Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions

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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Beth Howard, Author of Making PieceVisits Lebanon in July

Serendipity... Life is always full of surprises! Thank God for that. On a trip to the USA in Seattle years ago, I fell upon a book called Making Piece. Of course, I bought it although it was stained with coffee. You know lots of people come to Barnes and Nobles, drink coffee and browse for hours through cookbooks. Am I one of those people, you bet!

I brought the book home to Lebanon and read it in a few days. I could relate to Beth's passion and finding therapy through food. I often write the author of the book I read to show my appreciation for his / her writing with an effort to make the story last longer. When I finish a book, I often get the blues because I want more and feel that by ending the book I am cutting relations with that story. My attempt to contact the author is to make the story part of my life too. Some authors connect with me and stay friends for life, others don't.

Beth's Pie Book
Beth Howard and I connected two years ago. We have been following each other since then through social networks. She is part of my life, as I am part of hers. I received a letter that she is planning to come and visit me this summer as part of a project entitled, "World Piece". I am delighted! I wrote on her Facebook page, "The queen of American pie comes to meet the queen of Lebanese pie", not that we take ourselves too seriously but we have both been coined as such.

She has created a website for this project. This is what she wrote concerning her trip to Lebanon. "From India, I fly to Beirut, Lebanon, with a five-hour stopover in Cairo. Because the round-the-world ticket only allows so many stopovers I won’t get to explore Egypt, the birthplace of pie, or see the pyramids (unless they are visible from the plane), but at least my feet will get to touch that red, electrified, ancient African soil — the cradle of mankind where all this madness started. In Beirut, I will spend a week with cookbook author, photographer, and social activist, Barbara Massaad. She was one of the original anchors to this trip and while it is tricky to get to Lebanon — and the US suggests avoiding it — this stop underscores everything about my mission as it’s all about using pie to spread goodwill and promote peace."

Beth Howard
 If you would like to follow her adventure, please do. I will post on her adventures in Lebanon when she arrives this summer. It will be great fun to cook together in Ballouneh!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Slow Food Beirut / Kitchenlab / Students Hadchit

Slow Food Beirut will host 24 children from Hadchit tomorrow at Kitchenlab. We will teach the children to bake bread (2 recipes using local flavors), show them what is yeast and why it is important for good bread, make Itch (an Armenian tabbouleh with lots of burghul) and we will have lunch all together. I will discuss my book Mouneh with the children and give them a lesson on the importance of eating local products in season. Volunteers are welcomed if interested. I can't wait to meet them. I'm very excited.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

La Passione

One who lives without passion is a dead man roaming the earth...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Kea Island - September Schedule

The month of May did not work out for most interested party so we are going in September. Would any of you be interested ? If so, let me know by the end of this week to reserve places.

The sequence of activities might change, subject to weather and availability of produce.

