Mujaddara: Lebanese Lentils and Rice with Garlic-Lemon Sauce



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. 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.


Scallops with Minted Pea Sauce Appetizer



Even though dry peas and lentils are both starchy and filling, I find that I treat them in very different ways. I generally look at lentils as an alternative to meat, using them as the main component of a recipe. Dry peas, on the other hand, tend to take a backseat and offer more of a supporting role to a cast of other ingredients. For example, in my pea & herb stuffed flatbreads you probably wouldn’t consider peas to be the main flavor. (You actually might not even realize they’re in there!)
In this appetizer, I wanted the dry peas to be a more obvious component of the dish. I had noticed a feature on vegetable based sauces in Fine Cooking and thought that a pea sauce might be fun with some seared sea scallops. (I know. Again. I promise this will be the last FC inspired post for a while! But I can’t help it that their magazine is so inspirational!)
This sauce reminded me a lot of pea soup, but it was much creamier than any pea soup I’ve ever had. I really liked the burst of freshness that the mint and ginger provided – it really helped prevent the sauce from having that heavy, muddy taste that dry peas can so often have.
I tried to make an entree out of this recipe, but it just wasn’t filling enough to be satisfying. I would make a great appetizer though!

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Pea & Herb Stuffed Indian Flatbread (Naan)



Before you run away in fear from a post about bread, let me reassure you: this recipe couldn’t be simpler.

It doesn’t involve yeast.
You don’t need to knead it.
If you have a grill, you don’t even need to turn on your oven.

On top of all that, it’s mouth-wateringly delicious. Beneath a crisp exterior that has been left slightly charred from the grill flames, the bread is soft and pillowy, perfect for wrapping around skewers of grilled meat and vegetables.

At fist glance, it looks like your ordinary flatbread – generic pita or naan. But tucked inside is an amazing paste of creamy peas, fragrant herbs and spices, and a touch of briny feta cheese.


One bite and you’ll be hooked. I’m already planning to make them again, and my head is reeling from the possible filling variations – everything from ground almond and raisins to a traditional Italian pesto. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Still hesitant? What if I told you that, start to finish, this revelation in bread can be made in 90 minutes?
Ok. Fine. If you really don’t want to believe me that this bread is super easy to make – or if you just can’t wait until you have 90 minutes to spare – you can cheat. Make the filling as directed below and stuff it inside a store-bought pita. Spritz with water and grill or broil for 1 to 2 minutes on each side to warm it through.


Southwest Lentil Patties with Creamy Lime Dressing



After I posted about BBQ Baked Lentils, a few people noted that they had never used lentils except for in salads and soups. To be honest those — and Indian dishes — are where my mind immediately goes when I think about lentils too. But you probably won’t see much in that respect as I continue explore the world of lentils over the next two weeks. First, because two weeks worth of soup, salad, and Indian food would be boring — both to read and to eat. Second, because I wanted to look at this as an opportunity to challenge myself. To think outside the box and come up with some really fun and creative recipes. Rest assured, if the recipes aren t delicious you won’t see them here.

Since lentils are so often used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, I decided to mix things up and try using them in a southwest style dish. I also wanted to play with texture a little, so these southwest lentil cakes were born! I really loved the way these turned out — they actually reminded me a little of falafel. I was nervous that they might be dense and dry, but I shouldn’t have worried. The slightly crispy outside gave way to a light and fluffy center that was full of moisture. The creamy lime dressing played up the Southwest flavor of these patties ad balanced out some of the heat from the jalapenos that I added to them.


The patties and dressing were great on their own – I also think they would make a fantastic wrap-style sandwich — but to make them into a healthy dinner I built a salad around them. Some chopped romaine hearts tossed with fresh corn, diced tomatoes, creamy avocado, and a little extra cilantro topped with the lentil cakes and dressing made a wonderfully light yet filling dinner.

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Smokey BBQ Baked Lentils, Cedar Plank Salmon



What is it about holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July that necessitate barbecues? Sure Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, but our grill has already been going strong for weeks. Still, I felt the need to prepare some sort of traditional backyard fare. Shawn suggested burgers, but that seemed like a waste of a good day off. We can have burgers whenever. I wanted something a little more creative. Something that actually required some thought. I settled on salmon grilled on a cedar plank and BBQ baked lentils.

Yes, that’s right: lentils. I don’t really care for baked beans. They’re too starchy or too soft something. My mom makes what everyone considers pretty awesome baked beans – they’re requested at every family get-together – but I never ate them. When I was little, there was one kind of baked bean that I would eat. They came from a can. They were BBQ. And they contained a melange of various beans rather than simply relying on navy beans. I still remember the day when we stopped being able to find them in the grocery store. It was heartbreaking. This past Easter, we sat down to dinner and I saw that my mom had made her beans. They looked amazing. Plump, succulent beans swimming in a lightly spiced sauce, all capped off by a perfectly crisp layer of meaty bacon. It was the bacon that did me in. Those beans have been in the back on my mind ever since.

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