ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Mjeddrah,” from Diet for a Small Planet, by France Moore Lappe*
TIMING: You want to plan on 1 1/2-2 hours, or 6 on low in your crockpot
TOOLS: A heavy soup pot or crockpot/slow cooker and a Mason jar with a lid
COOK TYPE: Stove top or crockpot
HEALTH: This is a super healthy meal. It’s vegetarian. It’s chock-full of whole grains and perfect protein matches. It even has fresh veggies and a healthy dressing. You can’t go wrong here.
EXPERIENCE: I knew that the school potluck was coming, but what I didn’t realize was that I was slotted to bring an entree. Now, I always avoid the entree slot for a couple reasons. The first and foremost is that it costs the most to bring the protein. The second is that the kids at the school would prefer a boxed pizza or catered chicken nuggets, neither of which I am willing to do. So I calmly informed my daughter that nerdy and eye-rolling as it was, I was going to bring some sort of legume-grain combo.
Good thing I did, too. I was practically tackled by the Indian vegetarians when I sauntered in with my pretty blue pottery bowl brimming with lentils and–whoops, forgot I was out of rice–freekeh. I got raves on the dressing and more than one request for the recipe. If only they knew how simple it was!
This is the kind of meal that is satisfying in so many ways, and most of all to the cook. It takes little to no effort, only a few basic ingredients and the remnants of your crisper, and yet it tastes so good while also being absolutely nourishing.
NOTES: The photo here is before it is topped with the dressed salad. You’ll just have to imagine. I couldn’t take too many photos of my food at the potluck or my daughter might have died of embarrassment. Also note that in the photos I used a combination of lentils and some freekeh, which is just what I had left in the pantry. That works, but so does the original green lentils and brown rice.
Also, the second photo is of what I managed with the leftovers the next day. I made a cheese sauce by making a roux with 4 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons flour, then whisked in 2 cups milk, some dijon, salt, pepper, and paprika, and 2/3 block of sharp cheddar. I stirred that in to the leftover mjeddrah and 3/4 cup peas. I baked it for like 45 minutes and then topped with the last 1/3 block cheddar and baked another 10 minutes. Not quite as healthy any more, but still pretty healthy and it was super homey and well-liked.
You can basically throw everything for the porridge part in to the crockpot, as well, and let it go for 2 hours on high or 6 on low. Just saute the onions first. Cooking time for lentils and rice always varies with the age and type of the legumes and rice. And your salad does not have to be exactly the way I listed it, you just want a nice diced salad of raw veggies.
- In a large soup pot, combine 1 1/2 cups rinsed and sorted green (or brown) lentils and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and saute 1 large, diced onion until translucent. Add another tablespoon of oil and 3/4 cup brown rice and saute until rice begins to get a toasted color. Set aside.
- Dump the rice and onions into the lentils with 1 teaspoon salt. Cover again and simmer for 1 hour, adding water if necessary.
- Meanwhile, make a salad by dicing and composing 1/2 small head of crisp lettuce, a couple handfuls of spinach, 2 seeded tomatoes, 4 scallions, 1 cucumber, 6-8 radishes, and 1 bell pepper.
- In a Mason jar, combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, the juice of 1-2 lemons, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder, 1 clove pressed garlic, 1/2 teaspoon honey, and a hefty pinch of salt. Close the jar tight and shake vigorously. Set aside.
- When lentils and rice are soft and broth has been absorbed, taste for salt and remove from heat. Pour dressing on the veggies and toss. Serve plates of mjeddrah topped with the salad and a generous sprinkling of radish or alfalfa sprouts.
Serve with nothing else, unless you want to include some Turkish or mint tea.
*Recipe changed from the original.