Monday, September 22
  • 06:15 pm Pick up from hotel.
  • 06:30 pm Orientation and drinks at Aglaia and Costas’ house, followed by welcome buffet dinner with the group and a few Kea residents and visiting friends. Greek wine tasting, part 1: rosés, one sparkling; one white and two red wines.
Tuesday, September 23
  • 10:00 am Pick up from hotel.
  • 10:15 am Introduction to our olive pickers. Take part in the olive picking OR participate in the cooking class: preparing stuffed vegetables (eggplants, tomatoes, peppers); also, preparing the lamb or kid that we will roast in the woodfired oven, in a mastelo, the traditional unglazed Cycladic ceramic pot.
  • 01:00 pm Greek wine tasting, part 2: an overview of Greek whites and reds; followed by long Mediterranean lunch alfresco with dishes prepared in class.
  • 03:00 pm Take part in the olive picking OR return to hotel for napping or swimming.
  • Evening free to explore the island’s taverns (list has been provided).
Wednesday, September 24
  • 09:15 am Pick up from hotel.
  • 09:30 am Take part in the olive picking and pressing OR participate in the cooking class: making traditional breads, plain and stuffed with vegetables, cheese and chocolate; also, preparing fig-leaf-wrapped fish for grilling.
  • 12:30 pm Olive oil tasting, followed by lunch with our breads and salads, drizzled with a variety of olive oils, and fig-leaf-wrapped grilled fish. Greek wine tasting, part 3: more Greek white wines, mostly Assyrtiko from Santorini.
  • 05:00 pm Scenic walk through Hora, to Liontas, the ancient 'smiling' lion. Meze dinner with local specialties at Yannis' Tavern, in Hora.
Thursday, September 25
  • 09:00 am Pick up from hotel.
  • 09:15 am Cooking class: preparing ladera: green beans and/or okra stewed in olive oil with tomatoes and potatoes. Also, peeling almonds from the trees to make amygdalota, the traditional flour-less almond cookies of the Cyclades.
  • Lunch; and cheese tasting part 1: dishes prepared in class accompanied by fetaand some other goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses. Greek wine tasting, part 4.
  • 01:00 pm Return to hotel for a brief rest. !
  • 03:00 pm Hike to Carthaea archaeological site, to see the wonderful temples by the sea. Some mules will help us climb up on the way back. Wear hiking shoes; bring your bathing suit, map, flashlight and a sweater!
Friday, September 27
  • 10:00 am Pick up from hotel
  • 10:15 am Cooking class: curing and smoking olives; making olive rolls with orange-olive oil crust; also, batter-frying various vegetables, and making skordalia (garlic sauce).
  • 12:30 pm Tasting cured and aged cheeses from the islands and other parts of Greece, served with salads of blanched greens and/or roasted vegetables and homemade breads for
  • lunch, along with a tasting of Greek red wines.
  • 05:30 pm Pick up from hotel and drive to the beach for sunset drinks and meze (bring your swimsuit, your sweater, and a flashlight).
Saturday, September 28
  • 10:00 am Pick up from hotel--if you plan to leave in the afternoon, bring your luggage over.
  • 10:15 am Cooking class with Stamatia and Ela, phyllo dough experts: rolling phyllo pastry
  • and making pites (pies)--crunchy cheese pie, spinach and garden herb pie, etc.
  • Filleting and marinating fresh sardines or anchovies, or frying small fish and shrimp.
  • 01:00 pm Farewell lunch with dishes prepared in class. For dessert, a tasting of traditional
  • yogurts with Greek honeys from various flowers, paired with sweet wines and Aglaia’s lemon liqueur.
  • Late afternoon, or next day, transportation to the ferry to Lavrio and Athens. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Breakfast at Ishkhanian Bakery (instead of Tiffany's)

My love and I at the bakery
If you want a romantic breakfast with your other half, Ishkhanian at Zot el Blat is wonderful. I love it there. It feels right... The food is so good. The laham ajin is to die for. Vegetarians (like me most of the time) can have a vegie ajin with the same exact flavors. I swear! Coharik, the owner of the bakery, just became a grandma and was showing me her new grandchild. Bless this family!

Sharing food and baby news
Very easy to eat a dozen!

Mexican Proverb

They tried to bury us... They did not know we were seeds. 
When life hits you hard... fight back smoothly with tact, peacefully without harming anyone. I've come to the conclusion that one has to suffer to create art, to make beautiful things, to have an impact on society.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


When you engage an artisan, you buy more than a service. You buy certain hours of failure and experimentation. You buy days, weeks, and months of frustrations and pure moments of joy too. You don't buy something, you buy a piece of one's heart, a part of one's soul. More important, you buy an artisan more time to live out his passion.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Soup for Syria - Conditions in Refugee Camps

As I finish up writing the book Soup for Syria , the conditions are not better. You could say the reality is stagnant. Hatred is building up and so many people are caught in this raging war. You can order the book through Interlink Books based in the US. May this book bring a message of hope, of love, of empathy.

This my Aya. I say my Aya because I truly love her.
The war of Syria is written in her eyes, are you sensitive enough to read them. Today was hard. Very hard! People I visited last year are still living in the same misery and heartache. Babies are born, husbands are leaving and not coming back, hygiene is at its worst because of the rain and now the melting of the snow. Mud is everywhere. Humidity, hunger, pain.... I don't think I will sleep tonight.
war in syria in her eyes
A newborn who was born prematurely is in desperate need of help. The mother asked for Nursie 1 and diapers. The baby looks like he will not make it. I have never seen a baby so tiny and so fragile. Her husband left her with the baby and she is squatting with another family now who took pity on her. That family is also living in very difficult conditions but in spite of that , they took in this young desperate mother. If you can help in any way. Doctors who can help!!! Donations to buy milk would also be appreciated. I had to make sure the baby was alive because he looked so frail. It is very disturbing. I chose not to show his face because of mere superstition. I think his little feet show a lot. Help people. 
prenatal baby

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

About Reading / About Writing

When once the itch of literature comes over a man (woman), nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.~Samuel Lover, born today 24 Feb 1797-1868

 photo Pierre Bared

 A proud moment I will never forget, the book signing of Mouneh: Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry at Tawlet, Souk el Tayeb. The setting was beautiful. My family and friends gathered to celebrate the birth of this huge baby which took 5 years to produce. It was worth it.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Walk Alone / or Not

“If you cannot find a good companion to walk with, walk alone, like an elephant roaming the jungle. It is better to be alone than to be with those who will hinder your progress.”