As a borderline claustrophobe (and someone with a lamentably acute sense of smell), I used to escape the (too close! can't breathe!) city confines of a noxious subway commute or a lurching cab ride by cooking in my head.
I would lose myself in the culinary choreography of tourné-ing potatoes, stirring risotto, making bolognese--anything with lots of steps.
Nowadays, I'm more likely to shepherd the dish from my mind to a plate, but I still find my peace here. And, it's usually more in the process than the result--which is my only guess as to why this biblical-era Lebanese dish that I can barely pronounce (let alone remember how to spell) has become my ultimate comfort food.
Nothing more than olive oil, salt, and time transforms a heap of rigid, pungent onions into a tangle of rich, mouth-melting sweetness that, when nestled in with earthy lentils and fluffy brown rice and topped with an decisively-spiced yogurt, becomes a whole so deeply and texturally varied that you'll wonder what kind of witches onions are.
Take the time to roast some cauliflower with lemon slices and to pour a glass of this and you'll have created a tasty, protein-packed sanctuary impervious to life's pesky (and sometimes stinky) realities.
Mujaddara with spiced yogurt
Adapted from Food52
- full recipe of MM perfectly baked brown rice
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil, maybe more
- 6 cups sweet or yellow onions (about 4 medium onions), thinly sliced into half moons
- 1 cup French green lentils (from le Puy A.O.P.), sorted and rinsed
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (the fuller fat, the better)
- 1 tsp. pomegranate molasses or honey
- zest and juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. coriander
- 1/4 tsp. turmeric
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- pinch of aleppo or cayenne pepper
While your rice bakes, add 3 Tbsp. of olive oil to a large, high-sided sauté pan set over medium-low heat. Once the oil takes on a shimmer, add the onions and work them around, coating them in olive oil, adding more if necessary. Salt liberally from an impressive height and then do (or drink) whatever you need to in order to remain zen enough to let the onions self-actualize.
During this meditation, combine the lentils and salt with 4 cups water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, simmering the lentils until tender but still shapely, about 18-20 minutes. Drain the lentils and leave them be.
Every now and then, you should be giving the onions a supportive (but never exasperated) stir--coaxing them to the extent of their mahogany state takes at least 30 minutes. Persevere!
Feign patience while you make the yogurt: mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl, adjusting to your palate and/or spice rack's gaps.
When the onions have reached their pinnacle, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and crank up the heat. Resist stirring for the next 4 to 5 minutes, as the goal of this final coup is to char and crisp the bottom layer.
Unite the rice, lentils, and onions in a serving bowl fit for matrimonial heaven and serve heaping portions dolloped with the yogurt.