Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

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

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What is Terra Madre?

This article was just published in the Terra Madre Newsletter, I wanted to share it with you...


Extract from Terra Madre, Carlo Petrini’s latest book.

Terra Madre first appeared on the global political and economic scene in 2004. It began as a large meeting of people from all over the world, but soon turned into a permanent network—or rather a number of networks—whose members work day by day, wherever they happen to be, to create a new economic, agricultural, food and cultural model.

Terra Madre is a concrete way of putting into practice what has been defined as “glocalism”: a set of actions carried out on a local scale to generate major repercussions on a global scale. It has evolved in the course of time and now has a policy of its own, shared values and medium and long-term objectives. Terra Madre is thus much more than just a biennial get-together. ...-... It is an open network of local food communities that welcomes anyone who shares its ideals, even if they do things differently or work in diverse geographical and operating contexts. It embodies a new approach to the production, processing, distribution and consumption of food, drawing liberally on the history of the world’s populations, but also looking ahead. It’s conscious of the mess we have gotten ourselves into, but it’s not afraid of the future.

The 1,000 events organized for Terra Madre Day by the Slow Food and Terra Madre network, together have just proven this. Congratulations and keep the good work and the spirits up.

Carlo Petrini
Slow Food Founder and President

Food Scare - AFP report

 Series of food scandals scare Lebanon
'What's in my tabbouleh?', Lebanese ask

A series of food scandals has prompted the Lebanese, who pride themselves on the quality of their cuisine, to look more closely at what goes on their plates and to increasingly turn to organic produce.

The food scare was sparked by reports of high levels of pesticides detected in locally grown fruit and vegetables, including grapes, strawberries, potatoes and apples, some of which contained 25 times internationally accepted levels.

" What's left to eat? "
Liliane Baz, resident of Beirut

"We don't dare buy anything anymore," said Liliane Baz, a resident of Beirut. "They said courgettes, cucumbers, strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, basically all fruits and vegetables, are poisonous."

"What's left to eat?" she asked. "I now trust vegetables coming from Syria or Jordan more than homegrown produce."

Salem Hayyar, who authored a recent pesticides report that contributed to the scare, said that while the media blew the findings of his research out of proportion, Lebanon's sunny, fertile fields are awash with toxins.

"There is definitely a problem with pesticides in Lebanon," said Hayyar, a professor at the state-run Lebanese University. "But the answer is not organic. It's teaching farmers how to use the right pesticides at the right time."

Experts blame lack of government action and proper legislation for having given farmers a free hand in the use of pesticides, which sometimes are not labeled and are mixed locally.

Food safety laws
" There are no food safety laws in Lebanon, so there is no way to verify how or when pesticides are being used and when the produce is harvested "
Zuhair Berro, president of Consumers Lebanon

"There are no food safety laws in Lebanon, so there is no way to verify how or when pesticides are being used and when the produce is harvested," said Zuhair Berro, president of Consumers Lebanon, a non-governmental organization.

"What we do know for sure is that farmers are not respecting the time they should wait before harvesting, and there is no one to hold them to that or even open their eyes to the wrongdoing."

Berro said that the problem is such that some produce exported in recent years to Europe was returned, the most recent being a shipment of grapes.

While acknowledging a lack of funding and manpower to properly address the problem, the agriculture ministry has cautioned against generalizations saying that not all farmers were using pesticides improperly.

" People have really gone hysterical, our clientele has doubled since the pesticides scare "
Kamal Mouzawak, founder of Souk el Tayeb

The food scare has nonetheless come at an opportune time for the budding local organic market, which is struggling to keep up with demand.

"People have really gone hysterical, our clientele has doubled since the pesticides scare," said Kamal Mouzawak, the founder of Souk el Tayeb, Lebanon's first farmers' market launched in 2004.

"Before we used to sell out by closing time at 2:00 pm, but now people line up before opening time to get first dibs."

Organic fruit and vegetables are not accessible to all, however, as they typically cost twice as much as non-organic produce.

