This week I decided to make mujadara. Many of you are probably like what the heck is mujadara???? Allow me to explain. Mujadara (pronounced like mm-zhud-the-ruh) is a super yummy, super easy, and super inexpensive Lebanese lentil dish. It is made with onions, brown rice, lentils, and spices…that’s it. Growing up, my family made mujadara all the time, especially during Lent. That said, when I was a kid I didn’t care for mujadara. As an adult, however, I love love love it. When I told Victoria that when I was young I didn’t like this dish she said to me “…you didn’t like mujadara???? Wow…you didn’t like humus, AND you didn’t like mujadara…what was wrong with you!?!?!?” ☺ To be honest I am not sure what was wrong with me. I am super glad that Victoria loves all of my Lebanese recipes, now if I could just get Ryan to try them…but I digress. Anyway, I love mujadara, but much like the spinach pies that I blogged about a few months ago, I have never made it before. I had some lentils that I needed to use, so I decided to try to make this dish. About 8 years ago, I started working on a family recipe scrapbook. This recipe is included. It wasn’t until I actually started the cooking process, however, that I recognized the errors in the recipe that I had written down. For example, I did not indicate whether or not the pot needed to be covered during the cooking process, and I also didn’t indicate a cooking temperature. Further, as I was measuring out the spices, the recipe I had written indicated that 1 tablespoon of salt be used. That seemed like a lot, but I am an obsessive “recipe follower,” so I added the salt to the pot. While I was cooking the rice, I tasted the mujadara and man was it salty. I continued with the preparation, and just as I was about to begin the final step I tasted it again. Yep, it was still way too salty. I had Dan taste it and he agreed. I frantically called my Dad in an attempt to save the recipe, but he wasn’t home. So there I was standing in front of the stove, with the psuedo-mujadara cooking away, and I didn’t have a clue as to how to proceed. In my moment of culinary crisis, I decided just to scrap it, and start over. I hate to waste food, but this pseudo-mujadara really was inedible. I mentally apologized to my Sito’s, my Jido, and my Dad, for so royally jacking up this beloved family recipe, and poured the salty concoction into the garbage disposal. I then gathered myself for a moment, called upon my culinary angels, and started over from scratch.
From scratch is a really big deal to me. As I mentioned above, I am an obsessive recipe follower. Despite the fact that I am an avid collector of cookbooks and recipes, I watch Food Network all the time, and I have been cooking for my family for years, I still lack the culinary confidence or “know how” to construct recipes all on my own. Well that is exactly what I was forced to do. My Dad not being available to immediately answer my questions, forced me to think and cook all on my own. So here’s what I did. I chopped the onion and sautéed it in some olive oil. Meanwhile, I measured out the rice, the lentils, and the spices. I felt that there was something missing in the spice combination that I had written down, so I reflected on the spices that I use when making kibbee. I decided to add cayenne pepper, and cinnamon to the mujadara dish. Also, I added extra garlic, cumin, black pepper, onion powder, and I wistfully added some salt. I was so shell-shocked after the first batch that I was reluctant to add any salt at all, but it really does improve the flavor. I had Dan taste test it and he thought it was pretty good. About this time my Dad called me back, and I explained the fiasco that had taken place on my stove top. He agreed that a tablespoon of salt was way too much, and suggested that I probably made an error when I typed the recipe. Perhaps I made the “t” a capital instead of lower case, thereby adding a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon of salt. Then, he suggested that I add a bit more cumin and some allspice as I still felt the flavor wasn’t quite right. After the addition of the extra spices, I added the lentils and crossed my fingers. I am ecstatic to report that the mujadara is DELICIOUS! Dan and Victoria both asked for seconds, and praised me all during dinner! This feels like a HUGE accomplishment to me, because I hardly ever go rogue and prepare something. I usually rely on recipes, tips, or advice from my Dad to make a dish, but this time I relied on my own palate and experience in the kitchen. It felt great!
Since I created this recipe, I have no link to share. Below is MY recipe for mujadara:
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 cup of brown rice
- 1 cup of lentils
- 1 TBS. plus 2 tsp of garlic powder
- 1 TBS. black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. onion powder
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/8 tsp. allspice
1. Dice onion. 2. In a large sauce pot, saute the onion in olive oil until the onion is translucent. 3. Add the spices, rice, and 3 cups of water to the pot, and bring to a boil. 4. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until the rice is cooked (about 20 minutes) 5. Once the rice is done, add the lentils and another 1-2 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the lentils are done (about 20 minutes.) 6. Stir well and serve! YUM!
* I did make a substitution to MY recipe. I always buy my lentils from Trader Joe’s. They are already cleaned and steamed, so all you have to do is open the package. I added the lentils to the pot right after the rice was done. Buying the already steamed lentils saves about 25 minutes in the meal prep. ☺
I hope you try the recipe, I am sure you will love it. In the spirit of this week’s blog entry, I leave you with this quote: “One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.” ~ Julia Child.