Mediterranean Lentils, Rice, and Vegetables

dsc_0171RECIPE #404, DAY #574

FOUR STARS

ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Palestinian Rice with Lentils and Browned Onions,” “Velvety Fried Eggplant,” “Fried Tomatoes in Tomato Sauce,” and “Palestinian Salad,” from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian*

TIMING: 1 hour, after a 3 hour soak for the lentils

DIFFICULTY: This takes some serious speed and kitchen multi-tasking

TOOLS: A deep fryer or some sort, tongs, slotted spoon, a saute pan, a small skillet… a lot of pans, actually

COOK TYPE: Stovetop and fryer

HEALTH: Beans and rice are a time-honored way to get your daily fiber, protein, and nutrients, and for cheap and easy. This is just another beans and rice, this time with three different vegetable dished worked along side. Bonus: it’s vegetarian.dsc_0173

EXPERIENCE: I love to cook, love to be in the kitchen. However. There is 1 moment that I hate, and that is when I have finished a meal, it is ready to go on the table, and the kitchen is a ridiculous mess. Breakfast-for-dinner always seems to do this me. And oftentimes tacos, as well. And this would be another one of those meals that does not allow for pauses to gather oneself and tidy up your surroundings, as well as no time at the end to take a breath before ringing the dinner bell.

Then again, this meal is delicious and nourishing. It is not hard, it just takes a lot of work in a relatively short amount of time. Everyone liked it, both kids and adults. Only the “texture” people had issue with the eggplant, although they claimed to like the taste.dsc_0175

NOTES: Of course, I could have broken this recipe up into 4 recipes, but they just worked together so well I thought they shouldn’t be separated. More like a recipe for a 4-part, 1-plate meal.

This is listed in the cookbook as Palestinian in origin. It is just a m’jaddara/mujeddrah with set accompaniments.

***

  1. In a bowl, cover 1 cup green lentils by a few inches and let sit for 3 hours. Drain. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, slice 1 1/2 pound eggplant into 3/4 inch thick slices. Rub with salt and set in a strainer over a plate. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, in a salad bowl, toss together 1 peeled and diced cucumber, 1 diced tomato, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, black ground pepper, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Toss, taste, and set aside.
  4. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 thin sliced cloves garlic and sizzle for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. In a heavy soup pot, heat 1/2 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 thin-sliced onions and a pinch of salt and stir for about 10 minutes until the onions have deeply browned. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  6. To the oniony oil, dd the drained lentils, 2 cups basmati rice, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Saute for 5 minutes.
  7. Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover tightly, and cook for 25 minutes, preferably without removing the lid.
  8. Meanwhile, heat a few inches of peanut or other frying oil to 325F. Rinse your eggplant and dry completely with paper towels. Place the eggplant a few slices at a time into the oil and fry 2-3 minutes per side, until brown. Remove to a rack to drain, sprinkle with salt, and continue with the rest of the eggplant. Set aside.
  9. Cut 2 tomatoes into 4 thick slices each. Salt and pepper them on both sides.
  10. In a wide saute pan, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 pressed clove garlic and 1/2 minced jalapeno. When it sizzles, add the tomatoes in 1 layer. Fry 1 minute on each side.
  11. Add 3/4 cup tomato juice (not sauce) and 1 tablespoon parsley. When it boils, turn it off and set aside.
  12. Taste the rice for doneness and salt and pepper and top with the onions.
  13. Move eggplant to a platter and drizzle with the garlic in its oil.

***

Serve on the table: the rice and lentils, the tomatoes, the salad, and the eggplant. A sparkling apple juice or fruit nectar would be nice. Or a pomegranate spritzer.

LEFTOVER IDEAS: This is really nice thrown into 1 bowl in the fridge and then eaten cool the next day, like a salad. I just chopped up the veggies with the side of my spoon.

*Recipe changed from the original.

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