"Organic produce is more expensive, so naturally it was initially popular with a fortunate few," said Rafiq Bustany, who grows organic fruit and vegetables sold at the farmers' market.

"But today even the middle class is gaining interest, and we are not able to keep up with the new demand."

Organic-only grocery stores and organic corners in major supermarkets are also sprouting across Lebanon's capital, and one grocery store even delivers a "healthy basket" to clients' doorsteps.

A new interest
" Unfortunately I think it is a temporary craze, like so many other crazes, so we can only hope this hysterical reaction will turn into permanent action "

A handful of restaurants are also offering organic menus and now catering to a wider audience.

Mouzawak, who recently opened a restaurant that serves organic food, said he hoped the new interest in organic food was not simply a fad but would lead to real change in how people eat.

"Unfortunately I think it is a temporary craze, like so many other crazes, so we can only hope this hysterical reaction will turn into permanent action," he said.

Rula Najjar says she is one of those who have made the full-fledged transition to healthier eating.

"I have a new rule," said the 25-year-old as she went through her shopping list at an organic food store in Beirut's Ashrafieh district.

"If it's not something my great-great grandmother ate, I'm not eating it either."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Time for a Change

It's the end of 2009 and the beginning of a new year... I have to go back, there's no escaping... It's been haunting me for a long time... I threw the first stone yesterday... Will it work out, is it my destiny...? I asked God for help, will he answer my prayer? He always does, I've been blessed. Tonight we celebrate the birth of Christ, the person / God who changed history... who taught us to do unto others as you would have them do unto you...The greatest lesson, the lesson of LOVE... It's not that difficult, but many just don't get it. To my dear readers, I wish you a Merry Christmas full of Love, Hope, and Happiness for you and your family.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cooking with Love - Alice's Kitchen

Very inspirational, I love it! Isn't this what it's all about... keeping culinary traditions alive... ???

Thursday, December 17, 2009

One Woman's View of Terra Madre Day in Beirut

The day started with butterflies in my stomach. Will we be able to reproduce the feelings and the energy that we so often feel in Italy during Terra Madre? Will this common force be reproduced? Will we feel the magic so often a predominant characteristic of those important days? The traffic was normal, I suddenly felt really angry... The person I had counted on had deceived me... Had made me look bad, did not understand the importance of this task. I made a decision to let go of this person on Terra Madre Day... I arrived shaking...I was so hot... yet it was cold outside... The market was already set up. I stopped the passing traffic (they can wait 1 minute, it's the Lebanese way!) to give my books to Abou Cassem, the za'tar producer. He is always there to give me a helping hand. Aren't they all, they are a second family to me... all these producers and farmers... They are always hugging me, kissing me, feeding me, telling me their pains, their frustrations, their joys, their lives... I felt relief. I continued on my way to park my car in a nearby parking. He charged extra knowing I was going to stay for the day. I didn't mind, after all it only cost about 3 dollars. I walked down the street, I started crying...I didn't want to cry... then I stopped!!! I saw a reporter whom I knew with his family walking down the road. I smiled, wiped my tears and told him, "We are celebrating Terra Madre Day today, please come and join us". His wife noticed my depressed attitude, she said that she understood the strains of raising three children... I answered, "nah...it's not that at all! Kids, you can structure them, teach them,and in turn they will win your respect" I continued, "With adults, it's not the same, you have to do the opposite to get their respect". I bid them farewell and arrived to the Hamra market.

My friend Cherine was there waiting for me. She had put all the books in neat stacks. She has recently published a cookbook herself. We stayed in the market the whole morning. Cherine came back and forth, she was worried about her aunt who needed blood urgently in the nearby hospital at AUH. I looked around me at the buyers, the producers... It was indeed an experience. I saw the friendship that these weekly producers had built among themselves. They ate breakfast together and visited each others stands during quiet moments when customer traffic was low. I saw an Arab women sit down and order everyone around. A poor Syrian boy came to shine her shoes. He asked for a mere 2000LL, she argued and told him she'd pay him only 1000LL. He agreed and worked on her dirty shoes for 10 minutes; I was simply disgusted. But then she pulled out 3000LL from her pocket and gave the boy a tip. He was so grateful. He told the woman that he had not seen his family in over 8 months. All this was making me crazy... and yet, I sat in my corner contemplating the scene. A ray of sunshine appeared, I moved my chair in the sun and thanked God to be alive. Everything changed, It was going to be OK!

