter of mujadara on your table yet?

Do try it, cchang! Especially with caramelized onions, lentils and rice make a terrific combination.

Peach pies and tomato salads! dc365, my heart aches! I'm so ready for summer, it hurts. In the meantime, though, while I wait for it to warm up around here, I will most certainly check out your blog...

Foodiechickie, do you happen to have your mom's mujadara recipe? There seem to be so many variations on the theme out there! It fascinates me.

Paulinka, you've got the right idea: yogurt and lemon and parsley would all be terrific here. Brandon especially loves a good squeeze of lemon with his mujadara. I forgot to mention that.

Patty, I would love to have that recipe. Would you e-mail it to me? I don't yet have any of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. (Speaking of which, I should rectify that soon.)

I agree wholeheartedly, Ales. For me, food that is simply prepared somehow always seems to taste best. Not that I don't love something fancy and elaborate every now and then, but in my daily cooking, I love simple, true flavors.

Good question, Ellen! I forgot to mention it in the recipe, but Brandon likes to squeeze a bit of lemon juice over his mujadara. He also likes to eat it with a bit of hot sauce. (His current favorite is one from a Rick Bayless cookbook, with pepitas and chiles d'arbol. Might have to write about that soon.) I like mine plain. I'm very boring that way.

Talk about a small world, GoodbyeCityLife! What a trip that this little cookbook was made by your aunts! Wild. Just wild.

In the 80s and sunny, Courtney? I'm insanely jealous. That sounds dreamy.

Ann, I see that you wrote about a couple of good-looking Claudia Roden recipes on your site, but tell me, what other recipes of hers have you tried? I want to try them too! I've made three or four things from her New Book of Middle Eastern Food - homemade yogurt, hummus, mujadara, and a zucchini dish whose name I can't remember - but none of them have been that great. Am I just choosing the wrong ones?

Elareal, that sounds wonderful. Were the lentils cooked any particular way, or with any spices?

Oh Patricia, that's a terrific question. I'm not sure, though, that I can really do it justice. We don't do a ton of preserving around here, save for jam and pickles. My favorite - and super-simple! - jam recipe is this one, and as for pickles, we've yet to really write down a recipe. (Except this, which doesn't really get properly canned. Try looking in the comments to that post, though. Lots of people left comments about their own pickling experiences.) In late June or early July, we'll be making pickles - with carrots, cauliflower, red onions, and green beans - for our rehearsal dinner, and I'll try to post a recipe or two then. In the meantime, I'd go to a bookstore and thumb through books on preserving and canning. You should definitely put up some tomatoes, for example, and I'm just not sure how to do it.

You and Brandon, Cindy! You both like lemon with your mujadara. It is a nice touch...

Thank you, Mercedes, for the tip about the onions. I will certainly try that one of these days! There seem to be so many takes on mujadara out there, and so many ways to make it...

I hope you like it, Leya! (Hope you're feeling better, too.)

BipolarLawyerCook, your variation(s) on mujadara sound wonderful. I'd heard of using bulgur instead of rice, but not walnuts or pomegranate molasses or apple! So many good ideas.

Lydia, have you written about your version? I'd love to know how you were taught to make it...

Oh Deb! This is one of those moments when I wish Brandon still lived in NYC, so I'd have a handy excuse to hop on a plane and try the mujadara at Kalustyans. Waaah. I'll bet it's a good one, huh?

Ooh, Susannah, French onion soup? That sounds great. Thank you for the inspiration.

What other Middle Eastern dishes have you been making, Meryl? Inquiring minds want to know...

Hop to it, Hannah! Since the leftovers are so good, you could even tote 'em to work for tasty lunches. xo

Hope you enjoy it, hb.!

Julie, I have that Once Upon a Tart cookbook too, and as soon as I finish typing this, I'm going to go look up that soup. Sounds like a must-do...

4:14 PM, March 21, 2007  
Anonymous Dee said...

Your recipes are driving me nuts. The other day work had got on to me..thought of taking a break n browse the net for a while...I came across your banana bread recipe. That was it. The rest of the day all i was saying was banana bread. After work i baked it. (it was almost half past twelve when i was finished). It was heavenly. Only problem was getting up the next day for another gruelling day at work. Now i see this one.... and i have to wait for another 10 hours to get back home. I might lose my mind by then... he he...I am laready drooling

8:43 PM, March 21, 2007  
Anonymous ann said...

Hi Molly,
I actually have her older book, the original one she wrote on Middle Eastern cuisine so I can't compare them, but I also made a luverly fish soup, have discovered a rock solid way of cooking perfect basmati rice and have some cauliflower & red cabbage pickles brining as we speak.

