living underground in the real world

lentils and rice (mujaddara), but, like, not the shitty health food hippie kind, and also: KOSHARI!

I’m just gonna tell you right now that I’ve had two glasses of wine, and that is about all I can ever handle before I start going a little wild and loopy and happy and, um, what’s that word?

DRUNK.

So let’s see how this recipe goes. I’m going to illustrate it with snaps of weird things you might find in Latina markets. (Also known as “Mexican markets,” “Latino markets,” and “Hispanic markets.” I like ladies, so I say Latina markets. Also the store I shop at is called Casa Latina!)

Thanks to lovely lovely Moom (sister of eternal BFF Than, whom you know) for asking for the recipe and giving me the impetus to post it. She asked me for my recipe and said that hers is similar to that served at Kalustyans. I like everything at Kalustyans, I would marry Kalustyans if it asked me and if we could live in the “50,000 kinds of rice” aisle, but I think their mujaddara is a wee bit on the dry side. Moom mentioned that she was thinking of amping hers up by using shallots instead of onions and here’s a confession (one that I think a Vietnamese cook like Moom just might find slightly horrifying) I hate shallots so much. Not eating them, but cooking with them. Well, not cooking with them, peeling them. I hate peeling them so much that I haven’t touched one in about half a decade. Please downgrade me in your esteem accordingly.

I’ve got no pictures o’ lentils n’ rice, but I have a sneaky feeling you can picture it. Picture it all vibrant and lovely though, laced with shredded greens and topped with paprika and juicy, not dry and hideous (like hippies make it. Did I just say that?).

In addition to lentils and rice, which is also called mujaddara (or mujadara, or mujadarra, and is sort of pronounced like “mu-JAHT-ra”), which if you believe in fairy tales is what Esau sold his birthright as firstborn son to Jacob (not my atheist Jewy Jacob, some other Jewy Jacob) for. What does that even mean? You’ve got me, but then again, I don’t believe in fairy tales, so maybe it’s not for me to know. Point is, peeps have been eating this combo since Jewfros were invented, because it’s tasty.

And as usual, bubbaloo, there are tricks:

  1. USE A SHITLOAD OF OIL. See below. Olive oil is your flavor carrier, and if you don’t use enough it will be dry and dry and sad and tasteless. Have a heavy hand with the evo and you’ll be happier later.
  2. Fry the hell out of the onions. They shouldn’t be clear or “soft” or “translucent,” as you sometimes see cooked onions described in recipes—they should be browned. It should take you a good 20 minutes to cook them. Cook them over super high heat and they could get bitter, but cook them too low and they will never cook. Take the Middle Way.
  3. Use enough salt. As usual, enough is: a lot. Comparatively speaking. (Compared to what hippies would use, that is.)
  4. Use enough paprika. See above (#3). See below.
  5. This is one of those recipes that is simple, but not exactly easy. For example, if you forget to add the spices to the oily onions and just sprinkle them over the top when it’s all done, they will have almost no flavor, because you need to heat them to make the flavor bloom. The directions are the way they are for a reason is what I’m trying to say, does that sound preachy?
  6. Also, it seems to me that this is usually served with some sort of pickle, and that’s a good idea. It livens things up a little bit. I usually eat it with picked pepperoncini peppers. At Kalustyans they give you pickled beets and peppers and all kinds of deliciousnesses. Pickled chipotle peppers would be nice, as would those little tiny red peppers…argh, what are they called? I have a huge box of them in my walk-in at work, thousands of miles away…they are little cherry peppers, pickled in sort of a sweet brine. I’ll think of it, it’ll come to me…………………Update, an hour later: PEPPADEW PEPPERS! They are nice, check ’em out. (Upstaters, I know Mother Earths carries them)

OK, so after the mujadara, I’m going to give you a special variation which is even better: Koshari. It’s modeled on the koshari at a certain nameless restaurant on Main Street in my town, whose version is so profoundly mediocre that I knew I had to make my own. (Most of my recipes are created out of snobbishness, yes, how did you know?)

Let’s get started, Softer Violet:

Middle eastern lentils and rice (Mujadara)
with (at least) 2 kinds of paprika, greens, and caramelized onions

Dudicals. I don’t know how much this makes, but I know that I divided my original recipe by 4…so it should make 4 times less than a huge giant trough of a bowl. If you make it, could you kindly measure and tell me what it made, in the interest of improving all our lives?

3 cups French lentils, picked over to remove stones, cooked
1 3/4 cups long grain brown rice (or brown basmati rice), cooked
1 – 1/4 cups olive oil (depending on how daring/awesome you are)
5 large onions (for serious, yo)
about 1 tablespoon salt, or as needed
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
scant 1/4 teaspoon hot paprika or cayenne
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
optional but very recommended: very scant tablespoon smoked paprika
3 or so bunches of greens, any kind (arugula would be weird, just my personal opinion. I’m also kind of down on chard these days. I think I’m over oxalic acid. Sigh.), washed and coarsely chopped or shredded

(So, when you scale recipes down and up like I’m doing here, sometimes the proportions get screwy. So taste and taste and taste and add more paprika/cayenne/paprika/salt/chipotle as needed, ok?)

