This pilaf is made with lentils, caramelized onions, and rice or coarse bulgur. Try the Mujadara Kit from Maureen Abood Market for excellent results! There tends to be some question as to how far the onions should be taken in the caramelization process. They must be dark, very dark golden brown. Some of the onions will verge on burnt. But entirely burnt onions will produce a bitter mujadara and the onions won’t ‘melt’ into the lentils and rice as they should when they are soft. Mujadara is delicious eaten with labneh, flatbread, a green salad, and if you want to get fancy, some crispy fried onions strings on top.
First, par-cook the lentils. Place the lentils in a small saucepan with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are par-cooked, 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Be careful not to overcook here; the idea is to par-cook the lentils.
In a large, heavy sauté or sauce pan (with a lid), heat the canola oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning, though some charring will occur in order to get them all browned. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt as the onions cook.
Take the onions off the heat and add 2 cups of water. Place back on the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. The liquid will take on the deep golden color of the onions and the onions will continue to soften.
Add the rice and par-cooked lentils (and their liquid) to the onion mixture. Cover and bring to a boil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice and lentils are cooked through. The texture of the rice and lentils is somewhat al dente. Take care not to overcook or the mixture will become mushy. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature drizzled with olive oil.
For fried onion garnish, heat canola oil over high heat in a small saucepan (the small saucepan reduces the amount of oil needed for depth). When a small piece of onion dropped into the oil floats to the top and bubbles vigorously, the oil is ready. Fry the onion rings in batches until golden brown, reducing heat as needed to prevent burning. Remove and drain on paper towel. Place the onions on top of the mujadara on a serving platter or individual plates.