Syrian Lentils with
Lemon (Adas bi' l-Hamid)
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
- 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.
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.
Say Bismillah and eat!
Recipe 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