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Why This Recipe Works

Vegetarian comfort food at its best, this dish is a textbook example of how a few humble ingredients can add up to something satisfying and complex. We used a pilaf method to cook the rice and lentils, blooming warm spices and toasting the rice in shallot-infused oil to deepen the flavor and enhance the rice’s nuttiness. Giving the lentils a 15-minute head start ensured that they finished cooking along with the rice. Soaking the rice in hot water gave it a fluffy, not sticky, texture. To make our hearty dish more of a complete meal, we added baby spinach, which wilted as the mixture sat covered for 10 minutes. A sprinkle of toasted almonds provided much-needed textural contrast, and a bracing garlicky yogurt sauce made the perfect finishing touch.

Serves 4 to 6
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

We prefer the richer flavor of whole-milk yogurt here; however, low-fat or nonfat yogurt can be substituted. Either large green or brown lentils works well in this recipe; do not substitute French green lentils, or lentilles du Puy.

1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt

8½ ounces (1¼ cups) large green or brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
Salt and pepper
1¼ cups basmati rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 ounces (6 cups) baby spinach
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

1. For the yogurt sauce: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl; cover and refrigerate until serving.

2. For the lentils and rice: Bring lentils, 4 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook until lentils are tender, 15 to 17 minutes. Drain lentils and transfer to large bowl.

3. While lentils cook, place rice in medium bowl, add hot tap water to cover by 2 inches, and let stand 15 minutes. Using hands, gently swish rice to release excess starch, then carefully pour off water. Continue to add cold tap water to bowl of rice, swish gently, and pour off starchy water 4 to 5 more times until water runs almost clear. Drain rice in fine-mesh strainer.

4. Add oil and shallots to now-empty pot and cook over medium heat until shallots are softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in drained rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until edges of rice begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in 2  cups water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Stir in lentils, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 12 minutes.

5. Remove pot from heat and place spinach on top of lentils and rice. Lay clean dish towel over pot, cover with lid, and let sit for 10 minutes. Using fork, fluff lentils and rice and incorporate wilted spinach. Season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with almonds, and serve with yogurt sauce.

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