All posts filed under: Lebanon

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Labneh

For much of December I found myself being entertained rather than entertaining. It was a nice, relaxing way to spend two weeks but I find myself – even now that we’re well into the New Year – looking for a way to make someone else feel special and cared for.  After some recipe rummaging, I had my answer: Labneh. Soup might comfort, jelly might wibble-wobble, but Labneh delights. This Middle Eastern thickened yogurt appetizer seems oh so fancy but is really a set-it-and-forget-it kind of affair – exactly what I need to pay it forward during a busy time of year. It’s mild and tangy – but if you use full fat yogurt, very creamy and indulgent in a… healthy way (it’s made with yogurt, after all). Does your mind ever wander when you cook? Mine does. As the yogurt strained in the cool, dark refrigerator I considered the people who came in my life for no more than a season – perhaps a brilliant season, perhaps a painful one. I reminded myself that letting them go is a gift. Ahhhh, what a gift for my heart. …

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Fattoush, a Levantene Salad for Kahlil Gibran

“The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding … the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.” – Kahlil Gibran The best teachers’ lessons stay relevant long after their deaths. Such is the case with the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931). Often, when I’m at a loss for what to do, I’ll pick up his book The Prophet. Despite living a nearly hundred years ago, his wisdom still disarms me. That’s just one of his many beautiful lines. I love the idea that the fresh produce we eat not only becomes a part of us, but improves us – brings us to life. The work of modern nutritionists back up Gibran – this is not just poetry, it’s science. So this week I’m making him a salad. A salad enjoyed in his corner of the world (Gibran was born in Lebanon and, even after living in the United States, chose to be buried in Lebanon). Here’s the museum they built in his honor: This salad celebrates …

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Monday Meal Review: Lebanon

THE SCENE: I am five minutes into mashing and squashing an entire head of garlic, when I realize I am not really sure what people mean when they say “I cook with my heart.” My kitchen is littered with garlic peels. The papery petals stick to my fingers when I try to scrape them up. This is my second head of garlic for the day. Earlier, I roasted an entire head of garlic for the baba ghanoush. Two heads of garlic is a lot for one single, solitary meal. For the 2.5 of us. I laugh. How did I get here? I scrape the blob of garlic paste into my mini-prep and buzz it together with a splash of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. It turns from pale cream to butter yellow. The scent explodes into the air. Is this what happens – is this the result of cooking from the heart? Does one really need two entire heads of garlic in a meal? No.  Had I let my love of garlic …

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Mountain Gnocchi | Maakroun

Gnocchi is always associated with Italy. Gondolas. Striped shirts. Butter and sage. But take a trip southeast, across the Mediterranean, to the old mountain villages of Lebanon and you’ll encounter something very similar. It’s called Maakroun –  a thick homemade pasta that is either fried and served sweet, or boiled and served with an intense garlicky lemon sauce called toum. While Maakroun is not made with potatoes, the shape is nearly the same – a little longer perhaps. I would have never guessed that the Lebanese have something so similar to gnocchi. Never in a million years. But that’s what this Adventure is all about – discovery and trying something new. So get off your gondola, and put on your hiking shoes. We’re headed to Lebanon. And we’re going to eat pasta. Recipe inspired by this regional tourism flyer from Douma, Lebanon. Serves 2-4 Ingredients: 3 cups flour 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil warm water, as needed (I used 3/4 cup) 1 tsp salt Method: Find yourself a happy mountainside. Or perhaps a beautiful window to cook by. …

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Garlic-lemon Sauce |Toum

Adding a handful of spices to a pot of sauce can be cause to say “Bam.” Or so I’ve heard. But how about making sauce with an entire head garlic? Raw garlic? Raw garlic with nothing but a heap of lemon juice and olive oil to thin it out? They do it in Lebanon. And it’s fabulous. Just one thing … No one will ever kiss you again. Except your mother. Bam! NOTE: Use sparingly. Especially on hot days, when your pores are likely to sweat out the scent of this intense pasta sauce. Makes 1/2 cup Ingredients: The cloves from 1 head garlic 1/3 cup olive oil 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon, juiced) 1 tsp salt Serve over Maakroun, Mountain Gnocchi Method: First, you have to get the garlic started. You can crush it with a garlic crusher, or chop, chop, chop it, or pound it with some salt with a mortar and pestle. In fact, if you’re really good, you can make this entire sauce in a mortar and pestle. I’m …

