Mdardara For People Who Can Only Do One Thing at a Time

Mdardara is a Lebanese lentil and rice pilaf with caramelized onions. It’s vegan and legitimately the best tasting thing in the entire world. I used to make this dish in a single pot but my brain has since short-circuited. Now I cook everything separately and combine it all at the end.

Servings: YOU DO YOU

  • 3 large purple onions (if you’re not a caramelized onion lifer like me, use small or medium onions)
  • 1 cup of brown lentils (rinsed)
  • 1 cup of basmati rice
  • 1 cup of veggie broth (I like the Better than Boullion No Chicken base)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon of cumin, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander, ground
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (for caramelizing the onions)
  • 1 tbsp of coconut oil (you can sub olive oil if you want)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • salt (to taste)
  • Half of a lemon
  • pinch of sugar

CARAMELIZING ONIONS THE NIKKI WAY (45 minutes)

  1. Slice the onions! Try to shoot for slices that are 1/8 of an inch thick.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large (12″ or larger) pan over medium-low heat. I like cast iron pans.
  3. Put onions in the pan. Try to spread them out across the bottom so they aren’t stacked way high.
  4. If you’re using a cast iron, stir and flip the onions every 10-15 minutes. If you’re using any other kind of pan, stir the onions every 5-10 minutes with a wooden spoon. Be sure to scrape and stir the onion muck that sticks to bottom of the pan, no matter the pan material. It’s gonna stick and that needs to be okay with you.
  5. After 30 minutes, sprinkle a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt into the onion pile, then stir again.
  6. After 45 minutes, the onions should be a cool combination of soft and crispy. Add a little water to the pan to deglaze, then scrape everything out of the pan. You’re done!

MAKE RICE

If you have an electric pressure cooker, follow these instructions to cook the rice. Seriously! Do it! Use broth for more flavor. Otherwise:

  1. Rinse the rice in a strainer. Use cold water!
  2. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 clove of chopped garlic into a pot at the same time. It’s not good to let the oil get really hot before adding garlic!
  3. Turn on medium-high heat. When the oil starts to sizzle, pour in uncooked rice. Stir it all together for about 2 minutes, or until the rice starts to look translucent. Don’t burn it! Keep stirring!
  4. Add 1 and 1/2 cups of water or broth and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil.
  5. When the water starts boiling, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and reduce heat to low.
  6. Simmer on low for about 25 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.

MAKE LENTILS

Combine 1 cup of lentils, 2 cups water, cumin, and coriander. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 25 minutes uncovered. The lentils may still be a bit firm at the end, but that’s okay.

MAKE MAGIC

  1. Grab a big pot or pan that can hold everything. It can be the pan in which you caramelized those beautiful onions.
  2. Add in cooked lentils. Turn on the heat, medium-low.
  3. Add cooked rice.
  4. Add onions.
  5. Stir stir stir! Let it heat up together for a few minutes. If the lentils were still a little tough, you can add some water and cook it all together a little longer. Do what you have to do, you know? It’s going to be SO GOOD.
  6. Squeeze half a lemon in it!!! More if you’re nasty. Stir it up.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste. I usually skip the salt but I love black pepper.
  8. Serve to people you love or are learning to love.

Basmati Rice in an Electric Pressure Cooker

I have a 6 quart Bella Housewares electric pressure cooker. It’s reliable, but not much of a workhorse. Unlike the Instant Pot, which cooks at about 11 psi, the Bella tops out around 9 psi. No big deal–I just add a few extra minutes of cooking time when following recipes designed for the Instant Pot.

In the case of basmati rice, 2 extra minutes (a total of 5 minutes at high pressure in the Bella) does the trick.

This is how I cook basmati rice in my little pressure cooker. And because I care about you and your needs, I’ll also tell you how to cook it in an Instant Pot.

you need: 

1 cup white basmati rice

1 1/4 cups of water or broth

1/2 tablespoon coconut or extra virgin olive oil

pinch of salt

1 garlic clove, minced (you can skip this if you have poor taste)

  1. Put the pressure cooker into Saute mode.
  2. Add oil and garlic at the same time.
  3. When garlic starts turning a light golden brown, add the uncooked rice.
  4. Stir the rice with a wooden spoon frequently for about 2 minutes or until the rice starts to turn translucent. Don’t let it brown or burn!
  5. Add water and pinch of salt.
  6. Cook on manual pressure cooking mode for 5 minutes (under 10 psi) or 3 minutes (Instant Pot – high).
  7. Let the pressure release naturally for a maximum of 10 minutes.
  8. Now you have rice.