Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

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

Monday, May 21, 2018


A while ago, this text fell into my hands. I put it on my desktop forever. Today, I decided to post it on my blog to share. I tried to research on crediting the author, but unfortunately I did not find the source. Should anyone know about the author, please write me so I can mention his or her name. The text is a reminder of how many choices we have in life - essentially two main absolute truths: To be happy or to be miserable. I choose happiness. I like to read this text from time to time to remind me of the essential. I hope you enjoy it too...  I am including a photo I took yesterday when visiting the Cedars of Lebanon in the Barouk, as I find this forest very humbling and therapeutic. 

22 Things Happy People Do Differently

There are two types of people in the world: those who choose to be happy, and those who choose to be unhappy. Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come from fame, fortune, other people, or material possessions. Rather, it comes from within. The richest person in the world could be miserable while a homeless person could be right outside, smiling and content with their life. Happy people are happy because they make themselves happy. They maintain a positive outlook on life and remain at peace with themselves.

The question is: how do they do that?

It’s quite simple. Happy people have good habits that enhance their lives. They do things differently. Ask any happy person, and they will tell you that they …

1. Don’t hold grudges.
Happy people understand that it’s better to forgive and forget than to let their negative feelings crowd out their positive feelings. Holding a grudge has a lot of detrimental effects on your well being, including increased depression, anxiety, and stress. Why let anyone who has wronged you have power over you? If you let go of all your grudges, you’ll gain a clear conscience and enough energy to enjoy the good things in life.

2. Treat everyone with kindness.

Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that being kind makes you happier? Every time you perform a selfless act, your brain produces serotonin, a hormone that eases tension and lifts your spirits. Not only that, but treating people with love, dignity, and respect also allows you to build stronger relationships.

3. See problems as challenges.

The word “problem” is never part of a happy person’s vocabulary. A problem is viewed as a drawback, a struggle, or an unstable situation while a challenge is viewed as something positive like an opportunity, a task, or a dare. Whenever you face an obstacle, try looking at it as a challenge.

4. Express gratitude for what they already have.
There’s a popular saying that goes something like this: “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.” You will have a deeper sense of contentment if you count your blessings instead of yearning for what you don’t have.

 5. Dream big.
People who get into the habit of dreaming big are more likely to accomplish their goals than those who don’t. If you dare to dream big, your mind will put itself in a focused and positive state.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Happy people ask themselves, “Will this problem matter a year from now?” They understand that life’s too short to get worked up over trivial situations. Letting things roll off your back will definitely put you at ease to enjoy the more important things in life.

7. Speak well of others.
Being nice feels better than being mean. As fun as gossiping is, it usually leaves you feeling guilty and resentful. Saying nice things about other people encourages you to think positive, non-judgmental thoughts.

8. Never make excuses.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Happy people don’t make excuses or blame others for their own failures in life. Instead, they own up to their mistakes and, by doing so, they proactively try to change for the better.

9. Get absorbed into the present.
Happy people don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. They savor the present. They let themselves get immersed in whatever they’re doing at the moment. Stop and smell the roses.

10. Wake up at the same time every morning.
Have you noticed that a lot of successful people tend to be early risers? Waking up at the same time every morning stabilizes your circadian rhythm, increases productivity, and puts you in a calm and centered state.

11. Avoid social comparison.
Everyone works at his own pace, so why compare yourself to others? If you think you’re better than someone else, you gain an unhealthy sense of superiority. If you think someone else is better than you, you end up feeling bad about yourself. You’ll be happier if you focus on your own progress and praise others on theirs.

 12. Choose friends wisely.
Misery loves company. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with optimistic people who will encourage you to achieve your goals. The more positive energy you have around you, the better you will feel about yourself.

13. Never seek approval from others.
Happy people don’t care what others think of them. They follow their own hearts without letting naysayers discourage them. They understand that it’s impossible to please everyone. Listen to what people have to say, but never seek anyone’s approval but your own.

14. Take the time to listen.
Talk less; listen more. Listening keeps your mind open to others’ wisdom and outlooks on the world. The more intensely you listen, the quieter your mind gets, and the more content you feel.

15. Nurture social relationships.
A lonely person is a miserable person. Happy people understand how important it is to have strong, healthy relationships. Always take the time to see and talk to your family, friends, or significant other.

16. Meditate.
Meditating silences your mind and helps you find inner peace. You don’t have to be a zen master to pull it off. Happy people know how to silence their minds anywhere and anytime they need to calm their nerves.

