I worked in the lobby shop of the Statler Hotel when I was in college — it was a small outpost of our campus store that sold some school paraphernalia, candy, newspapers, and what not. I loved the job because I got to interact with visitors to the campus, whether they were potential students, parents, or celebrities (I sold papers to B.B. King’s entourage and to Bill Maher himself) who often asked my opinion on what to see, where to eat, and how I liked Ithaca.
Since I worked through dinner, I brought my own food, and most often it was either kidney or black beans mixed with rice. (I suppose I could have only been a more stereotypically low-on-funds college student if I’d been eating ramen.) I always enjoyed this combination of foods, and making Mujadarra, with its mix of lentils and rice, took me back 15 years to those evenings where I crammed studying in between customers buying gum.
At the recommendation of Israeli reader Elinoar, I upped the cumin, using a full teaspoon rather than the recipe’s suggested quarter-teaspoon. (Elinoar also suggested I add a little turmeric, but I forgot to. I will do that next time.) I felt this level of spice was perfect. And the caramelized onions are so delicious and creamy from their long, slow cooking on the stove. Mujadarra is good warm or straight from the fridge, and is a perfect vegan meal on its own or as a side dish to grilled chicken.
I was sure I had nearly a full bag of lentils in my pantry, but it turned out to be just half a cup. This turned out to be a happy mistake. Instead of the two full cups of lentils this recipe called for, I used a quarter of that and then filled in the rest with chunks of washed, but unpeeled, white potatoes from my farm share. They are perfect together, and create a really delicious Indian-inspired dish. Although there are green chiles in here, it’s not spicy, I promise.
I probably would have preferred the onions if I’d taken the time to caramelize them in some olive oil first. I also thought the flavor improved the second day, when my leftovers were reheated. Still, I will definitely make this recipe again, and it inspired me to think some more about other curry dishes for the Crock-Pot.
½ c. lentils, picked through and rinsed
1 qt. potatoes (4-6 medium), washed and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, diced
1½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. dried mustard
½ tsp. turmeric
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 4 oz. can chopped green chiles
1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
4 c. vegetable broth
1.5 – 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts, halved)
Place everything up to and including the vegetable broth in the slow cooker and give it a stir to combine. Lay the chicken on top. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. Stir and serve over rice, if desired.
Note: the original recipe suggests leaving the lid off the Crock-Pot while it is still on high for the last few minutes of cooking if you feel there’s too much liquid left for your taste. I didn’t do this, but did use a slotted spoon to serve.
I adore this dish, but for something so simple it sure uses a lot of pots and pans concurrently. Still, it is yummy enough that I don’t mind all the dish washing every once in a while. The caramelized onions are especially good.
I used a lot more arugula than the original recipes calls for, because I was trying to cram 2 weeks worth of it from my farm share into one dish. Arugula wilts into almost nothing even when only briefly cooked. So the 12-16 cups winds up as a very normal, not-overwhelming presence in this dish.
Pasta with Lentils, Tomatoes & Arugula
Adapted from Everyday Food
¾ c. lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 lb. pasta (bow ties, campanelle, or cavatappi work well)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 sweet yellow onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes, drained with liquid reserved
¾ c. lentils, picked over and rinsed
12-16 c. arugula (2-3 large bunches), washed & spun dry
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan (optional)
In a small saucepan, prepare lentils according to the package directions. Drain any excess liquid and set aside.
In a large pot, prepare pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan and add onions, cooking for about 15 minutes over a medium-low heat until they are soft and golden brown.
While the onions are cooking, remove any tough stems or roots from the arugula, and roughly chop it. Stir tomatoes, cooked lentils, and arugula into the onions, and make sure the ingredients are well-combined. Add the reserved tomato liquid if you would like more of a sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
Either combine vegetables with the pasta and serve as a single dish, or serve the vegetables as a topping for the pasta. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
This dish also works nicely as a cold or room temperature pasta salad.
I'm Dara, the Chick in the Kitchen. Living in the suburbs of Manhattan with my two school-aged boys and husband. Feeding my family something more diverse than a different shape of pasta each night. Read more about me and CITK, and keep in touch: