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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mazidra


Mazidra is a rather new addition to my box of favoured recipes.  I was introduced to this tasty dish some years ago when I was helping with a healthy cooking class at church.  I was doing the recipe demonstrations and this dish was on the menu.  Never having even heard or tasted this before I was left to follow the recipe to the letter and I was happily pleased with the outcome.  So many "healthy" recipes aren't fit to feed a dog let alone a hungry family.  Food needs to be tasty as well as healthy!

I couldn't find much background on Mazidra's origin but I do know it's Middle Eastern, maybe Lebanese but I wouldn't stake my life on that information. Someone said the more vegetables the richer the host but again I could not find any documentation.  But with today's prices of vegetables it might rightly be said the more variety in toppings the richer the cook!

In my mind, Mazidra is like a fusion of Tex-Mex cooking and Esau's Pottage if you use the guacamole, salsa and sour cream.  I like with or without the salsa and sour cream but the avocado is really very good and I wouldn't skip that.  You may of course pile on any vegetables you like.  This recipe is probably a corruption of some well-known national dish the citizens wouldn't recognize.  But whatever or wherever it comes from I'm glad it found me. 

This dish makes a complete meal and you can be sure you will be satisfied as well as full.  Try this the next time you know you'll be feeding vegetarians.  They will thank you for your good cooking and thoughtfulness. 

I have included my favourite brand of vegetarian bouillon, McCormick's, in the ingredient list.  It is delicious, MSG free and really hard to find in the stores where I live.  I usually have to "make do"  with an inferior brand but whenever I find the McCormick's brand I stock up because it's so good.  I'm sure you can find something vegetarian in your area.  Sometimes health food or bulk food stores will carry a vegetarian powdered bouillon and you can happily substitute that for the bouillon cubes.

Mazidra
8 ounces dried green lentils
4 cups water
1 McCormick’s Beef, Chicken or Vegetable flavoured bouillon
1 or 2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 Bay leaf
Salt to taste
3 large onions, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon white sugar, optional
¼ - ½  teaspoon salt for onions 
3 or 4 cups hot cooked whole grain rice
2 tablespoons olive oil, to garnish

Suggested Toppings
Shredded lettuce
Diced tomatoes
Sliced green onions
Diced green and/or red peppers
Sliced black olives
Diced cucumber
Shredded carrots
Diced avocado or guacamole
Salsa, optional
Sour Cream, optional

In large saucepan, combine dried lentils, water, garlic and bay leaf Bring to a boil and turn temperature down; cover and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.  Add the bouillon cube and salt to taste and continue simmering another 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.  If the lentils look dry add a little hot water.  Keep warm.  

In large skillet, sauté onions rings in canola oil until tender and lightly caramelized.  You may sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the onions while cooking to help with the caramelization.  Salt the onions to taste.  Mix onions with lentils or reserve the onions to pile on top of finished recipe.  (That's what I do.)

To serve, place a serving of hot rice on plate, top with a serving of hot lentils (and onions if reserving).  Drizzle with a little olive oil.  Add lettuce and vegetables.  Add salsa and sour cream if desired.

Makes 4 good servings.


 8 ounces of lentils is roughly a rounded cup measure or half a 450 gram/1 pound bag.


 Rinse the lentils well.  There may be little clumps of dried dirt you won't want to eat.


Prepare the garlic by chopping very finely.  After cutting garlic wash your hands in cold water.  This helps remove the garlic odor better than warm water.

Place washed lentils, water, garlic and bay leaf in medium saucepan and cook 10 minutes.  Salt can keep the skin of the lentil tough so I add it and the salty bouillon 10 minutes after the lentils have started to cook.  

When lentils are cooked, remove the bay leaf.  You wouldn't want some poor unsuspecting family member or guest try to ingest that tough piece of greenery.

While the lentils are cooking start on the onions.  Starting at the left upper picture you can follow the progression of the onion preparation going clockwise.  Peel, wash and slice the onions in medium to thin slices.  Place frying pan over medium heat and add the 2 tablespoons of canola oil to pan.  When oil is hot add the prepared onions stirring them around to avoid burning.  You may need to lower the heat.  If using, add the 1 teaspoon sugar to the onions and continue stirring and cooking.  The onions will first turn a yellowish colour and gradually turn a lovely golden brown. This may take about 20 minutes.  Add salt to taste. You can see the finished onions in the middle picture.  Caramelized onions are as sweet as candy!


I like to cook rice like macaroni, in a large amount of simmering water.  Just before the rice is fully cooked I drain and rinse it and return it to the pot to reheat and finish cooking in its own steam.  This produces rice that is never sticky.  If you have trouble cooking rice give this method a try.
 
 Prepare the desired vegetables by peeling, dicing or slicing. 


Time to assemble the Mazidra.  Hot rice is heaped in the middle of a plate, then ladle on the hot lentils, followed by the caramelized onions.  Then pile on the vegetables.  Y U M M Y!  


What a lovely dinner.  You will want to make this again and again. 


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