Last year I completely disappeared from this space during Lent, but I'm trying to post at least once a week, so this year I've decided to create a Lenten series of fast food Friday posts. I'll be combining my love of two things, Lent and lentils (Well, make that three things, if you include puns.). Lent is my favorite time of year (OK, Lent and Pascha, but you can't have one without the other, so in my mind, it's one time of year.) I so value the increased opportunities for corporate prayer, and I treasure the increased sense of community with my brothers and sisters in the parish. I love the rhythm that the near-daily church services gives to my weeks. Even though it makes me really busy, the time seems to feel really peaceful and ordered rather than hectic.
And lentils are one of my favorite foods. I love all kinds of lentils, and I love them prepared many different ways. I don't believe I ever even had lentils until I went away to college, but I was instantly smitten and have only come to love them more and more in the years since. Thankfully, James is a lentil fan, too, because we eat them at least once a week during Lent. I thought it would be fun to share some of my go-to lentil recipes.
Today I'm sharing my own personal m'jaddarah recipe. If you've spent any time in an Antiochian parish, you're probably familiar with this dish. M'jaddarah is one of those very simple and very delicious foods that each cook makes in her own way. I think we first had it at our first Lenten pitch-in (as we call potlucks here in central Indiana). James loved it so much, that he begged the woman who brought it to make it again and again, so I knew I had to learn to make it. My version uses brown rice, which is not typical, but that's all I ever buy. And I actually find it easier to use brown rice, since you can add the rice and lentils at the same time.
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup brown rice
6 cups water
salt & pepper
Chop the onions (I think the more onions the better, but if I'm low on onions I'll use two), and heat the oil (a cast iron skillet is perfect for this) Add the onions to the oil, and cook slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally until they're a nice deep golden brown color. One you've got the onions going, drain and rinse the lentils. Put them a in pot with the water and rice, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer. Periodically check on the onions and the rice and lentils and give both a stir. After the lentils and rice have been cooking about 20 minutes, stir in some of the onions and oil (up to half, I do a couple of big spoonfuls) Total cooking time on lentils and rice is about 40 minutes, and about an hour for the onions. This can vary and you may need to cook it longer and/or add more water to the lentils and rice if it's sticking. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the m'jaddarah topped with the remaining onions. Additional toppings may include green salad, cucumber, green onions and more olive oil. It's often served at room temperature, but it's also tasty warm. I like it topped with salad which I give a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Obviously, this dish contains oil.