I wonder if there's a difference in the way the two books are written... They say the way recipes are written have changed dramatically in the past couple decades. I wonder if that might be the difference?
If I run across another copy for cheap, maybe I'll pop it along to you.

8:01 AM, March 22, 2007  
Blogger amisha said...

mmm, mujadara... one of my favorite things! and i haven't eaten it in so long. thank you for the reminder of this lovely food and the recipe!
a quick question for you... should i pre-soak the lentils or just toss 'em in? thank you!

9:19 AM, March 22, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Uh oh, Dee, this sounds serious! I hope you were able to keep your cool until you could get home and get cooking...

Ann, this has got me really curious! I may have to see if my local library has a copy of the original version, so I can do a side-by-side comparison. Hmmm.

You're most welcome, Amisha! And as for the lentils, no need to soak 'em. You can use them as is. I've never seen a need for soaking lentils - they cook so quickly, anyway!

9:56 AM, March 22, 2007  
Blogger Max said...

Molly, that sounds great! I don't eat red meat (and chicken can get boring), so I'm always looking for interesting vegetarian recipes.

This one sounds like something my mom tried to make this winter, but hers had bulgar wheat also and ended up tasting like gruel (the bulgar wheat also clogged the kitchen sink). I have no doubt yours is much better and I'll have to try! :)

11:40 AM, March 22, 2007  
Blogger karrvakarela said...

Hi Molly,

New here. It's a pleasure reading your blog.

This mujadara sounds a lot like a South Asian dish called khichri. We usually eat it with a spicy pickle (achaar) or a green salad and it's such a simple, satisfying meal.

8:37 PM, March 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mom, (your grandmother) from Eastern Europe, used to make a similar dish, and would serve it alone, or as a side dish with pot roast. I had forgotten about it until your blog. As did every one of her recipes, hers began with "First you brown an onion." Thanks for reminding me. Another thing to make today.


4:53 AM, March 23, 2007  
Blogger AnnieKNodes said...

Great post! It reminds me of a beautiful story by Barbara Bedford called The Hungers Of The World. It's about a young girl's discovery of all the wonderful Lebanese food her grandmother would make. I think you'll like it!

10:17 AM, March 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the intrusion. We need more big pictures of such a French cooking beauty. You are so sweet!
Just saw a pic at German's Der Spiegel:

Or are there any posts with pics hidden somewhere here?

Kind regards,

2:13 PM, March 23, 2007  
Anonymous elarael said...

Hi! Did my response to the question of spiced lentils go through?

2:14 PM, March 23, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Oh Max, I certainly hope this one turns out better than your mother's did! Yikes.

Karrvakarela, thanks for the heads-up on khichri. How interesting! I'm going to go look it up in just a minute...

My dear UncleArn, I love the thought of Dora making something like this. Did you wind up trying it today? If you can remember how she made it, I'd love to hear. xo

Thanks, AnnieKNodes! I can't wait to read the story.

Ubercook, that's very kind, but I think the French cooking beauty you're referring to is Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini. Her photograph was featured in the Spiegel piece, not mine - and she is lovely! You can read more about her here.

Elareal, I'm afraid it didn't! Please, try again!

3:15 PM, March 23, 2007  
Anonymous elarael said...

The lentils are cooked plain with only sea salt. I've tried it with lentils de puy, but really the fat, soft trad hippie lentil is my favorite for this recipe because it gets so nice and creamy with the olive oil. I like it made simply because it is just perfect that way, with the cold creamy tangy yogurt and hot creamy lentils and sweet, salty onions. Good olive oil is key,too.

You must be psychic though, because I almost included a recipe with spices for Pakistani 'wedding rice' that an old housemate made for me - thank you Aftab Hassan! It is basmati rice - brown or white - toasted in olive oil in the pan with the 4 C's: Cardamom (he had big, exotic fat Black pods from the Indian market but regular ones work too) with ground coriander, cumin and cinnamon. Then add the water and cook normally. He just left the pods in whole, but you don't eat those. It is SO good!

6:54 PM, March 23, 2007  
Anonymous Amy K said...

Love love love lentils! I can't wait to try this! Even though I live in Southern California where local strawberries and asparagus and artichokes have been in the markets since February. (sorry -it's why I moved here from Colorado.)

7:17 PM, March 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

UncleArn writes:
You said: If you can remember how she made it, I'd love to hear. xo

The onions were fried in chicken fat, although sometimes they were toasted in the oven. About half went into the Mujadra, which was spiced with cumin and allspice. The remaining onions were sprinkled on top as a garnish.

