I learn the most from cooking with others.
Pre-Jake, I lived with two lovely ladies in a cozy home in North Minneapolis, near Theodore Wirth Park.
My housemate C. continues to inspire me with her cooking and shared her favorite cookbook, Extending The Table. Her favorite recipe from this cookbook, by far, was kushari, an Egyptian dish of rice and lentils topped with a tomato sauce, that she used to make for her Lutheran Volunteer Core housemates. Unfortunately, I have yet to find my copy of Extending the Table since we moved to Fargo. Watch Anthony Bourdain eat this beloved Egyptian dish on No Reservations.
I have never tried actual kushari so our recipe may not be as authentic, but I find it strangely addicting despite its simplicity. Most recipes call for the addition of pasta, but I tried that once and prefer only lentils and rice. Usually, I would make the sauce with canned tomatoes, but wanted to use up a jar of veggie marinara sauce which worked just fine.
I could not remember the ratio of water to rice/lentils and referred to Miss Anthropist’s Kitchen post, Kuhsari (Egyptian Meal).
In the past, we may or may have not cheated by adding a bouillon cube to either the rice and lentils, or the tomato sauce. I bought organic, French green lentils in bulk from Cash Wise. If you’d like extra protein, you could serve this meal with a piece of fish, sausage, grilled chicken, or even some type of cheese like cubes of creamy, French goat milk feta.
Ghee, olive oil, or butter
3/4 cup white rice, rinsed (I used jasmine)
3/4 cup dried lentils, rinsed and checked for stones (I used green)
Stock or water, and salt or bouillon if using water
Chopped onion, about 1/2 or more to taste
1 large can of tomatoes or jar of tomato sauce (about 12-14 oz. If using whole tomatoes, break them up by hand or blender)
Splash of red wine vinegar
Dash of sugar
Hot pepper, flakes, or finely chopped fresh chili of choice
1 onion, sliced
Rice and lentils
In pot, heat a couple splashes of your oil of choice over medium-high heat.
Saute the lentils until toasty, about five minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of hot water or stock and cook for about ten minutes.
Then, add the rice and stir. Add another 1/2 cup of liquid and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and cover. Cook until the water is absorbed and the lentils are tender, about a half hour. If it seems like there is not enough water, you can add a little bit more, but don’t stir the rice. Stirring rice during the cooking process will make it gummy and dense.
In a saucepan, heat about a tablespoon of oil or butter over medium-high heat. Saute half an onion until browned, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add your minced fresh chilies or sprinkle of dried chili flakes. Add a dash of cumin and some fresh, chopped garlic, if you’d like, and saute until fragrant.
Add the tomatoes, whether canned or in a tomato sauce, and stir.
Add a splash of vinegar and a pinch of sugar. Taste for seasoning and adjust according to your taste.
I like to add a drizzle of olive oil or small piece of butter or ghee for some added richness.
Caramelized Onion Topping
In a large pan, saute the sliced onions in butter or oil over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper.
When the onions have wilted and developed some caramelization, turn the heat down a little, so they don’t burn or dry out. A light sprinkle of sugar will assist in the caramelization process.
Stir the onions occasionally until they are caramelized to your liking.
Top the rice and lentils with sauce and sprinkle with the caramelized onions.