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Don’t let the lackluster appearance of mujaddara fool you — this Lebanese dish is loaded with delicious, aromatic spices that will send you on a mental vacation. One bite will remind you how amazing some of the simplest street-foods can be.

Mujaddara was on my list of things that I wanted to make even before the USA Lentil & Dry Pea people contacted me about creating some recipes. In fact, it’s been on my list ever since the first time I tasted it a few weeks ago. You see, the past few months at work have been a little crazy and I’ve had to put in some long days — working through dinner on several occasions. Luckily, Shawn is awesome and will often save me of having to order pizza or chinese (not that I don’t love those things, but I get sick of them) by bringing me some dinner from the co-ops small, rotating selection of prepared foods. The selection consists mostly of sandwiches, most of which are out of the question since they have mayo on them (ew). So he’ll grab whatever the best looking thing that I’d actually eat is. As you’ve probably guessed by now, one night I was presented with a pita filled with lentils and rice, and a small container of lemon-garlic sauce. I looked at it and wanted to cry. How could this starchy bunch of brown carbs possible taste good? But I was hungry, so I hesitantly took a nibble. And I was blown away.

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Despite being so starchy, the sandwich was surprisingly light. It was seasoned with cinnamon and coriander — spices that I don’t often experience in savory foods. And the lemon-garlic sauce? It was like a magic potion that brightened the flavor of the whole dish, adding a touch of tartness and a pungent wallop from the garlic.

I devoured that sandwich and knew that I wanted to share the experience with Shawn. So it went on my list. And there it sat for a few weeks, until the Lentil Association gave me the perfect excuse to make it. I’m not sure why I waited so long. And I’m glad I made extra – I’m already looking forward to the leftovers. (ps – I’ve put this recipe in the Shawn’s Favorites category. He really loved it too!)

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Mujaddara with Garlic-Lemon Sauce
Mujaddara is a popular dish throughout the Middle East, where it is enjoyed both hot and chilled, on its own or as a side dish. There are many variations, using different types of lentils and resulting in different textures. This version, served as a sandwich, uses small brown lentils which contribute a sticky consistency and a slightly nutty flavor. The garlic and lemon sauce can be spooned into the sandwich, or you can use it as a dipping sauce. Either way, you’ll be begging for more!
  • 1 Tbs + 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup small brown lentils
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 generous pinch salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Pita bread for serving

Heat 1 Tbs oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become very soft and begin to turn brown — about 10 minutes. Add the lentils, rice, and water. Cover and cook 20 minutes. Add the cumin, cinnamon, and cardamom. Stir, and cook uncovered for another 20 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed and the rice and lentils are both fully cooked. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Season to taste with pepper.

Meanwhile, make the garlic-lemon sauce. Sprinkle the salt over the garlic and use the side of a large knife to mash the two together to form a thick paste. Add this paste to a small dish, along with the lemon juice. Stir together to combine. Whisk in the remaining olive oil.

To serve, spoon the lentil mixture onto a pita. Fold the bread in half over the lentils, using your fingers to press the filling into a compact form (it will be sticky enough to hold together if you apply a little pressure — this will help prevent it from falling out of the pita as you eat it). Spoon the sauce over the lentils or serve on the side for dipping.

Serves 4.
Approx. 120 calories, 6 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 3 grams protein. (calculated without pita, as that will vary by brand)

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Through June 15, I will be blogging healthy and unique recipes featuring lentils and dried peas under a sponsorship agreement through the USALentil and Dy Pea Council. I will then be choosing my favorite recipe to be in a contest that will be held at RecipeRivalry.com. Although these posts are sponsored, opinions in them are my own and all recipes are original unless otherwise noted.