Mejadara / Lentil-Rice with Caramelized Onions and a Leben Cucumber Dip

Summer! Summer is here. Even though we spoiled LAers have sunny skies and warm rays all year long, the days between June and September are worthy of their own distinctive excitement. The long days, no school, beach tanning, BBQing, pool-hopping, park squatting marathon that is at once exhausting yet preciously rewarding is what I look forward to all year. But also for the sweeter-than-candy succulent summer fruits that we can’t help but enjoy raw, juices dripping from the chin and all. I heart summer.

This season beckons simple dinners. My favorites are one-pot options that are easily reheatable and sufficiently filling. If they turn into lunch, that’s an added benefit. This Mejadara fits right in and is one I love preparing and eating.

I was first introduced to mejadara when my father-in-law made it sometime after I got married. I was instantly hooked. There is so much to love about puffy rice and lentils laced with sweet caramelized onions. Lots of sweet caramelized onions. Four onions worth of fried onions. Then you top it with some cucumber leben and it all fits cozily in a bowl, ready to be enjoyed by the spoonfuls.

I hope you’re enjoying your bright summer days.

I used to follow Poopa Doueck’s recipe from Aromas of Aleppo, but I have since streamlined my preparation and adjusted things to my liking. I have made this dairy and parve (non-dairy), and though they’re both good, I took a liking to the version with butter. Everything tastes better with butter.

You might be petrified of the amount of “fat” in this recipe, but rest assured healthy fat doesn’t actually make you fat. You can read the loads of research. Ask Dr. Google, he should help you find the right clinical studies that show that certain fats are in reality really good for you.

Mejadara / Lentil-Rice with Caramelized Onions and a Leben Cucumber Dip

1 cup lentils

1 cup boiling water, plus 3 cups boiling water

2 cups rice, rinsed

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 tablespoons butter, divided

4 onions onions

1 cup leben

2-3 cucumbers cut in half moons

handful of chopped dill

1 teaspoon sea salt

extra virgin olive oil

In a large pot on medium high heat, boil the lentils in the cup of water. Once the lentils have doubled in size and are mostly cooked, add the rice and another 3 cups of boiling water. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and reduce to a simmer until the rice is ready and fully cooked.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat and cook the onions. Coat in the oil and continue cooking until golden brown and nicely caramelized, stirring occasionally.

Uncover the rice mixture and add 2 tablespoons of butter while it’s very hot. Mix well to coat the rice in butter.

For the leben, combine the leben, cucumbers, dill, and salt. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

To serve, spoon a generous amount of the rice-lentil mix, and an even more generous amount of caramelized onions and a spoonful of the leben and enjoy hot.

This can also be eaten at room temperature. To make it non-dairy, substitute the amount of butter with more olive oil.