Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

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

Friday, October 30, 2009

Aredna - Another Visit

Today I wrote about how to preserve apricots in the morning, then I got really tired... Too many more recipes to go dealing with apricots, so I stopped. I decided to go and visit Aredna again. You can't get too much of a good thing. I passed by every single stand asking them what they produced, where they were from, and how I could join them later. I intend to go and visit each and everyone of these producers in my life time. I did learn again something new... Zaarour jam, Zaarour syrup... a plant from the wild with red berries... usually the leaves are dried and used in the mixture to make zhourat. Also, I tasted a new jam made with pomegranate seeds. I found it very sweet, almost overwhelming, not very good. The producer explained that the seeds were cooked in syrup and put in jars, so basically what you are eating is sugar. It's too bad because I did get excited to learn about making this new jam, but was disappointed to taste it...

I also met Aaron, a radio journalist, who came with his wife and two adorable children. We carried out our interview, discussing why it's so important to focus on our Lebanese culinary heritage, which I believe may disappear with the future generations to come.... Aaron, an American, doesn't believe that there is a threat of that ever happening in Lebanon. I'd like to share his opinion, but I fear the opposite. That was our debate! It rained outside, cleaning all the pollution that was stagnating in Beirut - a new page is turned, winter is arriving, at last!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Restaurant Training - Day 3: Dough for Sambousik

On the 3rd day, I arrived and examined how vegetables were being cut up for the basic preparations. Vegetables included: radish, rocca, za'tar, purslane, mint, etc. I quickly went downstairs to chat with Imm' Tony, we discussed the making of sambousik. I quickly asked her the basic recipe of how to make these wonderful pastries.

1 kg of flour (type o)
1/2 cup of butter
1/2 cup of vegetable oil (I use Slim, it's the lightest in the market)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of yeast diluted in water.
enough water to make dough... (I'll measure and tell you)

meat, onion, parsley, and labneh

I'm going to make some today and tell you exactly how to proceed... I'll write later....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Soup

It's pumpkin season, always reminds me of Thanksgiving in the States! Today I have some friends coming for supper. I have made a wonderful soup that I would like to share with you. Choose a pumpkin from a reliable source. And why not an organic pumpkin to make the soup even more special? First cut open the pumpkin, scoop out all the membranes and the seeds. Cut the flesh into even cubes. Put on a baking tray with 1 or 2 whole garlic without peeling. Take apart the garlic to have individual cloves in between the cubed pumpkin. Take out the olive oil and splash it on to baste the cubed pumpkin. Add a dash of coarse sea salt all over. Turn on the grill of your oven. Let the pumpkin and the garlic roast and become charred. When you finish, put all in a large casserole. Add chicken stock to cover the pumpkin, cook until tender for about 25 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves from the soup. Puree in a blender. Top with freshly cut parsley. If you are feeling adventurous, cut up some fried bacon and serve. Voila!

Largest Tabbouleh in the World - List of Ingredients

According to the booklet given out at the Saifi Exhibition the tabbouleh weighed 3000 kg. My goodness! Check this out, wonder who can't beat that?

parsley - 1600kg
medium onions - 420kg
lemon juice - 450kg
salt - 24kg
fine burghul - 60kg
olive oil - 300 liters
ripe tomatoes for decoration - 1500kg
lettuce for decoration - 250 heads

Easy Jalapeno Pickling Recipe

As promised, I will let you know how to pickle your jalapeno peppers. First get 2 liters of water (not from the faucet, I use drinking water). You will need 1 1/4 cup coarse sea salt. Bring to the boil the water and salt and leave to boil until the salt has completely dissolved. Turn off the fire and leave to cool. When the liquid is cool, add 1 cup of white vinegar with 5% acetic acid. Mix thoroughly. Pack tightly the jalapeno peppers in chosen sterilized jars and fill with the prepared brine. Close the jars. Boil them in a water canner for 10 minutes at least to sterilize them. There you have it, this is the base to pickling ... now you can be creative by adding dried leaves, seeds, or any condiments to your pickles. Don't use ground spices as it will make the pickles very cloudy. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pickling Jalepenos / Writing about Sweet Wine Making

My friend Fady Daw, an organic producer, who founded Adonis Valley gave me a whole bunch of jalapeno peppers on Sunday night. He makes a red chili pepper paste with the jalapenos. Today I am going to dedicate some time to pickling these wonderful treasures. I absolutely love everything that is HOT! (well, almost!). Anyway, there's really nothing to it. I will give you the methods of preparing these pickles so if you get your hands on some, you can pickle them and enjoy them all year long. Nothing should ever go to waste, actually that's why I am so intrigued with mouneh making because you really use every single ingredient / harvested vegetable or fruit fully and conserve it for later use without any spoilage or waste. Fantastic!

