Mejadra from the 'Jerusalem' Cookbook

[Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin]

The Mejadra recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem: A Cookbook is Tamimi's take on the traditional Arab comfort food combination of rice, lentils, and onions. Here, the rice and lentils are steamed together with a plethora of spices, pilaf style, before adding the pièce de résistance--a smattering of freshly fried onions. It may seem strange to stir crisp fried bits into a steaming hot pot of rice, but the lost crunch factor is totally worth it considering the incredible depth of caramelized, salty flavor given over to the rice and beans. And never fear, fried-fiends, you'll reserve some of the fried onions for topping off your bowl anyway.

Why I picked this recipe: A heavily spiced blend of lentils, rice, and fried onions seemed like a perfect bowl of comfort food for chilly late November evenings.

What worked: Once assembled, the dish far surpasses the sum of its parts—who knew such humble elements could taste so dynamic?

What didn't: The onion frying step took much longer than advertised, and I needed to fry the onions in five batches in order to not crowd the pot. Next time, I'd use a slightly bigger pot and go up on oil by a cup or so in order to fit more in each batch.

Suggested tweaks: The flavors and technique of this dish are pretty set in stone; that said, you could probably tweak the cooking times to use a different type of bean or brown basmati rice if you felt up to the task.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Jerusalem: A Cookbook to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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