Key Lime & Coconut

My adventures in the world of food & wine

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Lentils & Rice with Caramelized Onions (WHB #58)

As a law student who puts in a lot of study time, let me tell you that the last thing I want to do on a beautiful sunny Saturday is study some more. Yet that's exactly what I found myself doing today - the price I had to pay for letting myself get behind last week. When dinnertime rolled around, I was definitely not in the mood to go grocery shopping, so I skimmed a few cookbooks for a recipe that I could make with ingredients I had in the apartment.

I settled on Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions, a phenomenal recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything cookbook. This dish is really delicious, and it's healthy - even perfect for South Beach phase 2 or 3. It was so easy, and although it took about an hour, a lot of that was downtime, so I was able to keep doing work/reading as I cooked. I was feeling lazy and contemplating leaving out the caramelized onions, but I stuck with the recipe and now I'd definitely encourage you to do the same: those onions make the dish something special.

I've always been a big fan of lentils. They've been a part of the human diet for thousands of years and in fact were one of the very first domesticated crops in history. Lentils have been so crucial in our diet for good reason - they have 25% protein, more than any other vegetable beside soybeans. Not only that, but they also have tons of fiber. And they're delicious!

There are many different kinds of lentils. The most popular among chefs is the French green lentil (Puy lentil) because they stay firm after cooking and have a rich flavor. The most common kind of lentil, and the kind I used in preparing this dish, is the Indian brown lentil, which tends to get mushy if you cook it too long, so be careful!

This dish is a really great way to prepare and serve lentils. As you can see from the picture, I sprinkled some Hawaiian black lava salt on top, which has a really awesome flavor. You can experiment with different kinds of salts and spices with this dish, if you like, because the lentils and rice are truly versatile.

One more fun fact about lentils: the optical lens is named after the lentil, whose shape it resembles.

Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions
(serves 4)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped, plus another onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups lentils washed and picked over
  • About 6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup long- or short-grained rice
Place 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, deep saucepan and turn the heat to medium. A minute later, add the chopped onion and cook until it begins to become tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook 3 minutes more. Add the lentils, stir, and add about 4 cups liquid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Add enough of the remaining stock or water so that the lentils are covered by about an inch of liquid. Stir in the rice. Cover and turn the heat to low. Meanwhile, place the remaining oil in a medium skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook the onion slices, stirring frequently, until they are dark brown but not burned, about 15 minutes. Scoop out the onions and let them drain on paper towels while you finish cooking the lentils and rice. Check the rice and lentils after 20 minutes. When both are tender and the liquid is absorbed, the dish is ready. If the lentils and rice are not tender, add more liquid, cover, and cook for a few more minutes. If, however, the rice and lentils are soft and there is much liquid remaining, raise the heat a bit and cook, uncovered, stirring, until it evaporates. Serve the rice and lentils, garnished with the caramelized onions (and fresh parsley if you like).

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging #58, which is hosted this week by Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey?. Make sure to check it out when she posts her round-up of this week's yummy recipes!


Blogger Meeta said...

WOW! that does look really appetizing. A lovely recipe.

Thanks for entering it to the WHB

1:41 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

I love lentils! This looks great, and not fussy to make...even with the caramelized onions...

4:14 AM  
Blogger Riana said...

Yum, I think that I will make this tonight, I just pulled out a box of the French Puy ones today. Thanks for the idea!!

7:50 AM  
Blogger Brilynn said...

Tasty and healthy! Good combo.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Kalyn said...

Wonderful dish, and as you said, it's perfect for my diet. There used to be a fantastic middle eastern restaurant in SLC that served this (it was called Mujadara on the menu, pronounced moo jah drah). I love that Mark Bittman book. Haven't made anything bad from it yet.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Definitely a keeper!!! Thanks so much for sharing.

7:51 AM  
Blogger sher said...

Ok now Becky! You're in Cambridge and a law student, so I'm thinking Harvard. I was a law student and I never cooked wonderful meals during that period. (OK, occasionally!) I'm very impressed to say the least! :):) It looks fabulous!

2:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I highly recommend trying the extra-virgin olive oil from
Holy Food Imports.
It is imported to the US from Israel, and it is produced using cold presses,
as was the method over 3,000 years ago; so it has a really unique taste to it.

4:19 PM  
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