I am also to dedicate time to writing about the wonderful day I had yesterday with Francois's father making sweet wine and awarma. Can you imagine that one can make wine at home? The whole process is so interesting + the family story is even more. When you are welcomed with such hospitality in a beautiful village where all you can hear is your voice and perhaps a distant goat, you realize that this is heaven on earth. We sat down for breakfast outside to eat kisheck bi awarma. It was so delicious. Salwa, Francois's mother put 2 heads of garlic to prepare this rich soup, 2 tbs. of awarma and kisheck powder diluted in water. I ate the whole garlic cloves and to my surprise did not feel sick or full after the meal. Usually if I eat garlic, it's off to bed or I'm sick the whole day... I had so much energy. Francois's father gave me some sweet wine, dated 10 years back, to finish off this lavish breakfast. It was delicious! It had the same taste as the wine served in church with communion. So today I shall write about this wonderful day and how to make wine at home for those who feel that they want to adventure themselves into such a production. I thank God for days like this when you come home with photos of a lifetime and memories which keep you going ... for one needs fuel to keep going ... that's mine!

Anyone for kisheck bi awarma? You can make your own, it's quite easy. Get yourself 2 garlic heads, yes heads ... not cloves... You won't die I promise... 1 onion, 2 tbs. of awarma, 2 cups of kisheck, and about 3 to 4 cups of water. In a cooking pan, add the awarma and the onion, fry. Add the garlic cloves and let cook for about 5 minutes. Add the kisheck, mix then slowly add the water. Bring to a boil and cook for an additional 5 minutes. It's done!

I call this photo, PRIDE... pride of a father, pride of a producer, pride of carrying traditional recipes of one's forefathers...

What better way for a father and a son to spend quality time together than by producing homemade wine? Well, perhaps drinking it later!

Oops, I almost forgot to post this photo taken by Francois entitled Me and the Goat, when will I ever have my own? Dreams... dreams... (I will one day, I feel it!)

You have to cook the fat (liyeh) before adding the meat to make the awarma - the Lebanese meat preserve par excellence ....

Practice makes perfect ...

I shall post the jalapeno recipe later ...

Monday, October 26, 2009

My weekend - Tabouleh / Aredna

Enough about Food Wars, does everything have to be about war? Can't we just enjoy hummus and tabouleh without thinking that someone or some state is stealing it from us... Can't people understand that this is just borrowed land and borrowed time... Can't we appreciate our differences instead? Build on them, share them, and teach our children ... stop being a dreamer, not in your lifetime...

Anyway, I was able to go to the Tabouleh Festival and let me say it was amazing! I was very impressed. A lot of people showed up at the tent in Saifi and it was very crowded. The ambiance exciting, the goal was met. It smelled like onion... It was a huge tabbouleh indeed! The children sang the song tabouleh tabouleh and we went home satisfied ... We had a little something to do with the success of this immense event. That was the goal!

My son Albert singing, with Omar Farhat playing the derbakeh.

I also went to see Aredna, the food exhibition in Dahieh. I learned again something new about the mouneh - that depresses me because I thought I knew it all. No, not quite... I learned how to make debs teen, meaning fig molasses, another recipe to include in my book. I bought interesting packages to add to all my mouneh items in my pantry. I got a bag of dried Damascus roses. I intend to use them to decorate cheese platters and to add them in some of my cooking to give an exotic touch to the dishes. I bought another bag of "cammounieh", I can't get enough of this spice mixture. I really find it to be a piece of art. Its smell is just exquisite and the dried rose petals are so gorgeous in the mixture. I bought a bag of red lentils from Yohmor, a village known for its lentils in South Lebanon. I have been told that they are quite special. Of course, I passed by to see my friend Abou Cassem. I got from him some za'tar roughly sieved to use in cooking my tomato sauces. A man in the corner was making brooms, I could not resist for a mere 4.000 LL. Some producers sell bags for flavoring stock. I got a whole bunch of those to use for my chicken stock. I also got a bag of dried rosemary to use to season meats. I'm thinking of going back again because it is truly an exceptional market. Producers and farmers come from all over Lebanon: Hermel, Jbeil, Bekaa, Baalbeck, etc. It is so interesting to talk to them about their production and stock up on mouneh items for the winter. My next visit will be to see if indeed there is something else that I can learn from mouneh making. Min' shuf!

Here is the man who makes the brooms:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hands off hummus article

Lebanese to Israel: Hands off our hummus!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Full Week in Beirut Made Especially for Foodies

Come join producers and farmers from all over Lebanon every Tuesday in Hamra, in the Bread Republic alleyway; for more info check out this link!


