In the weeks leading up to my first half-marathon, I spent quite a bit of time reading and planning for how I would prepare. What would my taper look like? Should I have a pre-race meal 2 hours or 3 hours beforehand? And, of course, there was the question of what to eat the night before the race.
Since I wasn’t running a full marathon, heavy carbo-loading wasn’t necessary, but I did want to increase my carbohydrate intake somewhat in the days leading up to the run, just to be sure I had the stored energy that I would need. I also wanted to eat something familiar and delicious; something that I knew would provide me with necessary nutrients, as well as comfort to calm some of my nerves.
It didn’t take long for me to decide on koshari as my pre-race dinner. Many runners turn to pasta dishes before runs. Whether it’s a group of runners gathering together or a quick meal at home, pasta dinners have long been a tradition before races. Koshari is a take on a pasta dinner, but with a decidedly different cultural twist.
As I understand it, koshari is Egyptian in origin and is a traditional mixture of pasta, lentils, and rice with a somewhat spicy tomato sauce and onions. I’ve seen several different recipes for koshari and the one I will share with you here is the one I have created from a culmination of various sources and my own trial and error.
This is a simple dish, but it is consistently one of my favorite and most satisfying meals. I also like to think that it really is ideal to include in a healthy menu for runners and other athletes, as it packs a nice combination of nutrients. The pasta and rice give you the carbohydrates you need for sustaining energy levels. The lentils provide a substantial dose of protein, fiber and B vitamins. The tomato sauce delivers powerful antioxidants and a good amount of potassium, and the onions provide protection for your heart, as well as overall anti-inflammatory properties. How perfect is that??
Plus, this stuff is good.
- 1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and picked through
- 1 cup rice
- 1 cup dried small pasta (macaroni/orzo/elbows)
- 1 large white or yellow onion, diced
- 2 tblspns olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2.5 cups tomato sauce
- ¼ tspn red pepper flakes
- 1 green chili, diced
- 1 tblspn red wine vinegar
- (optional: extra onion to fry and top with cooked koshari)
- Place lentils in a pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer about 30-40 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside.
- Simultaneously, cook rice in 2 cups of water as directed on package. When finished, set aside.
- Also, cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Saute onions, garlic and chili in olive oil until browned.
- Add tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, and red wine vinegar. Heat to boiling and reduce to a simmer. Add salt and additional red pepper flakes to preferred taste. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.
- Combine cooked lentils, rice and pasta with the sauce and mix to combine. If desired, serve topped with caramelized onions, chopped parsley or cilantro.