Baked Falafel and Mujadarra

Mujadarra and Baked Falafel

Oh the dilemma of a fixed lens. Just not enough focus area to show you all of this amazing plate at once. In retrospect I should have switched lenses, but I was just so excited to eat that I decided to limit myself to a few shots and then call it good. Little did I know that by the time I made it to the living room that Neil was already halfway through his bowl.

We’ve been curious to try our hand at Middle Eastern food for some time. It may just be me, but Middle Eastern food has always been rather elusive, particularly here in the Midwest. While there is no shortage of Asian and Indian food available in our bigger and more cultured cities, and even on the Web, people seem rather hesitant, even nervous to tackle Middle Eastern. Maybe it’s the overall socio-political climate of the past ten-ish years, or maybe it’s the fear of personal failure being interpreted as disrespect. In any sense, we decided to just throw ourselves into it. Dive first, ask questions later right?

Mujadarra and Baked Falafel

Mujadarra was one of the first Middle Eastern recipes I ever came across. It’s so amazingly simple and I’ve never not had all the ingredients to make it in my pantry. Well, maybe in college. I’ve almost always just had it as my main dish, but it’s also great as a side. To accompany it, we made Baked Falafel, inspired by one of our favorite local lunch spots, Casablanca.

Ingredients:

For the Mujadarra:
3/4 cup long-grain brown rice
1 cup green lentils, rinsed
3 cups yellow onions, cut into quarter slices (or more)
1/3 cup olive oil (use high-quality olive oil with good flavor for this dish)
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

For the Baked Falafel
1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups mixed greens
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup Greek yogurt
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Mujadarra and Baked Falafel

Mujadarra and Baked Falafel

Mujadarra and Baked Falafel

Mujadarra and Baked Falafel

Directions:

For the Mujadarra:
1. Cook rice in water according to instructions. When completed, cover and keep warm.
2. Rinse lentils, then place in a heavy pot with a tight fitting lid (we used our Dutch oven). Add 1 quart of water, and let lentils simmer over very low heat uncovered until they are soft (about 20-30 minutes, depending on the freshness of the lentils). When lentils are cooked, cover and allow the to absorb any leftover water.
3. Chop onions. Heat oil in a heavy frying pan, add onions, then reduce heat to medium-low, stirring every few minutes until brown (between 20-30 minutes). Do not rush this process, as the onions will be bitter instead of lightly sweet. When complete, remove half to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain the oil and crisp them.
4. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of cumin into the remaining onions and saute for 1-2 additional minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked lentils to the pan with the onions, leaving any water left unabsorbed.
5. Season the cooked lentils and onions with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Gently mix cooked rice into the lentils and carmelized onions, heating for a minute or two to reheat rice if it is no longer hot.
6. Top with crispy carmelized onions and serve hot or warm.

For the Baked Falafel:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Put in a medium sized bowl and smash. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
3. Form into small balls, about 1 1/2″ in diameter and slightly flatten. Place onto an oiled baking pan.
4. Bake for 15 minutes on each side, until nicely browned (since it’s baked, only the part actually touching the pan will be browned and crispy). Serve with mini pita pockets, fresh mixed greens, tomatoes, and Greek yogurt.

Mujadarra and Baked Falafel

Mujadarra and Baked Falafel

Mujadarra and Baked Falafel

I liked them all so much, I couldn’t resist posting all of the “few shots” I took. I’m really getting into backdrops. They enhance the color, especially when the color palette of your meal is more than a little repetitive and by all appearances uninspiring. Despite not being photogenic, it is delicious–exotic even. And very fragrant. The smell permeates nearly everything it comes across, even in rooms on the other side of the house–for days. It’s also inexpensive to make, and great for weeks when you want to cook once and have enough for two days, a must for us as I race toward the end of the semester.

The key to the right flavor though is to get the onions just perfect. Don’t rush them. Also, this is one of those dishes that tastes amazing the second day. So much so that we recommend making it a day ahead.

We’re fortunate here in Columbia that we have a great Mediterranean/Middle Eastern Restaurant to glean inspiration from. Casablanca has been among my favorite restaurants since they opened their Peachtree location. Everything is good and it’s one of the few restaurants where I swear the food gets better every time I visit.

Don’t forget to join us for #Cookchat this evening at 8 pm CST!



Comments

  1. As good as the food and the site look, the photography might be the highlight, here. Just amazing!

  2. Huge fan of Middle Eastern food. This looks great!

  3. awesome! I love falafel, but my gigantic butt thinks i should avoid fried foods. now i can have both!

  4. Yup! I don’t like eating a lot of fried foods so the thought of being able to make falafel super healthy and baked has been a dream come true!

  5. This is a great option and much much healthier than regular deep fried falafel. Next time I will prepare falafels your way.

  6. Middle eastern food is one of my all time favorite cuisines. I grew up with it, but I have never had Mujadarra. I have read a few posts on it recently and I really want to try it out sometime soon. Beautiful plate of food :D
    Have a wonderful weekend.
    *kisses* HH

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