Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions & Thoughts

Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions & Thoughts
Spring time always inspires me...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

In Spite of....

In spite of...

1. losing a friend to terrorism, my dear Leila... we had unfinished business together. You were suppose to continue guiding my daughter as she starts her artistic path as you have beautifully done. We were suppose to cook together. I was suppose to see you barefoot and pregnant. I wanted to continue to tell you about the joy of being a mother and to show you that this would be the ultimate adventure you seek in your life... The fruit of your love with Nabil, your beloved. There were so many things I wanted to share....You left too soon...

This is my favorite picture of you, it shows your inner beauty

2. living through the beginning of what psychologists call "the empty nest syndrome" , where a child leaves the nest to go and study abroad. Slowly but surely all are heading towards their chosen paths far from us.

3. living with the fact that our parents are getting older and more fragile.

3. seeing my beloved country go to hell literary and not being able to do a single thing about it...

4. watching injustices occur to people around me every day.

In spite of that... I will continue to capture the beauty of life, to cook, and to try to help those around me...  I may disappear one day soon (as Leila has) or in a long time and live to become an old woman.

It is God's will or as they say "maktoob".

Allahu Akbar - Ave Maria - Tania Kassis live at l'Olympia Official Video

This is a beautiful interpretation of Ave Maria sung by Lebanese artist called Tania Kassis. What makes it so memorable is the Allahu Akbar incorporated into the song. It makes me believe that there could be hope somehow. Just listen to it, it will make you feel good despite all the mess and hatred in the world.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 Gone / 2016 Resolutions

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust 

It was a tough year! Living in Lebanon has taken a toll on my health and on my mind. Luckily, I was able to travel extensively and completely disconnect myself from the chaos (the garbage, the corruption, the political instability, the lack of civic respect among Lebanese....). The list is long but it's not my place to criticize, as I have always been a person that strives to keep a positive image of my country. It is getting harder and harder... In light of the mess, in my head, building up into a volcano wanting to erupt. I have come up with one solution to save myself. 


 I will build ....

1. Book ( #5)
2. Cook (A lot)
3. Teach ( A lot)
4. Give (A lot)
5. Travel (As much as possible)
6. Plant seeds (Foods of my country in other lands)

... until I can find a solution to find peace.

Soup for Syria on CNN

Read More 

Barbara Massaad: A recipe for Syria refugee relief @CNNI
Food writer and photographer Barbara Massaad creates a novel way to help Syrian refugees.

Motto / Makan's Top 10 Moments 2015

Joining the Motto / Makan team was a big highlight of my year. I will continue to cook there. It's the most obvious choice. I have a restaurant experience when I want and don't have one when I don't want to. This enables me to do so many more things in my life. Of course, they are all related to food but they take on many facets: Slow Food Beirut activities, giving workshops at Kitchen Lab, writing books, giving of myself to others who are in need and being close to my family.

 Motto / Makan's Top 10 Moments 2015

3. Barbara Enters The Scene
Barbara entered our lives one sunny day when she came for lunch at Motto.  Little did we know how much impact she would have!  Barbara inspired us to join the Slow Food movement, helped us design Makan as a foodie space, and cooked sumptuous meals from her many cookbooks.  She’s kept us busy with her boundless energy and inspired us to great things.  We love having her in the family!

At Motto sharing my latest book - Soup for Syria
  Read more ...

Monday, November 30, 2015

Olive Oil Trail in Lebanon at Zejd Oil

This is a fantastic initiative, Youssef Fares in one of the producers mentioned in the Mouneh book. I have done this trip with him and it remains a very memorable day.  

Celebrate The Olive Picking Season  In Baino’s countryside, you will engage in a walk among the olive trees where you will be initiated to sustainable olive picking practices and organic farming. After visiting the olive extraction unit, familiarizing with the state-of-the art extraction techniques, you will practice extra virgin olive oil tasting to discover its different characteristics and explore the different culinary applications of olive oil along with its many health benefits. Later in the day you will savour a delicious home-made lunch prepared from various local specialties, and finally have a visit Baino’s natural reserve and its beautiful lake, before returning to Beirut. 

Reservation is a must as places are limited! For tickets and further info call House of Zejd (contact information below) or go to the following link:https://www.ihjoz.com/events/1374-olive-oil-trail-season-s-final-harvest


o Gathering & drop off location: Beirut (details coming soon)
o Time: 8am
o Return time from Baino: 4:30pm
o Fees:
-transportation included: USD 40.00
-transportation excluded: USD 30.00
o Reservation:
- ihjoz
- call House of Zejd (009611338003)
o Payment: Both reservations must be paid prior to friday the 4th of December 2015 at House of Zejd.
Address: Mar Mitr street - Ashrafieh (facing the Brazilian Cultural Centre) - 01.338003 | www.zejd.net


A bus will pick you up from Beirut and drive you to our village through the Northern territory of Lebanon. In Baino’s countryside, you will engage in a walk among the olive trees where you will be initiated to sustainable olive picking practices and organic farming. After visiting the olive extraction unit, familiarizing with the state-of-the art extraction techniques, you will practice extra virgin olive oil tasting to discover its different characteristics and explore the different culinary applications of olive oil along with its many health benefits.

