Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

Lebanese Spices

Stocking up on spices is imperative when you want to cook Lebanese food. I have gathered a list of spices which can be used in the recipes that will follow. Copy the list on your phone and go out there to find the freshest spices available in the market. I usually do this exercise once a year at a local mill in the Bekaa Valley or another one in the Kesserouan. If that's too difficult for you, most supermarkets carry a wide range of spices, carefully wrapped to keep them fresh. I bring them home and put them into clean jars. I label every jar to have them on hand when the pressure is on with my cooking. They have to be easy to find and accessible to you. When using, don't forget to close the lids as soon as possible, very tightly. Use only dry spoons, a slightly wet spoon will infect the spices, also steam. Be careful! 

Keep all spices away from direct sunlight, moisture, and heat. The best place to store your spices in the kitchen is on the right or left of your cooking station. When using, put them on the counter and measure. 

If you have a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee grinder, you can buy most spices whole and grind them  yourself. This will ensure maximum flavors. Old spices should be discarded. I hate throwing spices, especially those I buy on trips around the world BUT there is an expiration date that should be respected. Some spices, which I have never used, I keep for memory sake. So I don't consider them spices anymore but scented souvenirs.

Buying spices at the local mill

The list:

  • Aleppo red pepper ground
  • red pepper mild ground
  • red pepper hot ground 
  • hot chili peppers whole dried
  • cinnamon ground
  • cinnamon sticks
  • bay leaves
  • oregano ground (substitute with zaatar)
  • sweet pepper whole
  • sweet pepper ground / also called in the US Jamaica or allspice
  • white pepper ground
  • black pepper whole (get a pepper mill that you love!)
  • black pepper ground
  • cardamon whole
  • cardamon ground
  • nutmeg whole
  • nutmeg ground
  • cloves whole
  • cloves ground
  • cumin seeds
  • cumin ground
  • ginger ground
  • mint ground dried
  • sumac ground
  • 7-spices ground (or make your own)
  • mahlab whole
  • mahlab ground
  • anis seeds
  • anis seeds ground
  • turmeric
  • mastic
I'm sure I forgot some names of spices, I will add them as I remember them. But, this is certainly a great start! Let me know if you have questions. Next post, I will list the pantry essentials. A favorite topic of mine, as you know. I dedicated a whole book on the subject. Book was published in 2010. Very excited about the new fall release coming out in the USA with Interlink publishers. You can pre-order, if you like. The book was completely out of stock. Not one copy left!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Lebanese Cuisine 101

Are you seriously interested in learning about Lebanese cuisine?

Hummus © BM
I will take you through the process as I go through the repertoire one recipe at a time...

Why? because I intend to do a book on the subject one day. I want to share the ingredients, methods of preparations, and tips as you cook, bake, or mix a fresh salad. I believe we can all go through recipes collections through the internet or by simply buying a cookbook. Yet, we miss out on a very important step — the process and how we feel when we are doing the actual recipe, what we taste, and how we express these happenings. My aim: Out-of-the-box notions to learn a new cuisine, like a new language. You have to live the experience.

A few years ago, I fell in love with the Italian language. Obviously you know why this happened... You don't! Well all my trips to Italy with Slow Food events, meeting so many Italians and falling in love with the food culture of Italy was what triggered my desire. I took a course through a program given by the Italian embassy in Beirut and I can tell you that I failed miserably.  The teacher treated us like kinder garden children, screaming out grammar rules. She completely set my brain into neutral. I am giving you this experience as an example of how learning should not be undertaken if you have a passion for a certain subject.

Conclusion: You have to live the learning process with all your senses. Capiche?

I will try to give you that experience and let you do the rest....

Will also tell you about the wines of Lebanon, as I pair the food with the wine, including Arak of course... I will discuss the ingredients, where I got them, who makes them, etc... Will simultaneously feed the Slow Food Beirut website as I am undertaking this challenge. Oh yes, and the wine tour continues with 209lebanesewine.com to meet these extraordinary people who put Lebanese wine on the wine world map.

Are you ready?

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