The great thing about comfort foods is they are different for everyone. For some it's mac and cheese, maybe a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, or meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Comfort is found in those simple dishes that evoke good memories. Your comfort foods might remind you of Sunday dinners after church or perhaps the memory of an after school snack that your Mom used to make you everyday . . . It's different for everyone around the world.
Chef Toni Elkhouri, owner of Cedar's Cafe in Melbourne, FL, finds her comfort in many dishes, one being a simple Lebanese lentils and rice recipe she has eaten practically all her life. Lentils and rice are an easy and affordable dish to make, Toni says, "[The dish] is rooted in very humble beginnings." Another added bonus is that the dish is completely vegan and gluten free.
Lebanese Lentils and Rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, julienned
1 pound bag of lentils, rinsed and sorted
1 cup basmati rice
Sea salt or regular salt
5 - 6 cups of water
Optional extras: Lemon juice, garlic, tomato, plain Greek yogurt, cucumber, pine nuts, olive oil
- In a large pan, add olive oil and turn on medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of sea salt (regular salt is fine). Caramelize until onion is very dark brown and crispy. Once onion is finished, set aside some of the caramelized onion to top your final dish. Pour 5 to 6 cups of water into your pan with the rest of the onion, the water should turn very brown in color.
- Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the lentils are tender (about 40 minutes) and about 2 cups of water are remaining in the pan. Add uncooked basmati rice. Reduce heat and let simmer until water has almost completely absorbed. Turn off heat, cover pan, and let steep for about 10 minutes.
- Your lentils and rice are ready to serve. Top with the caramelized onions you set aside earlier. Some optional ingredients with which you can garnish your dish are fresh tomato slices, pine nuts, plain Greek yogurt and cucumber, or . . we had ours with a delicious garlic sauce (made by soaking lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and lots of garlic together).