November 2nd, 2012

Sandy and Mujaddara.

OneHungryMama Mujaddara Rice and Lentils

I’ve sat at my computer amidst the chaos of a house filled with six cooped up people several times over the last few days. I’ve wanted to write to you and to share some of the cooking we’ve done while hiding from Sandy and staying clear of those working overtime in her aftermath. But each time I tried to write I got lost. In the news. On Twitter. Searching for ways to help. Working on a Halloween rescue plan. I have tons of recipes to share, but strangely little to say. (Don’t get used to it.) It’s hard to find words when you feel unbelievably lucky and are surrounded by so many who aren’t.

My family and I made it through the storm unscathed. We are safe—stir crazy, but safe. We were together the whole time in a warm, dry home, able to cook, play, watch movies and call loved ones who are also safe, though without electricity. My trusty computer speedily connected to the world each and every time I asked it to, even through the worst of the storm. And we went trick-or-treating last night. See, I told you: we are unbelievably lucky.

Many are not, though. The hungry boy is wondering if he’ll be able to visit his favorite place, Coney Island, this summer. I don’t have an answer. And what about my Jersey shore? These are just two hurt places that just two local people love. What about all the other places and all the other people with hurt hearts, lost homes, and damaged neighborhoods. I don’t have an answer.

All I know is that people need help, happiness and hope. (The three H’s!). I’m helping by donating goods to Occupy Sandy Relief NYC and money to the Red Cross and the Food Bank for New York City. If you are a New Yorker who is, like me, safe, sound and with means, please consider giving goods as well. Lots of organizations are collecting (I chose mine based on a personal recommendation from the founder of a local charity that I trust) and word on the street is that everything is needed, from towels to clothes, canned foods to baby supplies. Regardless of where you live, please consider donating even just a tiny amount of money to a relief fund that you trust. There are many options and you can use these giving tips to figure out which charity feels right to you.

As for happiness and hope, I got a big dose of both last night when my neighborhood, famous for pulling out all the stops on Halloween, turned out in full force. It was glorious. And then there’s food. Though it feels a little odd right now, sharing recipes with you is the best way that I know how to deliver happiness and hope. It’s a tiny contribution in the scheme of things, I know, but it’s what I’ve got. So with deep gratitude and boundless hope for my extended community, I deliver this mujaddara, a humble combination of rice and lentils topped with crispy, caramelized onions.

This is a very simple dish, but one as soul satisfying as they come. At its most basic, mujaddara can be made with just three affordable pantry staples: rice, lentils and onions. If you can easily make a Greek or fattoush salad to go with this, you’ve got a full meal. Otherwise, just serve mujaddara on its own. Even plain, a bowl of this stuff makes a complete meal that can sustain you through darkness into hope and happiness. At least that’s my hope.

Mujaddara
loosely adapted from Food52
(can be shared with kids 6+ mos)*
Serves 4

5 whole peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
4 cups water, divided, plus more as needed
1 cup brown lentils, washed with shriveled lentils and debris removed
1 teaspoon salt, divided, plus more to taste
1 cup white rice
1 tablespoons butter
1 whole star anise
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons
3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, for garnish (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, for garnish (optional)
Scant 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, for garnish (optional)
Juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon, for garnish (optional)

1. Wrap peppercorns, cloves and bay leaf in a cheesecloth pouch. Add to a medium pot along with 2 cups of water and rinsed lentils. Turn heat to medium-high and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, until lentils are cooked through but not mushy. Depending on the size of your pot, you may need to add water to ensure that the lentils remain just barely covered with water throughout cooking time. Strain and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

2. Cook rice either according to package directions or by this method: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium-large pot set over medium-high heat. Stir in rice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, butter and whole anise; allow the water to return to a simmer. Cover the pot and turn heat to low. Cook for about 18 minutes without removing the lid and then check for doneness. If the rice is not done, cover and allow to cook for another 5-7 minutes, checking for doneness after 3 minutes. When the rice is done, remove the lid, take out the anise, fluff the rice with a fork and allow it to sit for 1 minute.

3. Crisp the onions: Add olive oil to a large frying pan set over medium heat. Add onions and sauté. After about 10 minutes, the onions should begin to brown; keep cooking until they get very caramelized and turn a deep brown color. If necessary, add a tablespoon of water here and there to keep the onions from sticking to the pan. Once all of the onions are very brown, add last 2 teaspoons of olive oil and raise heat to high. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to stir them too much, until the bottom layer of onions crisp up.

4. Once the rice has had a minute to “breathe,” add lentils and gently stir to combine. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve rice and lentils topped with crisped onions. If desired, combine yogurt with a drizzle of olive oil, mint, cinnamon, lemon juice, salt and pepper to dollop on top of each serving.