There is also a grand food exhibition / market in DAHIEH starting Oct. 23 called AREDNA... It will include over 100 food producers and farmers... I have been visiting this exhibition for the last two years and found it to be by far the best market ever... It's a MUST SEE for people who are intrigued to live through something exceptional... FOODIES OF COURSE! I will take photographs and post them when I go...

I wonder what Souk el Tayeb is cooking up this weekend... It's truly a wonderful week for food market lovers: the food fight in Saifi, the Slow Food Earth Market in Hamra, and the weekly market on Saturday of Souk el Tayeb.

AND to top it off: for those who love to read about food ... Le 16eme Salon du Livre Francophone de Beyrouth, meaning the 16th Edition of the French Beirut Book Fair in Beirut. We are spoiled!

I will write more later ...

Restaurant Training - Day 2: Kebbeh Labanieh

So enough about fighting food wars, tomorow we'll do that! Second day of my training, a basic element that should not be forsaken on a Lebanese table - The vegetable basket. For those who want to know, tomatoes (baladi is best), cucumbers, mint, radish, lettuce, carrot sticks, green and red chili peppers. The vegetables should be crisp and just washed. It makes quite a statement when you enter the restaurant and start with a drink and snack on fresh vegetables. That's Lebanon! Ok enough said about this subject ...

Today, I was aimed to delve into the making of Kebbeh Labanieh, don't know about you, but this is one of my favorite Lebanese dishes. I'm looking at my notebook and there so many comments, let's start:

1. Use the freshest laban (yogurt) you get get - not bitter - (baladi)
2. When you start heating the laban, it should be already at room temperature. The biggest fallacy is to start cooking the laban straight from the fridge (instant shock, no good!!!) So we agree that the laban is to be taken out of the fridge hours before heating it on the fire.
3. When you start heating the laban, you must use the lowest temperature before you add cornstarch diluted into a bit of water. Then you can raise the fire a bit to let the cornstarch act to thicken the laban. NO EGGS!

laban - 1kg
clarified butter - a bit
kebbeh balls (unfilled/ but i prefer the filled ones)- 24
corn flour - 1 tbs
garlic - 3 cloves
mint or cilantro (kezbarah) - a bunch

1. deep-fry the kebbeh balls, strain and reserve.
2. heat the laban as mentioned above, cook until it starts to boil, here comes the secret ingredient - add a bit of cream (a small box) and some warm stock (reserved from a previous cooking).
3. in a small pan, add some clarified butter, fry garlic for a minute, add diced mint or cilantro, turn off fire... don't over cook the mint or cilantro
4. when the laban is hot, add the fried mint or cilantro, mix then add the kebbeh balls carefully without breaking them. Heat for a further 5 minutes. It's ready!

Serve kebbeh labanieh with rice ... you know how to make rice, right? Use angel hairs in the rice, kids love it....

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hummus Food Fight Between Lebanon and Israel

here is a link I just found on the internet:


It's pretty hot, what ever happened to the make FOOD not WAR campaign!! It's long gone... but seriously, I find it ridiculous to call hummus an Israeli dish come on there's plenty of dishes to go around... I remember eating the Israeli pastrami in the States...! How will all this be resolved... Will we make history this weekend?

to be continued ...

More on the Exhibition... Exhibition Overview - IFP Lebanon

El Hommos Lebneneh 2009
24 October - 25 October

An attempt to break the current Hommos & Tabbouleh world Guinness Record

Exhibition Overview

El Hommos el Lebneneh will be a national event destined to place Lebanon on the culinary map again giving back to Caesar what was originally to Caesar…”g Yes we the Lebanese are claiming loud & proud our proprietorship for the “Oh so famous” Lebanese hommos & tabbouleh mezzeh. Held under the patronage of the ministry of industry & in partnership with the association of Lebanese Industrialists A.L.I IFP is organizing an attempt to break the current world record of the biggest hommos platter ever made! Add to that tabbouleh too! A special workforce will be put together under the supervision of world renowned Lebanese Chef Ramzi- current manager of Al-Kafaat catering school- that is concretizing this local attempt. Talking to the Chef: “I am delighted & proud to be supervising this attempt. We are mobilizing some 250 young Chef Apprentices that will be preparing everything on site under the strictest hygiene regulations .The General public will be able to taste safely the final product”.