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Spiced Tea | Ainar

I drink a lot of tea, so I would have thought I’d seen it all. Apparently not. Introducing Ainar, the tea brewed especially for baby mama’s and the guests who stop in to dote on their pretty newborns. In case you didn’t know, Mamas need lots of things after having a baby. Rest. Love. Good, warm food. And this tea. The cool thing about Ainar is the treat at the bottom of the cup. Nuts. After cooking a bunch of warming, fragrant spices like cinnamon, caraway, anise, and nutmeg in a large pot of water, the hot tea is splashed over assorted nuts as as much sugar as you can stand. Walnut, almond, and pine nuts are the most common. The super hot tea softens the nut and the total effect is something like spiced nuts… mixed with “good.” Rumor has it that the anise in ainar is supposed to help moms recover after childbirth. And ward off evil spirits. Win-win, if you ask me. P.S. I’m honored that this recipe was featured in Penzy’s Spices’ 2012 …

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Baba Ghanoush with Roasted Garlic

When I’m at parties I like to dip, dip, dip. You’ll recognize me immediately – I’m the one in the corner, filling up on dip before the meal ever comes. And if, for some reason, I’m not? Just know that’s where I really want to be. When it comes to dips, baba ganoush is everything I never thought it would be.  Roasted eggplant, far from bitter, transforms into a smoky and smooth treat , able to fill my belly in just the right sort of way – without that greasy, pop-out-my-bellybutton feeling some foods leave me with. In fact, baba ganoush strikes me as one of those diet foods that is actually as comforting and every bit as delicious as French fries. But I’m crazy like that. Baba Ghanoush has long been in my top favorite dips. While Baba Ghanoush is traditionally made with raw garlic, something about the chill in the air made me decide to roast a whole head of garlic for the soft, warm richness. You can never go wrong eating a …

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Menu: Lebanon

In between brushing Ava’s hair, making her breakfast and playing with scissors, paper and glue, I like to pretend we’re traveling. This week it’s all about Lebanon. I tell her about mountains and snow. We look at pictures of bustling city and sleeping country. We watch clips online. We talk about the pretty trees and the winding roads. She responds to it all by saying, in her sweet broken toddler-tongue “I want go, right now.” “Where,” I ask? I smile, leading her to repeat the very-big-word Lebanon back to me. “Christmas” she says, unblinking. Not exactly what I thought she’d say. Oh, to be a two year-old again.  And, yet, here I am, taking her to Lebanon via stovetop travel. Everything about this week’s menu is fantastic. Two heads of garlic. Roasted eggplant. Homemade pasta. Warm, cozy tea. The menu also happens to be entirely vegan. Nothing wrong with that. Not when it tastes this good. What sounds good to you?* Baba Ghanoush with Roasted Garlic [recipe] Smoky eggplant dip seasoned with lemon juice, tahini, parsley and an …

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The Cedar Forest in Al Arz, Lebanon. Photo by Aboluay.

About the food of Lebanon

Let’s climb around the mountains of Lebanon, shall we? Depending on the time of year, we might find a heavy haze of snow. In the hush and slush we can work up an appetite. Lebanon’s very name is inspired by her snow-capped mountains – Lebanon literally means white land. And, even in the humid summers, when the snow has long since melted, the sandy-sandstone  still looks white. Let’s pick our way between needly cedars, crumbly rocks, and thin brush, to our first meal. Your host will certainly welcome you with a bowl of nuts and, if a baby was recently born, with a cup of hot tea called Ainar served with nuts at the bottom of the teacup [recipe]. After tea, you might be served a mezze – an assortment of little dishes – including tabbouleh or hummus or or kibbeh (a blend of meat and bulgur, served raw or deep fried), baba ghanoush [recipe] or even kababs. So put on your smile, load up your plate, one item at a time, and get to digging. …

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