Rice Pilaf with Lentils and Caramelized Onions (Medjederah)
Growing up, I loved medgederah, a classic dish of rice pilaf and lentils that is both delicious and healthful. At the restaurant, I top it with grilled salmon and mixed baby greens that have been tossed in a light vinaigrette. A small bowl of plain yogurt complements all the different textures and flavors.
⅓ cup vegetable oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
5¾ cups water
2 cups dried green lentils
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups long-grain white rice
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Mint sprigs, for garnish
Heat the oil in a deep large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they are deep golden brown and caramelized, about 45 minutes. Set aside.
Combine the water and lentils in a heavy large saucepan. Cover and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the lentils are almost tender, but still firm to the bite, about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter. Add the rice, salt, and pepper. Cover and bring the cooking liquid to a boil again over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer until the rice and lentils are tender and the cooking liquid is absorbed (do not stir the mixture while it cooks), about 20 minutes. If some water remains unabsorbed in the saucepan, remove the saucepan from the heat and let it stand uncovered for 5 minutes.
Fold the caramelized onions into the pilaf. Transfer the pilaf to a bowl. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve.
COOK’S NOTES: This side dish is a wonderful companion to grilled salmon or halibut. Top it with crisp fried onion rings for a contrast in texture, or serve it with a simple tomato salad for a fantastic meatless meal.
The pilaf will keep for up to 2 days, covered and refrigerated. To serve, rewarm over medium-low heat, fluffing it with a fork to ensure that it warms thoroughly and evenly.
Serves 8 to 10
Grilled Moroccan Salmon
6 (6-ounces each) boneless skinless salmon fillets
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup Moroccan Spices (recipe follows)
3 tablespoons olive oil
To make the salmon: Place 2 teaspoons of the Moroccan Spices on a plate. Dredge the salmon in the spices to lightly coat the top and bottom (do not coat the sides of the salmon).
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil on a large griddle over medium-high heat. Cook the salmon fillets just until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Using a metal spatula, transfer the fillets to a heavy large rimmed baking sheet. Bake just until the fillets are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
COOK’S NOTES: Make sure you don't overcook the salmon; the texture should be moist and flaky.
Mashed potatoes and braised fresh spinach make good accompaniments to the salmon.
A combination of warm spices that blends beautifully with soups, salads, seafood, chicken, or any other meats.
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
Stir all the ingredients in a small bowl to blend. Transfer to a jar and seal with the lid. Refrigerate up to 1 week.
Makes ¾ cup
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
Blend the balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, garlic, mustard, shallots, maple syrup, molasses, salt and pepper in a blender until smooth. With the machine running, gradually add the oil in a thin stream, blending until the mixture is completely emulsified.
Do-Ahead Tip: Refrigerate the vinaigrette in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid for up to 3 days.
Chilled Cucumber Yogurt Mint Soup
If you want to take a break from the summer’s heat, this is the soup for you. It is refreshing, nutritious, and so easy to prepare. It compliments any type of grilled foods.
3 cups plain low fat Greek yogurt or plain yogurt
1 ½ cups cold water or buttermilk
6-8 Persian cucumbers finely chopped or grated
1 tablespoon minced shallots (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 clove minced garlic
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon or more dried mint
In a large bowl whisk the Greek yogurt, water, and the chopped cucumbers, lemon juice, garlic, salt and dried mint.
Stir well and adjust seasonings. If soup is thick add additional water or buttermilk to loosen the soup. Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
Ladle the soup in a bowl and garnish with fresh mint.
Cooks note: The soup can be refrigerated up to 4 days.