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Lentils with Lemon

(Syria)
Adas bi' l-Hamid
Makes 6 servings

 

The appearance of pomegranate molasses in the cooked vegetable dishes of Syria usually indicates that the dish is influenced by an Aleppine cook. Syria has long been famous for its pomegranates and Aleppo for its cuisine. The great Umayyad dynasty in Syria in the eighth century was noted for its agricultural achievements as much as its military ones. A branch of the Umayyad dynasty was found in Spain, too. The Spanish Umayyad caliph Abd-ar-Rabman I (756-788), perhaps the greatest Arab general who ever lived, defeating in turn his Abbasid enemies in Iraq as well as Charlemagne, sent one of his agents to Syria to bring back an exquisite new pomegranate called the safari, which he planted in the garden park surrounding his palace of al-Rusafa outside of Córdoba.

The combination of pomegranate, garlic, and fresh coriander is a Syrian favorite in this recipe given to me by Nadia Koudmani, a Palestinian living in Damascus. It is one of my favorite lentil recipes, yet no one in Syria could tell me why it is called "with lemon" rather than "with chard," with "garlic and coriander," or "with pomegranate," the other important flavors in the dish.

The garlic should be mashed in a mortar with a pestle—the food processor will not work. Some people find this to be a very garlicky recipe, but it is an authentic recipe and I happen to like it this way, though you can feel free to cut the garlic in half if you must.

 

1-1/2 cups dried green or brown lentils,
   picked over and rinsed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil,
   plus extra for drizzling
5 large Swiss chard leaves, washed well,
   stems removed, and sliced into thin strips crosswise
2 tablespoons mashed garlic
   (about 8 large garlic cloves)
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
   (cilantro, leaves from 1 to 2 bunches)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

 

1. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the lentils until tender, 20 to 45 minutes, check often because the cooking time varies depending on the age of the lentils. Drain and set aside.

2. In a medium-size nonreactive skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the Swiss chard until it wilts, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and drain off any liquid. Set aside.

3. In the same skillet, beat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and coriander and cook until sizzling, 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium, add the Swiss chard, drained lentils, and water, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the lemon juice and pomegranate molasses and continue cooking until the lentils look mushy, about another 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle a small amount of olive oil over it before serving.

 

from:
A Mediterranean Feast
The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines
of the Mediterranean, from the Merchants of
Venice to the Barbary Corsairs,
with More Than 500 Recipes

By Clifford A. Wright
William Morrow & Co., November, 1999
Hardcover, $35.00
ISBN: 0-688-15305-5
Recipe reprinted by permission.

 

A Mediterranean Feast

 

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Kitchen Gypsy

Modified August 2007


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