Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Second try at Mujaddara is a charm...

Our family has been vacationing in the Myrtle Beach, SC area for about 55 years or so. During that time we have stayed in cottages, small hotels, big motels, resorts and rental homes. This year (2018) while visiting  Garden City, SC , I had made it a point to get to two restaurants that interested me while planning the trip. On of them was Pacino's Mediterranean Grille, in a strip mall just prior to the entrance into the community of Murrel's Inlet. I realized, just an hour prior to creating the appetite, that a reservation was recommended. I called and they offered a 7:30 - 8:00pm time slot, being already hungry I asked was there anywhere where we could sit and sample some of their more interesting menu items. They offered a seat in the kitchen area and I immediately replied "We'll be there in 10 minutes!" and off we went. The very first dish that we tried was the Mujaddara. Not even knowing how to pronounce it, we ordered it to give it a try and we were ecstatic at the flavors. Served with triangle of sliced Pita bread, it was rich, savory and melted on the tongue. The manager, looking to be an owner maybe, asked how we liked it so I took the opportunity to ask her what was I tasting but not expecting to taste in that dish. She replied "Allspice, plenty of Allspice!"

Now the only dish that I had ever used Allspice in was oatmeal, to go along with the cinnamon, and I recall one of my grandmother's favorite sweet potato pie was made with Allspice as an ingredient. But that was the extent of Allspice use in our southern kitchen.

So I asked "How much Allspice?" She replies "Oh, 1 to 2 teaspoons." Man, I thought, that's a lot of Allspice since the most I ever used was 1/8 of that, and it got me thinking.

After a trial run, I put this dish together...Oh, it takes a little time but the payoff is tremendous...

Starting with the process of onion caramelization, this go round I utilized the pressure cooker method that I discovered over at Serious Eats. Although I found that there are very few shortcuts to the process of delicious caramelized onions, this process allowed me to use the least amount of oil/butter. The end result is a bit more mushy than I would otherwise have liked, but it ended up working perfectly in this dish. I prepared it a day in advance and stored it in the refrigerator overnight since it can take anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes.

I also prepare white or brown basmati rice every other day and keep it in the refrigerator, so I had that on hand as well.

Next come the lentils...once again I utilize the pressure cooker. To 3 cups of water I add 3 tsp of
HERB-OX® Chicken Granulated Bouillon, 1 tsp cumin, 1-1/2 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp ground cloves and 1 cup of brown or green lentils. The brown lentils will hold up a bit better in the pressure cooker and the green will lend itself to a smoother texture in the finished dish. I let the pressure cooker come up to pressure and time it for 4 minutes and allow it to cool and release the pressure on its' own.

Once the pressure has dropped and it is safe to open the cooker, I stirred in added about 1-1/2 cups of the caramelized onion and 2 cups of white basmati rice and brought it back up to temperature. Put the lid back on the pressure cooker, let the vents seat closed and immediately removed it from the heat and release on its' own, once again. After lifting the cover, I knew that I had struck gold, so to speak, and it is delicious. The savory mixture that I had experience during my trip to Garden City, SC, and the Pacino's Mediterranean Grille.

Ingredients List:

  • Caramelized Onions
    • 1-1/2 pound yellow onions sliced
    • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • Rice
    • 1 Cup Basmati Rice
    • 2 Cups Water
    • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Lentils
    • 1 Cup Green or Brown Lentils
    • 3 Cups Water
    • 3 tsp chicken bouillon
    • 1 tsp Cumin
    • 1-1/2 tsp Allspice
    • 1/4 tsp Ground Cloves

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