17. Eat well.
Junk food makes you sluggish, and it’s difficult to be happy when you’re in that kind of state. Everything you eat directly affects your body’s ability to produce hormones, which will dictate your moods, energy, and mental focus. Be sure to eat foods that will keep your mind and body in good shape.

18. Exercise.
Studies have shown that exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft does. Exercising also boosts your self-esteem and gives you a higher sense of self-accomplishment.

19. Live minimally.
Happy people rarely keep clutter around the house because they know that extra belongings weigh them down and make them feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Some studies have concluded that Europeans are a lot happier than Americans are, which is interesting because they live in smaller homes, drive simpler cars, and own fewer items.

20. Tell the truth.
Lying stresses you out, corrodes your self-esteem, and makes you unlikable. The truth will set you free. Being honest improves your mental health and builds others’ trust in you. Always be truthful, and never apologize for it.

21. Establish personal control.
Happy people have the ability to choose their own destinies. They don’t let others tell them how they should live their lives. Being in complete control of one’s own life brings positive feelings and a great sense of self-worth.

22. Accept what cannot be changed.
Once you accept the fact that life is not fair, you’ll be more at peace with yourself. Instead of obsessing over how unfair life is, just focus on what you can control and change it for the better.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Coara - The First Lebanese Vegan Restaurant

Good news folks, the Mouneh book has been published again, this time with Interlink publishers in the US. The books traveled on a boat to arrive to Lebanon (only 1000 copies available). I am waiting for the clearance to get them out there. Very exciting! They will be available at Librairie Antoine in all branches. Also planning a book signing soon.. (more about that soon...). This video has just been produced by Slow Food Beirut to highlight the work of these good people, who are in the book (section Feb - citrus). Learn about them and go eat at their restaurant. It's one of a kind. You will leave with a certain kind of peace.

About the short film:

Walid and Maysoon Nasserdin opened the first Lebanese vegan restaurant in Lebanon serving healthy vegan and bio food in an authentic green atmosphere. Coara sits on a hillside in the heart of the Chouf mountains, in a village called Kfar Katra, overlooking the land which they nurture to grow their precious ingredients. For decades, the couple have put their love into every single dish to create a beautiful and unique concept based on Lebanese food heritage.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

For the Love of Thyme: The Man who Cultivates Lebanon's Wild Herb

Mohammad Ali Neimeh, better known as Abu Kassem’s life revolves around zaatar, the wild thyme of Lebanon. During the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon, he needed to change the way thyme grows, out of fear he would be shot or shelled trying to get to his plants. The changes that he implemented have seen huge changes in the way that thyme is grown now in Lebanon. This is his story. 

Please watch this beautiful short film uploaded on our website www.slowfoodbeirut, generously donated by Nay Aoun.We, as Lebanese, are proud of our zaatar and Abou Cassem in an example of why. Let us know what you think and please share.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

20 Women Changemakers: Taking Action Around the World

So honored to be part of this great book, 20 Women Changemakers: Taking Action Around the World, published in the USA. I believe women play a great role in our society and have the power to bring about fundamental changes. Read the interview I had with Pamela Burke, the woman behind this great initiative who went to great lengths to gather these stories. http://www.thewomenseye.com/…/interview-photographer-chef-…/ . To all my friends in the US and around the world, please order the book, it inspired me so much to read about women who have created projects around the world to help others. To order: https://www.amazon.com/20-Women-Changemakers-…/…/ref=sr_1_1… To learn more: http://www.thewomenseye.com/

Follow the Women's Eye on Facebook

A wonderful review from Midwest Book Review:
This inspirational anthology should be a 'must' acquisition for any collection strong in women's issues, social change, and social justice. There's simply nothing like it on the market: 20 Women Changemakers moves far beyond biography and into the nuts and bolts of how ordinary individuals can make a difference.
—D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review http://www.thewomenseye.com/20-women-changemakers/

Friday, October 6, 2017

Boutique Wines and 209 Lebanese Wine

Very interesting article about 209lebanesewine and boutique wines in Lebanon. Selim Yasmine is a good friend. We have been touring wineries in Lebanon for months and have discovered many amazing varieties, including the good people who work with passion to make the wine in different regions in Lebanon. Many lessons of life were learned, including lessons in wine tasting and appreciation. We continue the tour beginning of January to reach all wineries to build a strong relationship with each and everyone of them to better promote their work and our Lebanese wine heritage. Online Distributor Spreads Boutique Lebanese Wines

Maher Harb and Selim Yasmine

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.