  1. Deeply caramelize the onions in the olive oil. Add spices and salt for the last 3 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat and combine with lentils and rice.
  2. Steam greens and fold into lentils and rice mixture.

Koshari!

Here’s how it looks when life is slightly blurry and I am preparing it for my clients and you can’t really see any details and I used some crazy jumbo shells.

So Koshari. Apparently it’s street food in Egypt, how nice does that sound? Why can’t I live in such a land?

It’s basically lentils and rice + tomato sauce + pasta + garnish of supa-fried onions. Sometimes it has chickpeas, but I don’t know why, I like it without. I add greens because I really like greens in everything because maybe deep down I’m a secret hippie, who knows.

Here’s a road map:

3 onions, cooked in 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil until caramelized and brown and lovely

1 1/4 cups French lentils, cooked

1 1/4 c long grain brown rice, cooked

(oh hey—you know how to read a recipe when it says “blah blah, cooked” right? It means you take 1 1/4 cups [raw] French lentils and cook them. If it said “1 1/4 cups cooked French lentils,” you’d cook a random amount and take 1 1/4 cups out from that random amount and use that [and how annoying would that be?]. Hooray for commas and word placement!)

8 oz. elbow noodles

  • Cook everything separately then combine in a big bowl.

1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes (I like the fire roasted kind), broken up, or, even better, some nice homemade tomato sauce

7 cloves garlic or so, crushed (or 20 or so if you roll like that)

1 chipotle in adobo (do you know these gems? You get them in little cans in Latina markets. The brand I buy is orange and has a lady on the can and resolutely spells it “chilpotle.”)

  • Cook the tomatoes, garlic, and chipotles together for 20 minutes or so until bubbly and nice. Mix half into the koshari mixture. Garnish with other half.

2 bunches greens, washed and chopped

  • Sauté in olive oil then serve on the side of this dish for a little green color.

1 small onion, fried in a mix of half olive oil (for flava flav) and grape seed oil (for high heatiness) until super duper crispy and 100% browned (past caramelized).

  • Garnish the koshari with the onions.
  • You’re done! Unless you want to serve some

on the side….which I wouldn’t really recommend.

10 Responses to “lentils and rice (mujaddara), but, like, not the shitty health food hippie kind, and also: KOSHARI!”

  1. Me!

    lagusta! thank you so much! just by READING your recipe, i know with my gay-ass heart that this will be superior to kalustyans. I better go get some paprika (such a bad gf since kate’s blood traces back to hungary. eep.) and yo, i am SO making that koshair, too! big hug!!! xxoxooxxoxox (ps–i love that you are a food snob…is there any other way?) (pps–mcgee sends his stinky snootified love to you and jfp)

    Reply
  2. Me!

    i hate peeling shallots, too.
    my mom NEVER uses them. she prefers the brown or yellow onion.

    Reply
  3. Jordan

    I remember when you posted pics of this a few months back. I had to make it. I flipped thru the beloveds (my bloodroot books I have all of them except the first one because I heard there was fish in that one (( i might still get it and just paint a picture over those recipes)) I also dont have the Addendum to the Political Palate Series I cant find one anyplace if anyone has an extra copy or wants to make an extra 50bucks talk to me). SO I got some good ideas (you gave me some good ideas as I remember) on how to make this dish And it was one of the best things i have ever made. I took it to my friend who runs a sanctuary for rescued farm animals She has been around the world and i i i was pleased when she said it was one of the best meals she has ever had. I even used my last bottle of heirloom tomatos left over from the season. Oh but i drizzled a tiny bit of maple syrup over the top like less then 2 tablespoons and only because i ran out of olive oil and fucking hate dry Mujadara as well. This weekend i will try out this recipe if no one else has the measurement by then i will let you know. B.T.W. Do you know if those violet gums are vegan?? I LOVED them when i was little. They were my first stop when ever i would go to Tijuana.

    Reply
  4. Emily Z

    Very longtime lurkey reader, first-time responder. I made this mujadera last night and it was completely awesome. Thank you for this recipe.

    (I wish I had something funny/witty to say, but all I have this evening is appreciation.)

    Reply
  5. ecclescake

    Heya! I’m a little late to the mujadara party but I just had to say WOW. I grew up eating lentils and rice and I liked it pretty well, but your recipe made me realize oh my god I was eating the shitty health food hippie version! This one is…amazing.

    I used your seasoning proportions with my basic lentil/rice proportion of 1:1. Using one cup each of lentils and rice I would say the dish serves 4 if you have maybe a salad and some pita on the side, or 3 as a one-dish meal. So I think your recipe up there would probably serve like 10.

    Thanks for posting this. Now I have to try the koshari too — it’s probably also a million times better than my family’s version!

    Reply

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