Rice with Lentils and Caramelized Onions

Rice with Lentils and Caramelized Onions

In early April we found ourselves as the Guest Chefs at Rancho La Puerta's beautiful La Cocina Que Canta - the kitchen that sings.  There, surrounded by new friends, we created a riff on one of our favorite recipes and created something entirely new - and really quite delicious.  

Serves 6 - 8

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoon butter, divided
1 cup Basmati rice
4 cups water, divided
1 ½ - 2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and checked for stones
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups medium sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup pine nuts, for garnish
1 tablespoon rinsed and chopped preserved lemon rind, or 1 teaspoon finely fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a medium size pot and stir in the rice to coat. Stir in 2 cups water and bring to a low simmer. Cover, turn heat to low and gently simmer for about 15 - 20 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Turn off heat and place a paper or tea towel between the rice the cover to help absorb moisture and keep the rice from sticking. Set aside.

While the rice simmers, put the lentils in a medium saucepan with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, stir once and reduce heat to a simmer.

Cook, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, adding more water to keep lentils covered if needed. Cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy.

Drain any excess water, gently stir in 1 teaspoon salt and set aside.

In a large skillet, over medium-low heat combine the oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the cumin and cinnamon and cook, stirring, for 1 minute until the spices release their fragrance. Add the onions and stir to coat with the spice mixture. Season with ½ - 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions caramelize to a dark brown.

Put the pine nuts in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or just until they begin to toast, careful not to burn. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the parsley.

To finish the dish, stir the lentils, rice and the chopped preserved lemon or lemon zest into the skillet with the caramelized onions and set over a low heat until the mixture is warm but not hot.

Taste to adjust seasonings. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish the top with the
pine nut/parsley mixture.

Serve warm or room temperature. May add cooked vegetables such as asparagus or broccoli.