In the afternoon, the producers and farmers left one by one... only a few stayed with delicious typical Lebanese recipes to feed participants and the people passing by the market later during festivities. In a matter of one hour, the whole street took on another aspect. The mood changed... It came alive for nightfall. It was amazing... The Arab lady came by again, my friend tried to invite her for some wine... She smiled and said, "this is haram". This is the contrast in Lebanon. Some appreciate products of the vine and others declare that it is "haram". Who is right, who is wrong ... who's to say....It does not matter... All that matters for now is that we are here to celebrate our local wine, our local foods, and the conviviality of being together... together here in Hamra, in Beirut ... as part of a larger entity, of a larger group, of a larger body - that of the Terra Madre community, that of a citizen of this great big world...part of a message brought forth by our colleagues around the world... part of a positive continuation that will stay embedded in the souls of generations to come ... AND maybe then, a difference will be attained and humans will recognize the value of our earth and the food that is put on our table... and the significance of this natural cycle will come back...

And suddenly, phone calls poured in... my daughter had lost her homework...the family had to be fed... a mother is simply irreplaceable.. I packed some food made with tender loving care by Oum Ali, a producer from Magdelzoum and Siham Ghanem, another producer from the Shouf... I thought this would be the perfect dinner... I left the market... There was lots of traffic, I was so tired... Would I arrive in time to feed my family... Was the day successful? Memorable? Indeed, without any doubt...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unreavealing with Difficulty the Secrets to Making the Sumac Concentrate Recipe

Here am I again on my computer... nothing is new, as I'm doing this every single day of my life (till I finish Mouneh). Nothing else will be done till then, it's a promise I've made to myself. Not easy for this frivolous, wanderlust who thinks of taking the car and her prized camera and roaming, yes just roaming into the streets, mountains, and all geographical areas of Lebanon... That's been put on hold for the moment. I am suffering deeply... I'll spare you the details...

So today I am writing about sumac. For those who may not know about sumac, it is the dried berries of a shrub which grows widely all around the region, both in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean. The shrub contains hairy leaves and branches and grows to a height of about 3 meters (10 feet). Deep red clusters of berries hang on the branches. They are picked in season to be dried and ground into a coarse powder. The powder, which has an astringent taste, is used as a spice and a souring agent. For us Lebanese (the ahhh kind!), we use it to flavor our fried eggs (can't image the eggs without), sprinkle it on fattoush, use it to rub meats, chicken, and fish before grilling. Nowawdays, chefs and home cooks are experimenting with sumac and coming up with creative combinations.  

I have found an interesting concentrate or juice in Anjar made by Armenian women. Do you think they wanted to share their secret recipe? well? well NO! So I am going to work on this recipe myself until I get it right. No one is going to stop me from learning the tricks to making this juice which can be substituted for lemon juice and a perfect mouneh item. All I know for a fact is that the berries are soaked in water, the water is strained and put through a sieve lined with a cheesecloth. My question is - Is the same water used to soak another batch of berries to make the liquid more concentrated ? humm.... I will get through this recipe even if it kills me, when one does not share, he does not become eternal... I could have written a huge article about these women, but I certainly won't! I will have to figure it out myself. Do you have any ideas about this? Send me your comments. :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Earth - Food & Book Signing

Join New Earth in an organic tasting on Dec.10.09 from 5-8pm. Cheryne Yazbeck will be signing her book on rural recipes, what a great Christmas gift!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tawlet El Eid - Dec. 9

A special event at Tawlet,  Discover the “Kitchen Creations” of 15 Lebanese Designers … Food, Objects, Utensils, Lebanon, X’mas …I will be there with Man'oushe - if you are interested! Chef Joe is a good friend of mine and when he cooks, you know it's gonna be delicious.

