We always tend to draw analogies with what we are familiar with. Since Indian food is what I grew up eating the most, I find myself drawing many analogies to it. Like in this case. Mujadara is Middle Eastern comfort food. It has basic ingredients, is simple to make and to me it is very similar to the Indian khichdi. It has rice and brown lentils cooked with some aromatic spices and mixed with a generous helping of caramelized onions. Tatziki is a creamy yogurt and cucumber sauce that to me is very similar to the Indian raita. It is made with cucumber, mint and garlic all mixed in thick Greek yogurt and served cold. It is a great side for the mujadara or as a dip for pita bread or a topping on some Middle eastern spied burgers. Both are extremely popular in the Middle East so much so that the origins of each is a topic, hotly debated!
Mujadara and Tatziki, together make one of my most favorite meals, especially on hot summer days. The coolness of the cucumber and yogurt is a perfect balance to the wholesome rice and lentil mixture. As the temperature rises I find myself craving for this, especially at lunch. Neomonde deli and bakery which is one of my favorite lunch places in the Triangle area does a great job at satisfying these cravings. In their version of Tatziki dried mint is used. If you have any on hand, feel free to use that for a more authentic taste. I didn't have any so I used fresh mint instead. The result was just as good.
This meal is satisfying, delicious and did you notice? Meatless! Going meatless even once a week can do a huge amount of good for us and our planet. Many restaurants, chefs and food bloggers have been participating in this worldwide movement by going meatless on Monday. I have decided to follow suit and I will be sending this as my first entry for Meatless Mondays.
1 cup brown or white rice (preferably long grained)
1 cup brown lentils
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion sliced
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
- In a stock pot, cover the lentils with water. Add half of the cinnamon stick and cook till tender. Be careful as to not overcook these. Once the lentils are cooked, add salt, paprika and cumin powder and mix well.
- While the lentils are cooking, in a separate wide bottomed pan, heat the olive oil and spread the onions evenly. Let them sit for a couple of minutes without stirring so as to get the bottom layer brown. Then stir to mix the top layer with the bottom and sprinkle with a teaspoon of the sugar. Stir till all the onions are evenly brown. Remove and set aside on a paper towel.
- In the same pan, cook the rice with 2 cups of water or vegetable stock and the remaining half of the cinnamon stick.
- Mix the rice, lentils and three fourth of the caramelized onions together.
- Serve topped with the rest of the caramelized onions.
1 cup greek yogurt
1 medium sized cucumber
1 small garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
- Peel the cumber, slit lengthwise and remove all the seeds. Chop evenly.
- Grate the garlic into the yogurt, add in salt and mint. Mix in the cumber and serve chilled.