Ingredient: Lentils

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We ended the year in the warm, buttery blessing of baklawa. And we have no regrets. But we’ll start the New Year in the healthy, earthy, yet delectable land of lentils, which are eaten with frequency in many ethnic cuisines, particularly that of the Lebanese.

The lentil is a pretty little pulse that grows in a pod and is purchased as a dried legume. The varieties are many, and the colors too. I wish that the Lebanese dish of mujadara (moo-JHU-duh-duh) that we are cooking this week could be made from the bright pink lentils I have in my lentil basket (I eat them so often that I do keep…a lentil basket). So photogenic. But the pink, yellow and red lentils don’t do well with mujadara, which calls for large, firm, shape-holding brown or green lentils.

Lentils are available whole or split; you’ll need large, whole lentils for mujadara. Whether you buy your lentils in bulk or already packaged, the price tag if not the health benefits will likely lead you to an exploration of all kinds of dishes that can be made with them.

We eat lentils often, and we’re proud of it. Lentil dishes are what my mind immediately turns to when I consider how healthy Lebanese food is. That’s because lentils are a perfect vegan protein when accompanied by rice or cracked wheat, as they are in mujadara. Even those of us who eat more than our share of red, even raw, meat can appreciate the good a vegan dish does for the body.

The ingredient list for mujadara is short: Lentils, onions, rice. You’ve probably already got your ingredients on hand, which is yet another accolade for our humble, beloved mujadara. I’m a believer that it’s going to be a beloved you’re proud of soon too.

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  1. Maureen,

    I am fairly new to the magic of Lentils . I was introduced to them by Lela a greek woman who took me under her wing at a hospital I worked at, everyday she would bring in new tastes and textures for me to try. I loved them all ! As I immersed myself into the culture and food of the mediterranian people , much like a drug addict. , on day she brought me a bowl of lentil soup. I was GONE! simply gone. I loved the taste , the texture , the spice , the healthy aspect of this tiny little legume.

    I have since found Mujadara ! I switched employers and found the ultimate of teachers. 1 who is Syrian and 1 who is Lebanese. I am in heaven.
    In fact I just made a pot of Mujadara tonight with Lebanese salad. This is my “go to” dish .

    Thank you for your posts , you inspire me !

    1. Oh what a wonderful story, Lucy!! I want to join you with your teachers to learn…. Your description of immersing yourself in Mediterranean culture and food is fantastic and true; so much about it is addictive, in the best way. I bet your mujadara was absolutely delicious. Thanks so much for your kind words! Please stay in touch!

  2. I made an Indian-influenced lentil soup a few days ago, but as long as the dish is different enough, no one complains in my family, so I will try mujadara (who can argue with its simplicity?)
    Growing up in Serbia, we never had lentils, even though my mom was an excellent cook who prepared hundreds and hundreds of different dishes.
    In our house here, in the US, they are a staple and share a basket with beans:)

    1. Hi Lana, and great to hear from you. Sounds like you’ve had quite an upbringing in your mother’s kitchen! Very special, and it’s surprising that lentils were not on the menu there.

  3. There’s been a lentil boon ’round here lately. Last night: tomato lentil soup (with red lentils). Last week, recipe development Black Lentils with Peas and Spiced Yogurt. Today: Black lentil dip. Thanks for a new use!

    1. I’d love to try some of those lentil dishes, Tara. They sound so good!! You are a lentil expert….

  4. Mom & my wife use smeed, never had it with rice, unless i just don’t remember. At my age forgetfulness is the likely culpret. Keep on sending Post Cards, I love them.

    1. I love it with smeed and have read that making it with rice or smeed has to do with what part of Lebanon you hail from. My mom’s family makes it with rice, my father’s, smeed. Glad you like the Post Cards! I love sending them. Thanks very much.