'New' technique of cooking it seemed crazy, intriguing
Rice pilaf with chickpeas: It wasn't so much the flavor (rice, after all, pretty much is rice), but the texture. The grains were perfectly shaped with no clumping, and so light they seemed to float off the plate. (Christina House/For the Los Angeles Times)
Rice pilaf with chickpeas, lentils and browned onions
Prep: 15 minutes
Soak: 1-2 hours
Cook: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Note: This recipe, known as muceddere, is adapted from Ozcan Ozan's "The Sultan's Kitchen."
1 cup basmati rice
1/4 cup lentils, preferably green
1/4 cup orzo pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups sliced onion, about 1 medium onion
2 teaspoons sugar
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed
1 cup peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Turkish red pepper or smoked paprika
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1. Place the rice in a strainer; rinse, shaking to stir frequently. Transfer to a bowl; add enough lukewarm water to cover. Stir in 2 tablespoons salt; set aside to soak for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours. Drain before proceeding.
2. Add the lentils to 1 cup water in a small saucepan; heat to a simmer. Cook until almost tender, about 15 minutes: drain.
3. Heat a medium saucepan of water to a boil; add 2 tablespoons salt, then add the rice and orzo. Boil gently, until almost cooked, 3-4 minutes. Check by trying a grain: It should still have a bit of bite to it. Drain, rinse and set aside to drain.
4. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sugar; season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cover; cook gently until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover the pan; increase the heat to high. Stir in the lemon juice; cook, stirring, until the onions are browned, 4-5 minutes.
5. Add the rice, lentils, orzo and chickpeas to the saucepan; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, cumin, red pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle over 2 tablespoons water. Cover with a tight lid; cook on the lowest possible heat, 35 minutes. (A heat diffuser helps.)
6. Turn off the heat, wrap the lid in a tea towel, cover the pan and set aside, 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro with a fork.
Nutrition information: Per serving: 308 calories, 10 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 47 g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 1,128 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.