Almost every region has its version of seasoned rice and beans, and the Middle East is no exception. For me, the highlight of mujaddara is the deeply caramelized onions that are simply irresistible. The dish also uses lentils, which largely retain their shape and give the dish its name: “mujaddara” means “pockmarked” or “pimpled” in Arabic. In this version, we cook the cauliflower rice and lentils separately to maximize texture.
Tzatziki, meanwhile, is a similar preparation to the Indian raita, but is usually thicker and creamier in consistency because it is made with Greek yogurt. I find the pairing of these dishes particularly alluring as a complete meal.
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil, divided
1¼ cups/200g thinly sliced onion
12 oz/340g cauliflower rice
1½ cups/360ml water
⅓ cup/60g green or brown lentils
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tsp roasted ground cumin (see Cooking Notes)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 medium cucumber (7 oz/200g), grated
½ tsp fine sea salt, plus more for salting cucumber
1 cup/220g whole-milk plain Greek yogurt
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill or mint
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp cracked black pepper
Step 1. In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until deep golden brown and caramelized, 7–10 minutes. Set aside.
Step 2. In the same pan, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil over medium heat. Add the cauliflower rice and sauté until dry, 10–15 minutes.
Step 3. As the cauliflower rice cooks, bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the lentils, garlic, cumin, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer, until the lentils are cooked and the water has evaporated, 15–20 minutes.
Step 4. Meanwhile, make the tzatziki. Sprinkle the cucumber lightly with salt and let sit for 5 minutes. Squeeze out the moisture using a thin towel. Mix the cucumber and all the remaining ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Step 5. Add the cooked lentil mixture to the cauliflower rice in the pan, along with half the caramelized onions and half the parsley. Garnish the mujaddara with the remaining caramelized onions and parsley and serve with tzatziki.
You can use regular ground cumin for this recipe, but believe me when I say that roasted cumin is a game-changer! Dry-roast cumin seeds on medium-low heat for a few minutes, then blitz in a spice grinder. Don’t have a spice grinder? A tester gave me a simple shortcut—just dry roast your ground cumin itself before using!
Make the tzatziki with your preferred vegan yogurt in place of the whole-milk yogurt.
Reprinted with permission from THE VEGETARIAN RESET by Vasudha Viswanath, The Collective Book Studio, January 2023. Photo credit Alexandra Shytsman
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