Saturday, April 05, 2008
The Perfect Mejedderah
I've finally found the secret to a great mejedderah (a traditional Middle Eastern rice and beans dish), very similar to the one my grandma makes.
My grandma used to make this very often, and we'd be thrilled when we smelled it from outside their home. Her version had white rice, whereas mine has brown long grain rice, but other than that, it's very much like hers.
Which is wonderful; because I don't know about you, gentle reader, but my memories from home and childhood are very much memories of scent and taste. Shabbat lunches at my grandma's were a delight; she is a wonderful cook, and though she hosts less than she used to, she still has a touch for everything edible and an amazing combination of creativity and order.
The other place I enjoy eating mejedderah is in a small restaurant in a gas station near my parents' home. Theirs is very brown and delicious, but not like my grandma's. I suspect their spice palette is different.
Anyway: I've been making mejedderah ever since I started living on my own, and something wasn't quite right. Ever. And I just figured out what it was.
My onions weren't caramelized enough.
I'm so glad I realized this, because now I'm eating a nice bowl of mejedderah as I work, and thinking of grandma. The technique for browning them properly is well-explained by my dear pal Barbara, right here, and I strongly recommend you make plenty, because they are so useful for quite a variety of foods. I combined them today in my split-personality-spring-soup, made with various sweet roots and spring fresh greens.
2 large yellow onions
lots of olive oil
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 cup brown lentils
Slice onions thinly and brown them in a heavy onion skillet, according to Barbara's instructions.
Place about half the browned onion in a pot with the rice and the lentils. Over a high heat, swish around rice, lentils and onions, until everything is glossy and shiny and happy.
Then, add 3.5 cups of hot water. Wait for a boil, then lower the heat to a medium flame, add salt and pepper to taste, and cover the pot.
When all rice and lentils are ready, mix them with the remaining caramelized onions.