mejadra with caramelized leeks and coconut


Mejadra is a Middle Eastern staple and one of my favorite dishes. You’ll find I am a big fan of lentils. Lentils are a wonderful source of fiber and iron, and are very versatile. The spices in this dish, like coriander and allspice, give off the most beautiful scent-- somewhat complex, yet provide a warm and comforting flavor. Normally done with onions, I instead used leeks for their subtle sweetness and to celebrate the season. I added toasted coconut for a bit of crunch and healthy fat . The mint is optional but worth it for its touch of freshness. Feel free to swap in basmati rice if you have it on hand. I prefer short-grain brown rice for its great texture and it is an excellent source of fiber. Make this for dinner, and have it for lunch the next day! 

mejadra with caramelized leeks and coconut

serves 4 


1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cups leeks, sliced on the bias, (3 average sized leeks)
1 cup green or brown lentils
Bay leaf
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
1 cup short-grain brown rice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ cup coconut flakes, unsweetened
Mint, thinly sliced, (optional)

Preheat oven to 300°F. In a large saucepan with a lid, melt butter over medium heat and add olive oil. Once hot, add leeks and stir to coat. Season with salt and lower heat to low. No need to constantly stir, patience is key. Stir every now and then, and if they are sticking or burning to the pan, add a teaspoon of water whenever needed. Cook for 18-20 minutes until caramelized and set aside.

Rinse well under running water and pick through any rocks or debris in the lentils. Place lentils and bay leaf in a saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and down to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes-- you want them a bit tender but with a bite. Drain in a colander and run cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside. Take the bay leaf out and save for the rice.

With a paper towel, wipe the saucepan in which the leeks were cooking in. Add all the spices to pan and cook over medium-low for about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add olive oil and rice, and stir to coat for 2 minutes. Add 2¼ cups of water to rice, stir once, and bring to a boil. Place a tight-fitting lid and lower to a simmer. Cook on low for 30-35 minutes or until tender and water is absorbed. Add lentils to the rice and cook for another 10 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, place coconut chips on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 5 minutes or until golden.

Add rice and lentils to a large mixing bowl and mix in caramelized leeks. Serve and top with toasted coconut and mint.

* Vegan option: Skip the butter and go olive oil, all the way!