It is customary to eat lentils in a time of mourning, based on the food that Yaakov cooked when Avraham died. (Another customary mourning meal is a hardboiled egg with a loaf of bread, which symbolizes the circle of life.)
Rice and lentils is a popular Syrian dish. It’s often served as a weeknight meal along with jibben or a light fish, but that’s not why we’re posting it now; it is a one-pot meal and is it’s our custom to eat this on the night before Tisha b’Av (which is tomorrow!). Serve it with some plain yogurt and you have a pretty balanced (and simple) one-pot meal. Serve it alongside a million other dishes, like pizza, jibben, salad, knishes, sambusak, etc, and you have yourself a typical Syrian dairy meal.
This recipe is made differently, depending on whom you ask. Most families have slightly different recipes, and I often hear people saying that their family does it right…well, really, there’s no correct way to do it. Actually, I recently learned that Zeke puts sour cream on his, not plain yogurt. Weird!
One important factor in this dish is the onions. Sauteing them until they are soft, sweet, and almost brown really just makes the dish. I grew up eating it without onions. Most people chop the onions. I have a mandolin and like to use it as much as I can, so I slice them really thin. it Doesn’t matter which way you decide, just remember that a lot of the flavor in the dish comes from the slow-cooked onions, so don’t skimp out on this part!
Find the recipe in Aromas of Aleppo
- 3/4 cup brown lentils (or whatever you have on hand)
- 1 cup water + more
- 2-4 white onions, sliced, diced, chopped, etc.
- Oil (enough to fit the bottom of the pan)
- 1 cup brown rice (white is traditionally used, but I like to be healthy)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons butter (optional)
1. Combine the lentils with water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the lentils soften slightly.
2. Cover the bottom of a large skillet with oil. Turn the heat to medium-low and wait until it is hot.
3. Add the onions to the skillet, stirring occasionally until the onions are caramelized. This will take a long time, so be patient. With sliced onions, count on 45 minutes. With chopped ones, it will be shorter. Keep an eye on them and remember to keep the heat low to really get the sweet onion flavor.
4. Drain the lentil liquid into a measuring cup and add enough liquid to measure 1 1/2 cups. Return to saucepan and add the rice, salt, and half the onions. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for the amount of time stated on your rice package (20-50 minutes).
5. If you prefer, add butter during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
6. Top the rice and lentils with the remaining onions and serve with plain yogurt on the side.
*Oh, they make great leftovers. I always make sure to pack rice and lentils for lunch the next day.
HAVE AN EASY FAST!