Recipe: Müceddere (rice pilaf with chickpeas, lentils and browned onions)

Recipe: <i>M&#252;ceddere</i> (rice pilaf with chickpeas, lentils and browned onions)
ice pilaf with chickpeas, lentils and browned onions. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Total time: 1½ hours, plus 1 to 2 hours soaking time for the rice

Servings: 4 to 6

Note: Adapted from Özcan Ozan's "The Sultan's Kitchen." This can be a side dish or, if served with yogurt, a vegetarian main dish.

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

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup canned chickpeas

1 cup peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes (about 6 small)

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 and rinse under the faucet, shaking to stir frequently. Transfer to a bowl and add enough lukewarm water to cover. Stir in 2 tablespoons salt and set aside to soak for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours.

2. Add the lentils to 1 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook until they are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

3. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add 2 more tablespoons of salt, then add the rice and orzo and boil gently for 3 to 4 minutes, until almost cooked. Check by trying a grain: It should still have a bit of bite to it. Drain, rinse and set aside to drain.

4. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sugar, and season with one-fourth teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper, or to taste. Cover the saucepan and cook gently until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover the pan, increase the heat to high and stir in the lemon juice. Cook, stirring, until the onions are browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Do not let the onions scorch.

5. Add the rice, lentils, orzo and chickpeas to the saucepan and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, cumin, red pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle over 2 tablespoons of water. Cover the pan with a tight lid and cook on the lowest possible heat for 35 minutes (a heat diffuser helps).

6. Turn off the heat, wrap the lid in a tea towel, cover the pan and set aside for 10 minutes. Use a fork to stir in the cilantro and serve.

Each of 6 servings: 308 calories; 7 grams protein; 47 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 10 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 4 grams sugar; 1,128 mg sodium.