*Note: This is a wonderful meal for beginner eaters starting as early as 6 months. Puree or pulse rice and lentils to desired consistency and mix with yogurt. Onions are optional—they are safe for young eaters so long as they are pureed, but can be left out if you prefer to keep from serving the extra oil.

6 Responses

  1. Carie says:

    I’d like to make some food to bring to our family and friends at the NJ shore who still don’t have power. Do you have any recipes for meals that are hearty, don’t require heating and can stay fresh for a few hours without spoiling? Thank you!

  2. One Hungry Mama says:

    Carie: I love this idea. What a great question! I hope I’m not about to give you too much info, but I want to make sure that I can help. Here are my thoughts…
    * A baked pasta is always filling and while definitely best hot, a big pasta casserole can stay for a few hours. Something like this Creamy Cauliflower Mac ‘N Cheese is comforting, but also has some good nutrition: http://onehungrymama.com/2012/02/recipe-creamy-cauliflower-mac-and-cheese/. It may sound nerdy, but a lot of comforting and more easily accessible foods are just carb fests that don’t sustain the same way.
    * A savory bread pudding is the same idea. I love this Swiss Chard Bread Pudding: http://onehungrymama.com/2011/05/mothers-day-recipe-comfort-me-with-swiss-chard-bread-pudding/
    * A bunch of hearty sides like this Corn and Black Bean Salad: http://onehungrymama.com/2011/06/recipe-3-minute-corn-and-black-bean-salad/ are easy for you to pull together and nice to have around to pick on for lunch or between meals.
    * If you have time to plan ahead, this Slow Cooker Cassoulet: http://onehungrymama.com/2012/01/recipe-slow-cooker-cassoulet/ is amazing. A delicious combo of meat and beans, this is filling and, though it can’t stay unrefrigerated over night, it can last several hours and tastes great even at room temp.
    * Chili is the same idea—filling meat and beans, long cooked in a pot or slow cooker. Not the same when you can’t serve piping hot with the fixin’s, but delicious at room temp and filling. This is Oliver’s Firehouse Chili: http://onehungrymama.com/2011/12/recipe-olivers-firehouse-chili/ (which I’ve also mixed with cooked pasta to make a Chili Pasta Bake). This is my Turkey & White Bean Chili: http://onehungrymama.com/2011/01/turkey-white-bean-chili/
    * Cook some long pasta or soba noodles, drain, drizzle with a little oil (about a tsp per lb of pasta) and spread on a cookie sheet to cool. Once cool, place noodles in a zip lock. Then, make this thai peanut sauce: http://onehungrymama.com/2011/11/recipe-thai-peanut-sauce/ and steam some broccoli. Make sure to seal the ingredients only after they’ve cooled completely. Keep the sauce, broccoli and pasta separate and have your friends toss together in a bowl right before eating. These totally work at room temp.
    * We all love leftover pizza! Buy a few rounds of dough from your local pizzeria and bake a few up or make these deep dish pizza muffins: http://onehungrymama.com/2012/06/mini-deep-dish-pizza-muffins-the-dinner-play-date-solution/.
    * Baked goods can stay wrapped or in a ziplock on the counter overnight and then can serve as a filling b’fast the day after your visit. If you have the ingredients, you can whip up this delicious chocolately qunioa banana bread: http://onehungrymama.com/2012/05/gluten-free-chocolate-chip-banana-bread-recipe/. This vanilla cadramom olive oil pound cake is a treat, too: http://onehungrymama.com/2012/04/recipe-vanilla-cardamom-olive-oil-pound-cake/it's delicious and packed with protein!

    Let me know if you make any of these or if they inspire something good. Good luck. I’ll be thinking of you and your friends.

    S, xo

  3. Carie says:

    Thank you! These are some great ideas. You are my first stop for recipes when it comes to me and my family so I thought I’d check with you now. Thanks for all your help!

  4. Rosie says:

    Stacie..thanks for checking in and posting. I’ve often thought of my favorite NY/east coast based bloggers and how they were faring after Sandy. Thanks also for the charity suggestions. From someone out of the area like myself (Northern California), I’ve wanted to donate to an organization where it would make the most impact and this list helps. Take care.

  5. Caroline says:

    Mujadarra is a staple in our family and your version sounds delicious. If like me, you are trying to find ways to sumplify your cooking process, you can cook your rice and lentils together in the rice cooker. It works surprisingly well depending on the lentils you use (I use french lentils) and saves a ton of time and effort.

  6. One Hungry Mama says:

    I love that suggestion, @Caroline! I’m going to try that next week, for sure. Thank you!

Leave a Reply