Mejadarra is common table fare in much of the Middle East. We first discovered it in Tel Aviv in 1983 while eating in a well-known Oriental (foods of the Jews from Arab countries) restaurant. Mejadarra was not on the menu, but we saw some of the restaurant staff eating it. My husband asked to taste the dish and immediately asked for a portion. It came as a complete surprise to the waiter that we would prefer this "peasant food" to the more sophisticated fare on the menu. Recently mejadarra has become one of the many instant and prepared foods available in Middle Eastern markets or Middle Eastern sections of American grocery stores. It's well worth preparing your own, however, to avoid the artificial spice mixtures in these prepared mixes. I have adapted a recipe from one of the outstanding authors on Middle Eastern food: Claudia Roden, A Book of Middle Eastern Food, Vintage Books, 1974.


In the microwave, boil lentils, covered in water, until tender. Meanwhile, fry the onions in 2 T. oil until very golden. Add the fried onions to the lentils along with the rice and spices. Bring the total liquid to about 3 cups of water. Simmer for about 20 minutes in microwave or on stove, until the water is barely absorbed. Stir briefly, and serve hot. Mejadarra can be eaten alone, the main dish of a vegetarian meal, accompanied by a salad or it can be a side dish with meats or chicken. It is very versatile and blends with many types of foods.
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