And to add: “All of the ingredients that we are going to use are fresh with no chemical derivatives or substitutes. Imagine some 2.5 tons of lemon juice only! That says a lot concerning the colossal size of this event.” Thanks to Mr. Fadi Abboud, President of A.L.I (Association of Lebanese industrialists) the food copyright issue was raised during the summer of 2008, as he rightfully shed the light on the millions of dollars in loss in the lucrative Hommos market.

Talking to Abboud: “I first noticed this piracy during the many international food exhibitions that we attended: Lebanese producers would find out that most of our specialties, such as Hommos, Falafel and Baba Ghannouj, were marketed as Israeli. Our cuisine is being dishonestly used as Israel is appropriating our dishes: today, the fame of Hommos reached out to the globe. Upscale restaurants in New York & London are serving gourmet versions of hommos and falafel, as traditional Jewish dishes. We are talking about colossal losses as the Hommos market is a robust one with worth of over $1bn with 500,000 tubs eaten a day in the UK alone. If we win this fight, there is huge potential for Lebanon”

And to add: “We have been researching & documenting data to prove that 25 traditional dishes hail from Lebanon and deserve the EU's Protected Designated Origin status, meaning they can be marketed under their name only if they were made in the country. It is time that Lebanon registered its main food trademarks to avoid substantial losses like these. We are preparing to file an international lawsuit against Israel for claiming ownership of traditional dishes that are believed to be originally Lebanese. ”

The attempts for breaking the biggest Hommos and biggest Tabbouleh records (in addition to a new one: the biggest “Platter ever made”, conceived, designed & executed by Lebanese engineer Mr. Joesph Kabalan) were born here, in collaboration with the syndicate of Lebanese food industries. They will be all held in Saifi market on October 24th & 25th 2009, stretching on some 5800 SQM, hosting Lebanese restaurants and Artisans from the oil, soap, souvenirs and craftsmanship industries in addition to a variety of entertainers, games & auctions.

The event is expected to attract some 50 000 visitors, families, children, adults & young adults alike. For more info, please visit our website: www.ifpexpo.com or contact Ms. Sarah Fayad or Ms. Joelle Ghannam at: +961 5 959 111

Largest Bowl of Tabbouleh / Hummus

I just got this mail and thought I'd share it with you, how exciting!!!

Upcoming record attempts:

Lebanon: Largest bowl of tabbouleh, Largest serving of hummus, and the Largest plate
The 3 records attempts will be organized by the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, Guinness World Records, Waseet, IFP and Chef Ramzi. The event will be held in Down Town Saifi market on October 24th and 25th, stretching on 5800 SQM. The Hummus and Tabbouleh will be prepared by 250 young chefs apprentices supervised by Chef Ramzi as well as assistant chefs. The big media campaign has already begun all around the country and regionally under the theme Fight for your bite, you know you are right. Hummus & Tabbouleh are 100% Lebanese.

The event will also host Lebanese restaurants and artisans from the oil, soap, souvenirs and craftsmanship industries in addition to a variety of entertainers, games & auctions. The event is expected to attract some 100 000 visitors, families, children, adults and young adults alike. For more info, please visit:www.ifpexpo.com

Sunday, October 18, 2009


May 7 03: It's my first day. What better way to start then by learning to make the hummus. Of course I knew how to make the hummus, but each restaurant/home has its way of preparing the quintessential Lebanese mezza dish. For 1kg of humus, add 1/2 tbs. of baking soda and leave to soak overnight. The next day simmer the chickpeas until it's cooked, take out the froth as it boils. There is a little white spot on the chickpea. When it's cooked, then it's time to stop cooking and to drain in cold water. Leave to rest. Grind in a food processor. In the restaurant, they have a huge industrial machine that makes a very smooth paste - there lies one of the secrets - There is another secret, but I won't share it with you because it might upset the chef. Sorry! Let's just say it has to do with the temperature as you process the beans. Enough said...So for 1kg of hummus, mix about 500g of tahini, 1/2 lemon or more (taste for goodness sake), salt, and 1/2 or 1 crushed garlic (depends on if you like the taste of garlic to overpower the taste of your hummus). I don't! Once the hummus is done, top it with bits of fried meat or fried pine nuts drenched in clarified butter or just add a bit of olive oil and a dash of red pepper powder or paprika. I remember in our family restaurant, Kebabs and Things, I use to sprinkle the hummus with a dash of cumin powder too... Delicious!

Training Days at the Lebanese Restaurant

Did you know I trained in a Lebanese restaurant in Beirut for 1 year and 1/2? It was in 2003. Sarah, my youngest child went to school that year. I called the principal crying telling her that she had stolen my child because the school had decided to change the school schedule and children were to come at 3:00 instead of 1:30. You could say I had a little depression. Did the principal understand me? I doubt it, she said that she changed the schedule to satisfy working mothers... and what about mothers who quit their careers to become 100% moms and chose to be only that ... What about them? What would my life be about... without children until 3:00.- Who would eat lunch with me? Who would have a nap with me? I was so alone...

