But, as my Inner Brat constantly reminds me, it's JANUARY. Getting Inner Brat to agree to expend any mental or physical energy before the Spring Equinox is a lot like dragging a screaming toddler through a grocery store. (That's not even really hyperbole. It really is that exhausting.)
How to break the deadlock of me vs. me? I discovered a great way to force the issue: Hit myself square in the checkbook, because I am cheap. I stopped by Trader Joe's this morning and forced myself to pay money for stuff I swore I'd never buy prepared because it's so easy and inexpensive to make. Yikes, it really stung! But if Inner Brat balks at cooking staples that usually cost me pennies, then I am going to buy them cooked until she recants. Trader Joe's frozen brown rice and ready-to-eat lentils to the rescue.
|I took this in 2012, no lie. |
I did the onions separately that time.
The shopping list is ridiculously short: Onions (I buy frozen chopped now. Yes, I am that lazy), lentils (the little green ones, aka French green lentils, work best), and brown rice. If you're feeling the veggie love, add a couple of carrots and a handful of chopped spinach. Spices are your call, but I like cumin and smoked paprika. If you buy the three main ingredients frozen/pre-cooked, you can have this put together before Inner Brat realizes she ain't gettin' Lucky Charms OR Costco pumpkin pie tonight.
Google mujaddarah (or m'jaddarah) and you'll find a butt-ton of recipes with innumerable variations, but the one point of agreement is the heavily-caramelized onions. The lentils and rice, no matter how exquisitely spiced, ain't nothing without those onions.
Mujaddarah (for When You Can't Even)Is it authentic? No. Is it satisfying? Oh hell yes. Most importantly, Inner Brat is eating real food, although she may get Lucky Charms for dessert. Just a little. Small steps.
Adapted from: everyone, mainly this one
Makes: 2-4 servings
Takes: < 30 mins with precooked rice and lentils
1 to 2 cups sliced or chopped onion (frozen is fine)
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups cooked lentils (preferably French green)
1 Tblsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and ground black pepper
1 cup chopped carrot (optional)
A handful or two of chopped fresh spinach, or even an equivalent amount of frozen chopped spinach (optional)
Heat a non-stick skillet (large enough to hold 4+ cups with room to spare) over med. heat. When hot, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil and the onions, sprinkle with a little salt. Spread them out in a uniform layer and turn the heat down a bit so they can cook slowly without constant attention. Stir occasionally while you do other things.
Chop the carrots and spinach, if using. If the lentils and/or rice are chilled or frozen, nuke them in the microwave to get them to at least room temperature. If using carrots, add them and a little more salt when the onions are mostly cooked through, stir to combine, then spread out in a uniform layer. Let the onions (and carrots) cook slowly as long as you can. At a minimum, the carrots should be cooked through and the onions should have some good brown edges. If you have the time and patience, let them go until the onions are really soft and caramelized.
When you can no longer stand the suspense, bump the heat back to med., add the spices to the onions (and carrots), and stir to combine. Clear a spot in the center of the pan and add another tablespoon or two of olive oil, add the lentils, rice, 1/2 cup water, some more salt, and spinach (if using). Stir to combine. If the mixture doesn't seem to have enough liquid to allow it to heat through without scorching, add another 1/4-1/2 cup water. If you added spinach, remember that it will release some liquid. Partially cover the skillet, lower the heat to med. low, and heat the mixture through as long as you can, stirring occasionally, for at least 10 minutes. Add ground black pepper and more salt, if needed.
If it's dinner for one, good luck trying to eat no more than half of it in one sitting.