Mujadarah with Za’atar Pita Chips

by angelika on May 5, 2011

We traveled to the middle east for dinner tonight. It was a delicious, warm and exotic, comfort inducing sort of meal; we needed it, as this has been a rough week here. We lost our dog, a beloved member of the family. It has been hard for me to get up the motivation to cook, so we’ve been eating a lot of canned soup, sandwiches and frozen pizza in our house. Little Man was thrilled to have all his favorites, in a row. 
 (lentils and rice with caramelized onions)

2 yellow onions sliced into thin rings
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup brown basmati rice
1 cup red lentils
4 cups of water
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Za’atar Pita Chips
1 package whole wheat pita
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup zatar
Tonight I felt inspired to make something at least a little nourishing, so I leapt back to my days in the Middle East and came up with this gem. If you have never had Mujadarah, it is basically a rice and lentil dish scented of cinnamon and smothered in sweet and crispy caramelized onions. We served it with pita chips bathed in Za’atar. Za’atar (Zatar) is my favorite discovery from my time in the middle east. It is a spice combination usually of thyme, sesame seeds and sumac. It is often served over hummus, or on pita bread which is first dipped on olive oil. The flavor is incredible. You definitely taste the thyme, and a little hit of lemon as well. You can find Za’atar in shops that sell falafel or specialize in middle eastern foods. I can name a half dozen of these shops in Berkeley alone. So if you live in the Bay Area and you need a place to go, leave a comment. 
Preheat the oven to 400º. Place the onions in a large baker and toss them in the olive oil. Bake, stirring often, for 40 minutes. You want then to be golden to dark brown, with a few crunchy bits. 

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the rice and spices. (but not the salt)  Bring back to a boil and then cover for 15 minutes and let the rice simmer on low.  Rinse the red lentils, then add them to the rice. Bring the mixture back to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and  cover for 20-30 minutes until the water has all been soaked up. Fluff rice with a fork, and cover for 10 minutes off the heat. Stir in the salt and the caramelized onions. 

Cut each pita into 6 triangles. In a small bowl combine the olive oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Brush the oil onto both sides of the pita, then lay them on a sheet pan. Sprinkle liberally with Za’atar and a pinch of salt. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the pita is crisp. If you don’t want to run out to find Za’atar you can use  a combo of thyme, marjoram, oregano and some sesame seeds, or whatever sounds good to you. 
Serve the Mujadarah with several pieces of pita. If you have flat leaf parsley you can garnish the rice with it, I was sadly without. (even though I had just gone to the grocery store) If you are so inclined, it pairs nicely with a crisp white wine. 
A votre santé!

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