I had to do something with my life? Restaurant ideas kept popping up in my brain... no way... with three kids... I knew what the restaurant deal was about... slavery... although it was so exciting... I felt so at home there... but, I chose to be a mom now..so why don't I just go to a restaurant during the day when the kids are at school... great idea! In search of my training, I wound up in a French restaurant for a year, then an Italian for a few months (as it was closing up), and finally I wound up where I was destined to be, in a Lebanese restaurant... It brought back familiar flavors, feelings, food situations, and the "this is home" gratification I was searching for... My depression ended and my learning started... I jotted down every single thing you can imagine. Everyone mocked me, "Why are you wasting your time?" the cooks would say... "Go home and relax!" No one understood why this housewife was busting her back... learning the ropes, while cutting onions, cleaning livers, jotting every single step and smelling like food in this busy kitchen... It was heaven for me!

So now I have this booklet full of interesting Lebanese recipes. I'd like to share them with you... Sometimes I'll just let you in on a secret and skip the recipe... Sometimes I'll let you know only about what happened while discussing with a certain chef... because trust me it's never boring in a kitchen... Chefs are like major artists who go CRAZY often... scream at you for no reason... make you cry... regret it then make you taste something to ask forgiveness... There are definitely lessons of life in the kitchen, that's why I love it so much... The food, the heat, the pressure, the friendships, the "je ne sais quoi"... I'll share it all with you ... step by step... be patient, there's a lot to tell...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Julie & Julia

Last weekend I dragged my whole family to see the movie Julie & Julia. This movie was sort of a mirror of my life... Ok, I don't live on top of a pizzeria ... I don't work in a cubicle... but I do have the same feelings as Julie and it's like ... keep walking...keep walking... although sometimes it's quite hard... many obstacles along the way... like everyone you may say... yes, tis true...tis true... So the movie is fantastic... I especially loved the interpretation of Julia Child acted by Meryl Streep. What an actress! I felt I was right there with Julia Child in Paris. I understood when her teacher told her she would never be able to cook professionally. I remember people putting me down as I tried to make something of myself, with the responsibility of managing a household with three children. Julie's husband was the one who encouraged her to start her blog. My husband's encouragement and sometimes wise (but harsh) words have always guided me along the way. It's not easy living with a frantic cookbook writer/photographer. Mostly the movie makes you dream. It makes you understand that everyone's life can be special and achievements can be aspired, it just takes determination, hard work, ambition. Not easy in our current lifestyle where everything is fast, and busy, and no one has time for anything except making money. But still some do achieve their dreams and the movies shows that with two determined women who wanted to make something out of their lives. Julia Child has always been an inspiration to me, to many I presume. I have three of her books (biographies) that I bought on a trip to Canada years ago. I cherish these books as if they were a treasure. I have not read the book of Julie, but I intend to purchase it as soon as I see it in Lebanese bookshops. Everyone should see this movie, children alike (not toddlers of course) but children over 10. I think the lesson is one that they don't teach in school, so it's worthwhile. As for me, my work is not easy as I am taking full responsibility of the work I do, the rewards are many yet the dream is not fully achieved... This tale, this movie gave me a ray of hope ... a push... + I have decided to write more often on my blog...or should I say blogs because now I am the proud owner of three blogs: My Culinary Journey through Lebanon, Man'oushe: The Lebanese Thyme Pie, and Mouneh: Exploring the Lebanese Pantry. My subjects deal with food from my country... I'm proud of Lebanon's culinary heritage. My aim is to keep it living... to slow down the global tendencies towards fast junk food and rely on local flavors. I'm not the only one ... There are many who feel the same way, each one is doing it his way... Unfortunately, in Lebanon, individualism is a character trait and team work is a long forgotten dream...Will we ever learn? I doubt it, look at our political mumble jumble... a reflection of the Lebanese society... But it won't stop me from dreaming... because without dreams... there is no life... So Julie, Julia ... thanks for the dream!

Watch the trailer !

You can google for reviews of the film...

PS: I found the book at Librairie Antoine, made my day... !

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Mouneh blog

Ok, so i have blog mania! I have created a blog solely for the purpose of mouneh related articles...here goes,


This is the title of my next book which will be out in 2010, I promise. It's been tough, but now everything is falling to place and I am finalizing the writing and working on the layout with Mirna, the graphic designer... Looking pretty good!

I'll let you have a sneak peak...! soon... keep posted...