Eat well, my dear.


10:13 AM, March 24, 2007  
Anonymous Meryl said...

Hi Molly,

My middle eastern kick has really been more of an indian food kick. My favorites so far have been vegetable samosas, spicy lamb kebabs and green curry chicken. All from my latest cookbook find, Fresh Indian - I found it at William-Sonoma and I haven't been able to stop cooking from it!

7:28 PM, March 24, 2007  
Blogger Melindy said...

Hello Molly-

You want to know something that is awful? I am ALLERGIC to lentils-

I know, I know...

Would you suggest any other bean as a sub?
Would say- Garbanzos work?

Are the blossoms out in Seattle, they sure are here in my rose city, Portland! Spring is coming...

9:57 AM, March 25, 2007  
Blogger Toni said...

Love the recipe - especially the browning of the onions to the point of immolation. That's my kind of dish!

Years ago when Raymond Sokolov was writing the food column in Natural History magazine, he had something related to this. He was somewhere in the Himalayas, I believe, and ate with people who put something like 30 cloves of garlic in this dish. Sounded over the top, but his comment was that when it reached that level, it was no longer what we think of as garlic. The flavor morphed into something else. I don't think I had the courage for 30 cloves, but I do remember using some astronomical amount of garlic and found that he was right. Thought you might be interested in experimenting with that idea.

11:06 AM, March 25, 2007  
Blogger Maia Averett said...

Molly, I so know what you mean. It's like Wednesday for weeks.. the farmer's markets just can't seem to get over the hump! Luckily down here in San Diego, we're starting to see strawberries and asparagus, but it's still mostly citrus, lettuces, and apples as far as the eye can see!

In fact, we're on the same wavelength---I've gone to the pantry and made your sisters scones, twice even. Once with dried pears and crystalized ginger, and the other time with a mix of dried cherries, cranberries, and blueberries. At least dried fruit is never out of season!

10:26 PM, March 25, 2007  
Anonymous Dee said...

Hey Molly,
I tried this dish over the weekend and i loved it. Thank you so much. waiting for the next one ;-)

12:47 AM, March 26, 2007  
Blogger bethany said...

hi molly, i just started reading your blog, and very much enjoy it. i made the kale and cheddar frittata last week and the mujadara last night. not only are both delicious dishes(especially the mujadara - wow! so much flavor out of so little), but they have convinced my boyfriend that a simple dish, sans meat, can be a satisfying dinner! we'll be making mujadara again, for sure. looking forward to continuing to read orangette!

5:43 AM, March 26, 2007  
Anonymous sassy said...

are you still there?
i check this blog a few times a week, and can't wait for a new entry...

too much work on your new book?

10:52 AM, March 26, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Read this today and made this tonight along with the salad you suggested. Absolutely fantastic recipe, can't wait to devour the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

10:43 PM, March 26, 2007  
Blogger Jennifer said...

love mujadara!!

any chance you have a recipe for sfiha? I've been looking for ages and haven't found one yet :(

6:45 AM, March 27, 2007  
Anonymous lindy said...

This is one of my all time favorite foods, and has the additional virtue of being so cheap it is almost free! I think a Fatoosh-type salad (romaine, lemony dressing, toasted pitas) is especially good with it. And the leftovers are good cold, too. Yum.

6:22 PM, March 27, 2007  
Blogger Danielle said...

I'm really excited to add this to my list of middle eatern staples. We make something really similar to this with chickpeas instead of lentils. Delicious!

7:54 PM, March 28, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

My apologies for falling behind in replying to your comments, friends. Just a few words -

Elarael, thank you for coming back to report on the lentils, and on the Pakistani wedding rice. Hooray for the pantry!

UncleArn, you're wonderful. xo

Thanks for the tip on Fresh Indian, Meryl!

Allergic to lentils(!!!), Melindy? That's awful. I have no idea how garbanzo beans would work here, but how bad could it be? I say give it a go.

Toni, I love that story. I was just experimenting with a pasta dish containing 20 cloves of garlic, and it was astounding how the flavor mellowed and softened. You'd never guess there was that much in there. For such a wee little bulb, garlic is pretty amazing.

So glad you made and liked the scones, Maia!

Dee, Bethany, and Peter, I'm thrilled to hear that you liked the mujadara! Thank you for coming back to tell me so.

Yep, Sassy, I'm still here! I only post once a week, usually on Mondays. Thanks for checking in and being patient with me.

Jennifer, is it shameful to admit that I don't know what sfiha is? Help!