Launch event on Wednesday 9 December 2009
at 6 pm – followed by a special “friket samak” dinner
Chef Jo Barza’s own “kitchen creation” ($25 per person)
Expo from 9 December 2009 until 6 January 2010

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chef Ramzi's, The Chef's Corner

Ok, I think I'm getting obsessed with my fruits / vegetables. I just bought a book which I think is really worth it. It is written by an organic farmer in the USA. He has a farm called Angelic Organic and his name is Farmer Johan Peterson. The book is entitled FARMER JOHN'S COOKBOOK. Wonderful, why you may ask? John talks alot about farming. My absolute dream! But he goes further to farming describing each vegetable with recipes to go with each category... Huumm, kind of what I'm working on... but me it's local recipes as his are a mixture of many. The book is unpretentious, yet it so vital. I am in awe reading away and discovering new delicious things to do with my fruits and vegetables. I believe that once you have a load of them, sky is the limit to what you can do in terms of cooking something really special. The important thing is to teach your children that fruits and vegetables are the main and most important factor in feeding oneself and the rest is topping on the cake... well almost, bread is definitely not topping... can't live without it...So I'm sure you are wandering where I found this treasure. Chef Ramzi, my new found friend, has opened a place called the Chef's Corner. It is located under his school, Kafaat on the mainroad heading to Beit Mery. It is a place where you can take cooking lessons (both for adults and children), a place where you can buy all kind of neat chef's utensils, and a place where you can buy BOOKS! Not any kind of books, but the ones that are part of the Gourmand Cookbook Award.... Man'oushe, included, of course! I recently did Sarah's birthday (my youngest daughter) there... The kids had a blast, including ME! They learned to make a rich salad, kebbeh bil saniyeh (Sarah choice!), pizza, and worked on decorating the birthday cake. It was truly magical! There is nothing more exciting than seeing kids start their culinary apprenticeship. I really love being part of that, there's an idea growing inside of me... I'll let you know about it soon. SO, to sum it up, go visit Chef Ramzi's place - I'm sure there's something for each one of you... and remember you heard it here... :)

Gou - A New Gourmet / Tea House Shop in Beirut

Gou, a new concept, developed by Patricia Kebbe - an old friend of mine, is inviting its clients and friends to a sugar designing workshop with Ms. Claire Vincent, who is the founder of Belle de Sucre www.belledesucre.com on the 3rd of December starting 6pm with a gourmet "Afternoon Tea" at St. Nicolas, Ashrafieh.

The atmosphere of the shop is very friendly and takes you on a gourmet world tour with its diversified food products. You can enjoy a delicious breakfast, lunch, or early dinner made with tender loving care (with the inspiration of the products showcased). Patricia is always there with friendly advice and a warm smile to show you the way. I took my family a week ago to have lunch and was truly delighted by the food and the cozy atmosphere. I asked Patricia to send me a few names of her products:

The des Amants, The du Hammam, The des Concubines
Anastasia, Prince Vladimir, St Petersbourg
Belgian Chocolate with Reglisse, Baies Roses, Cardamom, Piment de Jamaique...
Pink Guava, Ginger, Chocolate Pistachio Jam
Langue de la sorciere naturally colored pasta
Risotto with porcini mushrooms
Fleur de sel avec piment d'Espelette, Sel diamant rose d'Himalaya avec herbes sauvages ou epices grillees
Confetti Candy Flowers
Foie Gras with Vinaigre Balsamique or Fig
Pain is good Hot Sauce
Forbidden Organic Black Rice, or Red Rice from Bhutan
Lips, heart, christmas tree, star and spoon design sugar
Kenya, Hazelnut, Colombia, Vanilla Coffee
Lavender, Jasmine or Poppy flower syrup from south of France
Miel de chataigner, de montagne, thym romarin, calissons de Provence
Almond Honey, Pistachio, Ginger, Aztec Cacaos.....

If this dosen't capture all your SENSES, then don't bother reading this BLOG!!! I'm very pleased for my friend and look forward to many food adventures together...