Ready for an introduction to your new favorite go-to recipe?
Koshari is to Egyptians what chili is to Americans. Made of lentils, rice, tomato sauce and a kick of spice, it is a fast-food staple offered by street vendors in cities such as Cairo. And what a great fast food: combining lentils with brown rice creates a complete protein, perfect for hours of energy.
I started making this dish back in my single years; it was so inexpensive, convenient, nutritious and delicious, I would make a big batch at least once a month. I'd typically cook the lentils and rice ahead of time and store in the refrigerator, then boil the macaroni the night of assembly.
You can use any kind of lentils; red lentils are great because they cook in so little time and, since they break down, they become one with the tomato sauce. Then again, I love the distinct, meaty bite of brown, black and green lentils. As for the macaroni: regular, multi-grain, gluten free, the choice is yours. And no need to stick to brown rice for the grain; quinoa is fantastic, or any other cooked grain that suits your fancy. You get the idea: just as variations of chili are endless, so too are versions of koshari. Tweak to your heart’s content to make this basic recipe your own.
Much of the personalization comes from the toppings. Fresh herbs such as parsley, mint or cilantro are traditional toppings; the fresh flavor wakes up all of the other elements of the dish (and adds gorgeous eye appeal). A crumble of tangy white cheese called gibna beida is similarly common; feta cheese and Mexican cotija are very similar, or you can do as I do above and use soft goat cheese.
As you can likely imagine, leftover koshari is even better on day two. And three.
Want to make this dish extra-easy? Umm, yes please!
Use canned lentils and frozen brown rice. Canned lentils are not always available (darn it!) but you are most likely to find them at whole food and natural food grocery stores, or in the healthy food section of the grocery store; amazon sells them, too, if you're willing to commit to multiple cans (do it!). As for frozen brown rice: it is sold at many grocery stores, right there in the frozen foods sections (a mere dollar for a 12-oz bag (which is 3 cups) at my local supermarket). Both are super-convenient options when you're starving and pooped at the end of the day.
Makes 6 servings
1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed
2 cups water
1 cup whole wheat macaroni
3 cups cooked long-grain brown rice
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 jar (26 oz) reduced-sodium chunky marinara sauce 1
Chopped fresh mint
Chopped fresh parsley
Crumbled feta cheese
1. In a large saucepan, combine lentils and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes or until very tender.
2. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling water, cook macaroni until al dente. Drain and add to lentils.
3. Stir in rice, cumin, cayenne and marinara sauce; simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
4. Serve in bowls, with any of the suggested accompaniments, as desired.