In our specialized store you will have access to the best selection of our product. And finally, you will savour a delicious home-made lunch prepared from various local specialties, and finally have a visit Baino’s natural reserve and to its beautiful lake, before returning by bus to Beirut.

Olive Oil Tour in Baino-Akkar

Celebrate the olive picking season. From October till late December, discover Baino in Akkar, home to Zejd® olive derivative products.

Lebanon is renowned for its rich oleic history and culture dating back to centuries. The Olea Europaea tree was first cultivated in the Levant region thousands of years ago and the production of Lebanese olive oil can be traced back to the Phoenician era.

Zejd® - the ancient Phoenician term for oil - highlights the rich historical background of Lebanese olive oil.

For one day only or over a week-end, hand-pick your olives, learn about olive oil extraction and olive oil tasting, taste Baino specialties and finally stock up on local produce of olives, olive oil and mouneh for the year to come.

A family tradition …

Back in the 19th century, the Fares family began cultivating olives and pressing oil in Baino, a mountain village in the Akkar region of Northern Lebanon.

Today, the family tradition is perpetuated with Olive Trade® through the production of high quality Extra Virgin and organic olive oil. The select range of products also includes a unique line of infused oils, pickled and stuffed olives, tapenades, traditional olive oil soaps as well as caramelized chocolives.

Olive Trade® adopts exceptional standards throughout olive cultivation to the latest technology in olive oil extraction and storage conforming to the rigorous ISO 22000: 2005 standards.
Our eco label mill certification is yet another testament to our commitment to ecological standards.

Striving for social responsibility, we make a point in ensuring best practices by engaging local farmers and producers in the olive oil production, creating vocational training projects for the women.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bread and Salt @ Makan

This week we welcome Italian food back to the Motto family!
Chef Barbara Massaad teams up with fellow slow-foodie Veronica Pecorella for a spectacular seasonal Italian menu at Makan, from Thursday to Saturday, 22-24 October. Here Veronica tells us the story of how her friendship with Barbara has brought them to Makan, and beyond:
I was 16, maybe 17, when I read an article about Beirut and Lebanon after the civil war. I was sitting at a wooden table of the old Osteria of my parents in Cormons (a small rural village in a wine region of Italy, on the border with Slovenia). 
“One day I will live there,” I thought. 

“My cooking is always different and I am inspired by the people I am cooking for!” – Veronica Pecorella
Twenty years later, after working for a certification organization to develop organic agriculture in Mediterranean countries, the time came. Four years ago I moved to Beirut with my family because of work (but feel not only for that reason).
For me the first place to go when you move into a new city (after a good restaurant) is a bookstore. So I did. After grabbing a new edition of Beirut Home (the Beirut guide with all useful addresses for just-in city movers), I went to the cooking/food books section. And there it happened. The book that would have made the difference in my life called me. Mouneh by Barbara Abdeni Massad. (Now I would say that this is a must-read volume to understand the real rural spirit of the country.)
I spent all that afternoon reading and looking at the pictures, the details of the book. In that afternoon, even though it was not my first time in Lebanon, I felt the real meaning of za’tar. “No way! I must meet her.” And thanks to Zuckerberg, I asked her friendship on Facebook. 
Three days later we were sitting together in Barbara’s kitchen eating goat’s cheese with thyme and olive oil. We both grew up in restaurants, both food – slow food – cooking lovers, interested in the stories behind products and producers, plenty of ideas to share. For the first time we met, we felt one day we would do something together. 

‘From the first time we met, I knew we’d do something together.’
In July, after four  years, I left my previous job in the organic sector (even still eating it!) to stay in Beirut and to develop a new project that will connect Italian and Lebanese arts to wines, beers and of course food. Meanwhile, I’ll be finally cooking together with Barbara at Makan, sharing our passions. As she would say, the Lebanese me.  Bread and salt.

A perfect partnership in the kitchen
To book for Veronica and Barbara’s Italian dinner at Makan, SMS 70954057.  As always, pay what you think is fair.
The full menu will be announced on Wednesday via our Facebook page – or email us at mottomarmikhael@gmail.com to get all the week’s menus first, in your inbox every Monday.

