I first ate this dish at a friend's house whose father is Lebanese. I was hooked. Humble lentils and rice are doused in spices, topped with caramelized onions and accompanied with tomatoes and yogurt. I eat this year round, but preparing it in the summer is my favorite because you get the cucumbers and tomatoes. The contrast between cool, acidic, sweet, spicy, and tangy is what makes this amazing.
1 cup lentils, brown or green
1 cup brown long grain rice, soaked in water 12-24 hours
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
4 onions, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp allspice
1.5 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp sea salt
Drain rice and rinse lentils. Chop 1 onion into a small dice. Heat olive oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add onions and sauté until translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add in all spices, except for the salt. Give everything a stir. Add rice and lentils and stir for another minute. Cover with 3 cups of filtered water, add salt and bring to a boil. Lower the temperature to low, cover, and cook for 55-60 minutes.
While the lentils and rice are cooking, work on the toppings. For the caramelized onions, thinly slice the remaining onions. Cover a heavy pan with enough olive oil to coat the bottom with a thin layer of oil and heat over medium until the oil just glistens. Add the onions. As soon as they have started to soften, turn the heat down a tad. Stir occasionally. The onions will take some time to release their water and then will start to smell sweet and slowly caramelize. It is a bit of a slow process, but taking it slow helps prevent burning. For 3 onions, it'll take about 25-30 minutes. They are ready when they are soft and a rich, caramel brown color (see photos).
I grated half a cucumber and added it to 1 cup of greek yogurt with a pinch of salt and 1 TBS of mint and 1 TBS of lemon juice. In a time pinch, chopped cucumber with a scoop of yogurt is perfectly delicious too.