11:54 AM, March 29, 2007  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Sfiha seems to be a spicy ground meat mixture (beef, usually, or lamb or a mix) that my favorite Lebanese restaurant makes into various things. Unfortunately, it's in Cleveland, 500 miles away :(

Oh well..

4:53 PM, April 13, 2007  
Blogger SG said...

Wow. This was simple and delicious, and made from items in my pantry that I can't even recall when I purchased!


3:13 PM, April 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made this yesterday, and it was incredible! It was a cinch to make, and the taste, oh the taste.



2:38 AM, May 26, 2007  
Blogger Chris said...

How is it that I just now found this site? Anyway, we [heart] mujadara -- the version we make is not only cooked with onions, but topped with more carmelized onions and topped with yogurt and mint:

My fiancee's family is Armenian (via Lebanon), and the past few years I've been discovering such a wonderful array of new dishes! Bring on the Manti!

10:39 AM, July 20, 2007  
Anonymous Jen said...

We add a "salad" of tomatoes, cucumbers, flat-leaf parsley, green onion, olive oil and lemon juice that we somewhat unceremoniously plop on top of the plate of steaming mujadra . . . the contrast between the hot and cold, the tangy and the spicy perk the tongue right up. (But skip the tomatoes when they're out of season). :-)


5:48 PM, July 03, 2008  
Anonymous pasc said...

oh, happiness - I never even saw this post & just came across it..LOVE mujadara - my mom makes it often during Lent, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE to squeeze a healthy amount of lemon on top of this... So wonderfully tasty!

7:25 PM, November 13, 2008  
Blogger selena said...

I'm so glad for Brandon, because there became that many more veggie recipes on your site. Makes this veggie girl happy.

2:21 AM, January 21, 2009  
Blogger michaela said...

my family is lebanese and this is one of my pantry-meals and comfort foods. the art of syrian cookery by helen corey is the cookbook my mother and aunts use.

2:56 PM, April 14, 2009  
Blogger Roseanna said...

Your blog is wonderful...kindred spirit here! My heritage is Italian/Irish and I too enjoy the simple dishes that helped our ancestors through many a hard time. Similar to today...people are finding out how lovely legumes and vegetables can be when prepared in simple, flavorful ways. Inexpensive can be very, very good. I also thought I'd mention the high protein value of lentils, 1/2 cup is equivalent to a 12 oz. steak!
Soooo much better for you!

3:27 AM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger slicknik25 said...

i am so excited to try this - being a fellow lover of simple foods, i'm thrilled when recipes are made with 3-5 ingredients at most. and i love me some lentils :)

2:05 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Amy said...

I made this tonight - just started to caramelise the onions as the snow started falling! It was wonderful; I added fetta and lemon, parsley and sambal olek and now I have lots of left-overs. Thanks!

7:48 PM, April 22, 2009  
Blogger h. hart said...

I made this last night, ate it for dinner with runny eggs, and then plain for lunch, and I want to make them again for dinner tonight! I think there is something wrong with me.

Lemon and olive oil on greens on the side is a nice take on the squeeze of lemon some people have been espousing.

8:43 AM, April 28, 2009  
Blogger SydneyCider said...

Nice entry! Labanese cook books almsot always have the same problem with naming this dish. This actual name of dish is called mudardara. This refers to the way the rice and lentils are not held together with a liquid, but that you are able to spread them apart with a fork. You need two items to put on top of this dish. Crispy caramalised onions and nice, creamy yoghurt, and a green salad with cucumber on the side. Us Lebanese like this one cold.

Mujadara as a word translates roughly to "sludgy", or coagulated as the real recipe for mujadara calls for the lentils and rice to break down into the liquid, forming a sludge like consistency. When it cools down, it holds together like a lentil custard (eyw!). Tastes nicer than it sounds. This one is eaten with tomato and onion salad, where the onions are rubbed with sumac, and eaten cold.

6:52 PM, May 04, 2009  
Blogger marilena said...

Your post on mudajara, or 'moujendra' if you come from Cyprus, put a big smile on my face. This is a Lebanese dish yet in Cyprus it is one of the dishes grandmothers cook generally on a weekly basis, usually on Wednesdays or Fridays when Orthodox are not supposed to eat meat. I could recognise the smell of moujendra between a thousand dishes. A small additional tip - add a little bit of cinnamon to your mujadara towards the end... I am making mine right now. Bisous from Brussels!

4:12 AM, May 17, 2009  
Blogger Margaret said...

I just found your blog when looking for the name of that dish that I always make but don't know what to call. Now I know!

