Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

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

Sunday, July 9, 2017

I'm Back to Blogging ...

Did you miss me?

I've been really busy, but all good... Part of growing, evolving, continuing my path. You work hard, you get results. You wish for things and sometimes they actually do come true (stars are aligned to meet your goals in a given time - It's always about timing!).

Today I am finally settled in our mountain house after a hectic winter. The good thing about this winter is that I met a wonderful person, Selim Yasmine, who founded a company called www.209lebanesewine.com. I called him, not knowing him, and suggested we go on a tour to visit all the wineries of Lebanon. He agreed, and the journey started. We got along very well, as we are both very passionate about the subject. Since then, it's been quite an adventure. I am learning so much, meeting amazing people and discovering the wines of my country.

So I have set another goal for myself: that is to work on educating people of my country about wine and terroir, while I learn simultaneously myself. (I don't and won't pretend to be a connoisseur, but definitely one who appreciates the experience of wine tasting and luckily I have a developed a palate with all my food experiences and travels, so this has helped to elevate my wine tasting experience).

About books: I have published four books so far: The journey started with Manoushe! The book is doing very well. It was published in the USA with Interlink publishers  (4th edition to date). It is now available in soft copy too... The Mouneh book ran out of stock in Lebanon. Not one copy is available in the market, luckily Interlink publishers will publish the book in fall 2017 in the USA. A limited amount will be sent to Lebanon so if you don't have your copy, I suggest you pre-order it as I have had so many demands for it. Funny how people suddenly want and need the book when it is not available... Good for me though! Mezze is still on sale in Lebanon, readers who understood it's message absolutely love it! And those who wanted photography  with the recipes (a bowl of hummus facing the recipe) do not really have a clue as to what I was trying to do ... that's OK. You can't please everyone all the time. It's not really my aim anyway. My aim is to portray Lebanese food, my way!(does it sound pretentious?). This is what distinguishes one author from the other and each one has his / her vision of the subject. Last but certainly not least, Soup for Syria has been a great success worldwide, thanks to the unbeatable efforts of Michel Moushabeck, my publisher. The book is now published in 5 countries: US, UK, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and in fall 2017 will be in Portugal and Turkey. All proceeds go to help relief funds to help refugees. The book has it's own life. It's like a baby that grew and flew .... This experience has helped me to grow as a person and with that become an activist for human rights.

About Slow Food: I have been an active member since 2006. It all started when a delegation of 30 Lebanese producers, farmers, food writers, university professors, restaurateurs flew to Torino to take part in the Salone del Gusto / Terra Madre exposition. It changed my life! Today I am acting president of Slow Food Beirut presently. It has not been easy, but definitely a challenge. A website was created and that's when everything fell into place. I took part in documenting the lost cheeses of the Lebanese mountain: Darfieh and Serdeleh, also know as Anbaris. I met a wonderful local film maker, Nay Aoun, who is very passionate about her work and she has generously shared her films with us dealing with food producers. Pascale Hares, Ludwig Archache, Julia Samaha and many others worked hard to develop the website (it's like working on a book!). The work on the website will continue constantly with new films, a repertoire of all farmers, producers, winemakers in different regions of Lebanon. A recipe section will be uploaded as I start my 101 Lebanese cuisine documentation with photos and videos. I have asked my friend Danny Elsoury, who worked for a few years in India as executive chef in a Lebanese restaurant called Zizo to help me develop the recipes to share with all visitors to the website. New plans are developing for Slow Food Beirut. I will keep you posted as they evolve.

About Food Consulting: It all started when a local business man called me to ask me to consult for him to open a bakery in Beirut. I was very reluctant, as I had never done this kind of job. He insisted and would not take no for an answer. So I agreed! Today, I am so grateful to him because it opened many job opportunities for me and gave me the experience I needed to take on other jobs. Later, I went on to consult for a terrific team in Seattle, Washington for a grand project called Mamnoon. I spent a month with the family and the executive chef cooking every day. On Sunday, I would escape to the Pike Market to have clam chowder soup and visit independent bookshops. My children during this time went to a summer camp on the island of St. John. One day, a friend saw a photo on Facebook I had posted of a Lebanese restaurant in Lisbon. He called me immediately and thus started our Muito Bey adventure. I trained the kitchen crew and learned so many lessons of life in the process. Many other adventures have been developing, and this is where I think I am headed for now. I will teach what I have researched for so many years and give the best I can to make Lebanese food flourish in Lebanon and in faraway lands and make food entrepreneurs make their dream come true.

In a nutshell: It's about being inspired, inspiring others to cherish the simple things of life: family, friendship, books, food, wine, travel and much more... I hope you stick around.

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!