Hello! How are you?! What have you been cooking in your kitchen lately? I am in love with Middle Eastern food, partially because I get the traditional homemade stuff from my bf’s family’s house. I can’t get enough of all the spices, onion, meat, and carbs, carbs, carbs. And I was thinking to myself, how can I create something that is delicious but also a little “non-traditional”, a little “out there”, a little “where the heck did you get that idea??”, if you will. Thus, beet mujadara was born. This is not to say that mujadara the traditional way isn’t already delicious and amazing. I just wanted to (1) experiment with blending flavors and (2) make my food pink, because pink food is so pretty! :3
The Secret Ingredient in Beet Mujadara is…
The secret ingredient to making anything look gorgeous is beets! A compound in beets called betanin gives this humble vegetable its vibrant color. It also can be used as a vegan, chemical-free, homemade, cheap and cruelty-free food coloring or dye!
I used beets to turn traditionally brown mujadara into pink beet mujadara! Yay!
The Other Not-So-Secret Ingredient Is…
Caramelized onions give our beet mujadara a deep and complex flavor that is rich, sweet and savory all at once. Now listen, four onions is a lot of onions. So get some glasses or goggles to cover your eyeballs, because it’s about to be a cry-fest. Get ready to smell like onions for the rest of the day, in the best of ways.
The photo above was taken somewhere between thirty minutes and an hour into caramelizing my onions. The process took a lot longer than I was expecting to caramelize these bad boys, during which time I ate a snack, I checked email, I watched my pots of lentils, beets and rice boil. It felt like an eternity.
Finally!! After TWO HOURS, my raw onions have turned into gorgeous, aromatic, rich, sweet, complex caramelized onions!
Pro Tip: Add one Tbsp of sugar to your onions as they cook, to help speed up the caramelization process.
Turning Things Pink
If you have beets within your proximity, prepare to have everything turned pink.
I used that to my advantage with this experiment! I boiled the beets in salted water, which caused that water to become a brilliant shade of red/pink.
Then I used that naturally-dyed water to cook the rice, which soaked into the grains, turning the rice pink as well! By mixing the beets to the whole dish, it turned the lentils and caramelized onions an eye-catching shade of pink too. And beets add a sweet and earthy flavor, adding to the complexity of this amazing dish.
If you want to get crazy with beets, you could also dye hard boiled eggs with beets.
Or step away from food and turn your white sheets or shirts pink with beets!
If you have leftover beets, you can make all kinds of delicious meals, like beet borscht!
How to Make Mujadara
I followed Bon Appetit’s recipe for mujadara because I had never made it myself before, and each step has a little video to show you exactly what to do. This was so helpful! I can’t tell you how many times something doesn’t turn out right in my kitchen because I read the instructions and I’m like “uhmm… *cricket, cricket* what the heck does that mean!?” So if you are making mujadara for the very first time and you don’t have a sweet Lebanese mama to teach you, check out Bon Appetit’s version.
Mujadara is built on rice and lentils. Then you layer the rich and complex caramelized onions with the warmth of the spices, the sweetness of the raisins, the tang of the lemon juice, and the coolness of the yogurt sauce. It’s basically a party of flavors and culinary balance on your plate. It is so good!!!
Is it worth standing over a pan of onions for two hours? Maybe.
How to Make Beet Mujadara
It’s pretty much like making traditional mujadara except you add the magic of beets. Basically, to make beet mujadara, you…
(1) Soak ½ cup raisins in the juice from one half of a lemon and 1 Tbsp hot water.
(2) Peel and slice 4 medium onions, and caramelize them in a skillet with ¼ cup olive oil and a pinch of salt on medium-low heat (this takes at least an hour).
(3) Boil 1 cup of green lentils in salted water until they are al dente (about 20 minutes).
(4) Peel, chop and boil 3 medium beets in salted water until they are easily pierced with a fork (about 20 minutes). Pull the beets out of the water and save the (now pink) water.
(5) To a skillet on medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbsp of olive oil, then add ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, 2 tsp ground coriander and 2 tsp ground cumin until it becomes fragrant (30 seconds).
(6) To the oil and spices, add 1 cup of rinsed and uncooked basmatic (or wild) rice, 1 tsp fine sea salt and 1½ cups of the pink water used to cook the beets, and bring to a boil. Simmer until the rice is cooked (about 20 minutes).
(7) Combine the plumped-up raisins, caramelized onions, cooked lentils, cooked beets and (pink) cooked rice in the skillet. Add ¼ cup fried shallots (optional), the juice from the other half of the lemon, and season with salt.
(8) To serve, garnish with chopped fresh parsley and yogurt sauce made of ½ cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 Tbsp olive oil, ¼ tsp coriander, ¼ tsp cumin, and salt & pepper.