March 8, 2009

Pantry Dinners: Mjederah Lentils

I'm very demanding of a recipe. First, if it's going to be a staple, it's got to be quick and easy. I'll spend hours on a special dinner for my husband or a friend's birthday, but for the most part I'm not a gourmet chef. Next, it should be healthy. If it's also economical, that's a big plus. Naturally, it's got to be delicious because I'm not going to eat gruel just to save a few pennies. And finally, bonus points if it's a one-pot meal.

But not even all of those fine qualifications will give a recipe the designation of a PANTRY DINNER. That title goes only to those few and far between concoctions that satisfy all of the above-mentioned demands, along with being made from items normally found in your pantry. This particular recipe, which I received from my near-sister-in-law (my brother's girlfriend) is stellar on all counts. It's easy, healthy, delicious, incredibly economical, and contains just four ingredients which you can keep in your pantry once you buy the only one you may not already have (bulgar wheat). I hope you like it as much as we do....


1 cup lentils
1 cup coarse bulgar wheat
3 tsp salt
2 large yellow onions peeled and sliced thin

Serves 4

First par-cook the lentils: Put the lentils in a pot with water, place on stove and bring to a boil. Add 1 tsp salt and simmer uncovered for 12 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, warm a frying pan, add ½ cup of olive oil. Warm the oil (not too hot) and add the onions. Cook stirring infrequently until the onions are brown and even crispy.

After 12 min, drain the water from the lentils, rinse the lentils and the pot. Return lentils to the pot along with the bulgar wheat and remaining 2 tsp salt. Add just enough water so that the water is at the same level as the lentils and bulgar in the pot. Too much water will lead to a bland mushy mess, as will attempting with fine grain bulgar wheat!

Place back on stove, bring to a boil again and immediately turn heat down, cover and simmer for 20 minutes (just like cooking rice), until all water is absorbed and the bulgar and lentils are tender.

Pour half the oil, or more, from the onion pan into the cooked mjederah and mix. Taste for salt (will most likely need more). Arrange the carmelized onions on top and serve.

Delicious accompanied by a lemony salad or plain yogurt.


This recipe makes a huge pot that will feed several people or provide leftovers for several days. My husband eats it plain without the carmelized onions, but it's too bland for me that way. You may have to buy the bulgar wheat at a health food store in bulk.

What's your favorite pantry dinner?


Anonymous said...

Are you vegetarians? I don't recall that you are. Anyway, I'd add some sausage bits to this, or maybe leftover chicken pieces. Is that too much? My favorite dish is the one I invented that involves cabbage and sausage. It's a one-dish, but mostly done in the frying pan. My favorite flavoring in it is a half-n-half mix of sherry and soy sauce, something I picked up from the first Moosewood Cookbook. Whatever's on hand is what goes in: garlic, onion, carrots, green peppers, more exotic bottled sauces, but always the cabbage and always the sausage (the sausage, usually Italian mildly hot, is cooked first in water to get rid of some of the fat, and the cooled to be ready to cut up in small pieces and throw in at the end).

Angela said...

We're not really vegetarians but don't eat red meat, and we eat a LOT of vegetarian meals. As you probably know, there are a lot more veggies in California- at least half our friends- and a lot more who don't eat red meat. For me, that was entirely by accident and happened cold turkey as soon as I read the book "Fast Food Nation" in 2001. It's not a sacrifice at all, I've never even been tempted to eat it again.

As far as this recipe, I was very skeptical- where's the flavor? - and of course you could add the sausage- but it's actually very subtle and delicious, and the crispy onions are the key.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha. When I read, "a lot more veggies in California," I thought you meant VEGETABLES, and I was nodding half-puzzled, Well, hmmmm, they DO have a lot of farms..."

Anonymous said...

Ha! There are a lot of vegetarians AND veggies in California...