Quinoa Mjaddarah (recipe included)

Mjaddarah is a very popular dish in the Middle East. It’s incredibly easy to make, inexpensive, and the perfect vegetarian/vegan option for folks. My mama made it often because it took very little effort to make and an hour in the kitchen generated enough food to feed 20 people for a week. That fact was a huge selling point for my mama. For me? Not so much. I didn’t enjoy eating the same thing five times a week, but boy do I appreciate leftovers now!

Mjaddarah is usually made with rice and lentils, but I don’t eat white rice much these days and I’m not a fan of brown rice. That being said, I have been without my (now) beloved Mjaddarah for quite awhile. It has become one of my favorite comfort foods over the years. Where once I turned my nose to this dish, demanding instead something terrible for me like a cheeseburger or boxed mac and cheese, now I crave Mjaddarah often.

quinoa mjaddarah

My dad came up with the genius idea of switching out the rice for quinoa. While I love quinoa, I was initially skeptical of the healthier substitution. I gotta say, the starchy yumminess of the  rice in this dish is what makes me feel so warm and cuddly when I indulge. I wasn’t sure quinoa would have the same effect. Rest assured, my dad’s recipe is just as comforting as my mama’s. And this one is better for you!

Ingredients
8 oz. (1/2 bag) brown lentils
1 1/3 cups dry quinoa
2 cups of water (plus more for cooking)
2 tablespoons of finely minced onion
1 tablespoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
A pinch of curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
1. Using a shallow pan or bowl, rinse out lentils to clean any excess dirt or unwanted debris.

2. Put quinoa in a very fine sieve and fill up a large bowl with mildly hot water and place the sieve inside the bowl. Change the water in the bowl every five minutes. Do this two or three times over a 15-minute period to get the quinoa cleaned. It is, more importantly, used as a method to par-cook the quinoa before mixing with the lentils.

3. Meanwhile, pour two cups of water into a medium pot and add the lentils. Cook on high heat until it starts to boil. Once boiling, switch to medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Take the sieve with the quinoa out of water and let it drain before adding to the lentils. At this stage, add all other ingredients. Also, add either water (or reduced-sodium chicken broth for added flavor) until it just covers the lentil/quinoa mixture and turn up the heat until it boils.

5.Once boiled, turn to low-medium heat. Simmer for 12-15 minutes. Check at 10 minutes to see if water has absorbed. Turn off heat once absorbed and leave lid on until ready to eat. Serve with fried onion and cucumber-tomato salad.

You can find the traditional recipe for Mjaddarah, as well as recipes for the fried onions and cucumber-tomato salad,  here.

Comment below and let me know what you think of this healthier version! If you make the recipe, feel free to tag me on Instagram (@yallasweets) and share your food pics and thoughts!

 

Simple, Savory and Satisfying…

That is exactly what Imjudarah is to me. I am so glad I got over thinking this meal was bland and boring. It is such an easy, inexpensive way to feed your family and friends. It’s vegetarian/vegan friendly and did I mention it was easy to make?

This is the first meal I’ve managed to make without too much help from my dad and that makes me just feel super. I adjusted the recipe a bit to make more so we’d have leftovers. I used 1 1/2 cups of lentils and 3 cups of rice.  I boiled the lentils in just enough water to cover the lentils. It cooked over high heat for about 10-15 minutes and then I added 3 cups of pre-soaked rice, 6 cups of water, salt, pepper and about a tbs. of ground cumin.  I boiled it for about 5 minutes and then reduced the heat and covered it until the rice was cooked and the water had evaporated – figure 15 minutes or so.

My dad cooked up some onions while I made the tomato-cucumber salad. I ended up added both fresh and dry mint and I chose to use two large hot house tomatoes and one huge cucumber.  I substituted the traditional onion you are supposed to use for the salad with a small clove of finely chopped garlic.

After a long day, this was the perfect meal to make. I can understand now why my family cooked it so much. I just wish I’d appreciated it more. I also wish I had appreciated how much time and attention my mom and my aunts put into buying the freshest, most affordable ingredients to feed us. I honestly had no idea how much work went into making a meal when you do it with quality in mind. I have a whole new respect for the art of cooking. I was with my family early today and it my heart was so full being able to talk to several of my aunts and cousins about this project. They gave me helpful hints about the different dishes I want to make. They shared their suggestions for the best places to buy lamb or cucumbers. It reminded me that cooking doesn’t have to be a singular activity. The whole point of food really should be community. I’ve already seen the potential impact this project can have on the people I love and I can’t wait to see how that potential grows as the dishes I cook grow more complex in execution.

Drop me a line on Twitter or leave a comment and let me know about the dish you love to make to bring your loved ones together!

Look! Lentils!

Imjudarah - Mmmmmm...

The Start of Something Goooooood

A Salad of Champions

Simple. Savory. Satisfying.

Recipe of the week: Imjudarah

There were a handful of dishes that my mom made that I considered her default meal for a given week. If she just didn’t feel like cooking, she would make one of maybe five meals at the beginning of the week and we’d be stuck eating it for days. To be considered a meal of default status, it has to be fairly easy to make and easy to make in massively large proportions. We used to have these huge tunjaras (pots) that she would fill to the brim with all sorts of stuff I bitched about eating.

Imjudarah was one of those dishes. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like the taste of  Imjudarah. I was kind of neutral about it, really. It was more that I found it a. less exciting than say fried chicken or mac and cheese and b. I hated the salad she used to make that accompanied the dish.  Traditionally, Imjudarah is eaten with either laban ( which is essentially homemade plain yogurt – just more tart in my opinion) and/or a tomato-cucumber salad. For some reason, I hated any salad that used olive oil and lemon; probably because it meant there were raw onions included and we all know how I feel about raw onions.  I was actually just having dinner with a cousin of mine tonight and she  asked what I was making this week. When I told her, said she just doesn’t get why you would put cold salad on top of hot rice. Up until very recently, I totally agreed.

Either my taste buds have changed or I’m willing to be more open minded about the food I eat because I love Imjudarah now. And once I altered the tomato-cucumber salad to include fresh garlic vs. onion, I even love it with the salad.

I’ve actually made this dish before. My dad and I had a trial run a few months back where he tried teaching me how to cook. I spent a really long time typing out his recipe for everything while we cooked and I can’t find that damn Word document anywhere. I’m going to make it this time with my mom’s recipe – obviously. I’m actually really excited about making it this week because my confidence in cooking rice has grown a great deal since I started this blog. Making rice was such an elusive thing to me. I don’t know why I was so apprehensive.

Imjudarah

1 cup of lentils “washed”

2 cups rice “soaked for 30 minutes”

Salt, pepper and cumin

Cook over medium heat one cup of lentils in four cups of water for about twenty minutes.  Add rice and spices and continue to cook over medium heat for about 15 additional minutes. Lower heat and cook until all the water is absorbed.

Garnishes:

Fried Onion

1 onion

4 tbs. olive oil

Cut and slice onion and fry in the oil until a dark brown – almost burnt. Serve on top of the rice.

Salad

Tomatoes

Cucumbers

Onion ( I love how my aunt put “optional’ next to this. I have no idea if my mom really had that written in her recipe)

Salt

Pepper

Lemon

Oil

Fresh mint – finely chopped ( you can probably use dried mint, but it won’t have the same pow to it)

All of this is to taste and portion depends on how much of the rice you choose to make. Chop up the veggies into small,  uniform bites and add salt, pepper, lemon and oil to taste. The mint is optional, but really does make a difference. Serve over rice.

: )