A few caveats: the recipe can be made with either rice or cracked wheat/bulghur. I much prefer cracked wheat, but you will have to adjust the amount of water you use in that step, because it puffs up more than rice.
Also, don't be afraid of the amount of onions. They cook down, mix in, and you'll never realize you've used an entire bag.
2 cups green/brown lentils
1.5 cups rice or cracked wheat/bulghur
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. olive oil, divided
8-12 onions, 3/4 chopped and 1/4 sliced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1. Rinse the lentils, strain and place in a large pot with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook covered until the lentils are tender but not fully cooked, about 15 minutes. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.
2. Rinse the rice/bulghur and add to the lentils. Season with salt. Add 2 cups of water (2.5 for bulghur), bring to a boil, then reduce and allow to cook down, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest. You may need to add more liquid, especially if you've used bulghur - it's very thirsty.
3. In a separate pan, heat two tsp. olive oil on medium heat and saute the chopped onions until golden brown and carmelized, about 15 minutes. Add to the lentil mixture, stirring in along with the cumin.
4. In the now-empty onion pan, heat the remaining 2 tsp. of olive oil and fry the sliced onions until golden brown, about 15 minutes. At the end, turn the heat up to high so that the onions get crispy. These are your topping onions.
Serve with yogurt, sour cream, hot sauce, or any other condiment that strikes your fancy. It's remarkably versatile. I sprinkle sumac on top because that was how it was always served to me.
Another option to make it more savory is to stir in a pint of plain tomato sauce in lieu of some of the liquid when cooking the bulghur. It doesn't add a specifically tomato flavor, but it deepens the overall flavor of the dish.