It also reminds me of another favorite pantry dish of mine from Madhur Jaffrey - it's in her vegeterian cookbook and it has red lentils, bulgar wheat and tomatoes (canned work). Well worth a try if you haven't had it already.

10:32 PM, July 08, 2009  
Blogger Margaret said...

correction: I morphed two recipes in my mind. They are "Bulgar wheat with Chickpeas and Tomatoes" and "Pilaf of Bulgar Wheat and Red Lentils." Both dishes are great pantry food as they taste wonderful even when made with canned tomatoes and dried parsley if you don't have fresh parsley. You can find them on pages 154 and 155 in Madhur Jaffrey's "World of the East Vegetarian Cooking".

7:53 AM, July 09, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mom makes this and adds some cumin to the rice water while it's cooking. Also, she serves it with plain yogurt that is seasoned with smashed garlic, salt, and chopped cucumber. You can also add dried mint.

8:54 AM, November 13, 2009  
Anonymous bj said...

Yes, the name for this is 'mdardra'. mjadara is a similar recipe-rice, onions, lentils--but it is pureed at the end, and eaten with bread. also, i dont quite understand why it took so long to brown the onions. i make this often and it takes five minutes tops on high heat.
also, yes cumin really brings out the taste of the lentils.

8:10 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Molly said...

i just discovered this dish last month while surfing random blogs, but i'll definitely give your version a try. i has to laugh when i realized this post was three years old and that you wrote about being done with cabbage, and there on your header is a beautiful head of cabbage! hope spring comes your way soon.

9:34 PM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous Jackie said...

Just made this last night.
Added some finely chopped beet greens in as the onions were about done caramelizing. Amazingly YUM. Thanks for another awesome recipe!

10:02 AM, March 17, 2010  
Blogger Josh said...

Just made this today for tomorrow night's dinner! Really excited to pair it with the romaine salad you suggested. Thanks for great recipes - especially the "easy" ones!

2:35 PM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger nicole said...

OH MY GOD, this recipe is so wonderful and simple!!! I come very late to the Mujadara party, but I needed to tell you how much I enjoyed this. I made a few mods following some of the comments:

- made twice as many onions, and serve half of them as a garnish on top. (I'm a bit obsessed with caramelized onions.)
- added half a stick of cinnamon and 1 tsp. of cumin at the "rice" stage.
- added lemon and a bit of fleur de sel at the end
- served with wedges of za'atar-sprinkled toasted pitas, and a cucumber/mint salad.

SO SO SO GOOD!!!! Perfect autumn dish.

8:46 AM, September 28, 2010  
Anonymous Carla@Practical Meal Planning said...

You have such a beautiful blog. I love your style of writing. Couldn't wait to read the actual recipe. I'm so glad I stumbled upon it and I can't wait to try your recipe for Mujadara. It will have to wait until the weekend though, when I can give enough attention to caramelizing those onions! Ohh....I'm excited!! Thank you for sharing.

6:03 PM, October 26, 2010  
Anonymous Carla@Practical Meal Planning said...

Just made the Mujadara and it is absolutely fabulous!! As you suggested I patiently caramelized the onions, stirring them lovingly for about 35 minutes. Can't wait to have some for lunch tomorrow as well, to see how the flavors develop. Thanks again.

10:44 AM, October 31, 2010  
Blogger Jessica said...

A coworker suggested this recipe and I finally found the time to tackle this hear caramelizing thing. Wow! So glad I did! Amazing! Thank you so much for this recipe :)

10:45 AM, December 04, 2010  
Blogger Stephanie Stiavetti said...

I just made mujadara tonight, and I was digging through the web for other variations when I stumbled upon this older post of yours. So hello!

Funny, the recipe that inspired me to make mujadara tonight had the strangest ingredient: buttermilk. I omitted it because the idea of mujadara with a cheesy aftertaste just didn't sound appetizing, and I'd never seen a mujadara recipe calling for it. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

5:40 PM, January 29, 2011  
Blogger leilani.e said...

I think a friend of mine has been working his way back through your archives -- he just posted a wonderful picture of this with a link and a note to add nutmeg if you're out of basmati and have to use brown rice. The two of you combined have me drooling.

2:31 PM, May 15, 2011  
Anonymous kikiprice said...

I just found this blog when following a link for a peppermint bark recipe (thanks!). For mujadara, I've had a recipe from my best friend's husband's mother, who was Lebanese and a wonderful cook. It calls for a pinch of cloves stirred in with the onions after the lentils and rice are cooked. Some of the caramelized onions are reserved to top off each serving. It's delicious! And one of my winter staples.

9:57 AM, December 21, 2012  

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