This magical Lebanese (/Syrian/Israeli/Egyptian) dish of lentils, rice, and caramelized onions has been my salvation on many a cold night upon returning home to a bare refrigerator. The recipe comes from a friend’s ex-girlfriend’s mother, a woman whom I have never met but who deserves some sort of honorary plaque in my kitchen for the number of times she has come between me and overpriced takeout sushi.
The list of ingredients will look suspiciously virtuous. Rice, lentils, and onions. Olive oil and salt. And, if you’re feeling particularly decadent, plain yogurt. Traditionally, not the stuff of mouth-watering cuisine. But through some mysterious alchemical process, which I assume has something to do with the 1/3 cup of olive oil, the lovingly caramelized onions, and the top-secret rice cooking technique (read on!), these ingredients resolve into a delicious and soul-fortifying meal.
Green or brown lentils – 1 cup
Rice – long-grain, basmati, or whatever else is in the cupboard – 1 cup
Onions – two or three large, cut in half and thinly sliced
Olive oil – lots; start with 1/3 cup
Salt (essential); pepper if you like
1. Rinse the lentils and then cook them in 4 cups of water for about 25 minutes. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the rice: heat two tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt in a saucepan. Add rice and “saute” until mildly translucent (for a minute or so). Add 1 1/4 cups boiling water. Reduce flame to very low and cook covered for about 25 minutes.
3. Also meanwhile: fry the onions in the rest of the oil in a large frying pan, stirring often, until they turn brown and start to get crispy.
4. Add the drained lentils and rice to the pan with the onions, and fry up the whole mess until the lentils and rice start to brown a bit. Serve with a generous dollop of plain yogurt.