Barbara and Vero sharing bread and salt at their favourite Motto table

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Motto - Angela's blog post

Chef, cookbook writer and food photographer Barbara Massaad has big, bubbly red hair and a big, bubbly personality.  Already well known in foodie circles as the author of cookbook bibles Manoushe, Mezze and Mouneh, she is also President of Slow Food Beirut.  Barbara came first to Motto for lunch one spring afternoon, and was inspired by the homey atmosphere and Nimal’s cooking, to return as a chef with her son and culinary student Albert.
This week Barbara returns with a selection of Lebanese Mezze from her cookbook, ‘Mezze: A Labor of Love’.  We caught up with her, in between shopping for Motto, TV interviews and preparations for the fundraising reception for her latest book, Soup for Syria.  She is truly a chef on a mission.
How did you choose this week’s menu at Motto, among all the delicious dishes in the book?
I chose the recipes according to what I felt like having my family eat on this special weekend. My husband and his brother are celebrating their birthday and so the whole family will come and dine to celebrate. You see Motto is my second home away from home…
How did you first come across Motto, and what were your first impressions?
I heard about it through friends, and was intrigued about the concept because it goes with the philosophy I adhere to… I think it’s nice that customers who come decide on the fee they want to pay. It also breaks down social barriers and people who could not afford to eat in a restaurant are more apt to do so with this formula.

How do you think Motto reflects the principles of Slow Food?
It’s fair… and the philosophy of Slow Food is based on good, clean and fair. The food varies at Motto, some days are better than others – but that is part of its charm too… It’s also clean because it’s not commercial, therefore guest chefs come and use good wholesome ingredients to cook as if they were cooking at home. Nimal also treats cooking personally and with care, and you can tell the difference…

We’ve heard so much about your current project, Soup for Syria. All the proceeds from the sales are going to the refugee food appeal. That is an incredible feat! What do you hope the book will achieve?
Awareness!  I hope it will break barriers of animosity among Lebanese and Syrians and create a bond that would enable Lebanese to help those who are fleeing Syria because of war.
Soup for Syria is on sale this week at Motto, and you’re holding a fundraising reception on 20 October.  

Will you come and cook soup at Motto this winter?
Of course.

What are your top tips for aspiring young food writers and photographers?
JUST DO IT. Don’t think too much about it. Just follow your ideas, no matter how crazy they may be. Everyone made fun of me when I spoke of doing a book on the man’oushe – including friends. The book became a bestseller and is still selling all over the world.

You can meet Barbara this week at Motto, where she is serving her Mezze menu on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (8-10 October).  To book, SMS 70954057.  Full details and updates on our Facebook page.  As always – pay what you think is fair.

Barbara Massaad, author Soup for Syria at refugee camp Bekaa Valley

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Soup for Syria Invite

We have finally set the date. Actually it took some time for the books to get out of the port of Beirut. Don't ask me why? And frankly I don't want to know why. All I know is with the help of Library Antoine and their partners, it was done. The day I got the books, which I stocked in a room in the garage of my house. I confirmed the date of the fundraiser. We are two groups working on the launching. My friend Tina is taking care of the volunteers who will be cooking soups on that day and I am handling the photo exhibit, invitations and the drinks. Station Beirut were so generous to give up their space for that night and I am very grateful. Hopefully we will have enough people to sell all the books. This will ensure that 100% of sales will be donated for food fund relief and medical assistance. Crossing my fingers!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Syrian Refugees Don't Matter!

Syrian Refugees don't Matter! That is what I am getting lately from peers, colleagues, friends ...

A portrait of Syrian child in the Bekaa
I have started to show the book Soup for Syria and advertise the launching of the book . The whole world is talking about the refugee crisis these days. It leaves me perplexed! This situation is not new, yet it took the photo of one dead boy on a beach to manipulate the media to make it a headline story ... His death will not go in vain, I know it!

I am often criticized by people in Lebanon for helping Syrian refugees. They say to me “Why don’t you help Lebanese children instead?” I totally understand this. Refugees are a burden on a society; they bring hardship, chaos, and often drain a county’s resources. They are are unwanted in host countries. But are these reasons not to help people who have been displaced, lost everything, and have no place to go and no one to help them? In my view “no” because this could happen to us one day as a result of a natural disaster or an unnatural political disaster. Tragedy has no nationality or borders. Today the Syrians are facing a humanitarian crisis of unthinkable proportions and magnitude. I will always do what I can to help people in need, regardless of whether they happen to be Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, Nepalese, Filipino, or Sudanese.

What makes a person more worthy for aid is what I am asking myself... Is it his nationality, his sex, creed, ... Humanity is filled with hatred. We fight wars, kill innocent people in the name of God. Hypocrisy at its best. We have become totally blind!
Remember the song of John Lennon? ... The song you listen to when chilling with your friends over a glass of wine....

I will publish it to refresh your memory. I think Mr. Lennon had the right idea. The moment we brand a person is the moment we start filling our hearts with hatred - we become Godless. We become raw. I am not a philosopher but I can feel what matters (the essential: food, love, shelter, sense of belonging) which sometimes even intellectuals, powerful people, men of nations cannot perceive or acknowledge. They are caught up in their own egocentric bubble - one idea - one path, closed to empathy.
Exerts of the song Imagine...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Lennon, John