Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions & Thoughts

Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions & Thoughts
Spring time always inspires me...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fish Tonight

I always say the best gifts are "food-related". Yesterday my husband Serge came home with a big bag in his hands. He was struggling to get in with his lunch bag, the bag full of "God knows what!" and his briefcase. Everyone jumped to kiss him, even the dog Belle pleaded for her daily caress. Then everyone went away leaving him with all his "stuff", ignoring his distress.  He got angry that nobody rescued him, put the bag on the kitchen counter and stated, "This is fresh fish from Syria from the a lake in Homs fished by Sleiman yesterday." Sleiman works with my husband at the family factory. I ran back to the kitchen immediately and we all started laughing!

So today, I was very inspired with this gift. I crushed garlic (lots), chopped an onion, squeezed some lemon juice, brought out my magical ingredient (olive oil from Beino, Akkar) and started on my masterpiece... all modesty apart, of course... It just adds flavor to the story... So, I thoroughly washed the fish with lemon juice and water. Drained the pieces well. Mixed garlic, lemon juice, added a teaspoon of paprika and poured the whole mixture on the appetizing  fish. I added the chopped onions, and chopped lots of fresh cilantro (coriander) to finish the work. A sprinkle of salt and the fish was ready to be cooked in the hot oven. It is very important to preheat the oven when baking, I always say... Now I'm going to sit down with my family and relish the savor of this delicious gift from Syria, Thanks Sleiman!

The fish before / after  it was cooked! Can you smell the coriander???? OK, I'm definitely hungry!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Photos in the New York Times



I invite you to watch this slide show with my photos taken of  my friend Chef Joe Barza's delicious Lebanese recipes. We are dreaming of doing a book together someday, maybe when I finish Mouneh and he finds time for me! :) He has become a famous chef who is sought out in all continents of the world. He spends his time traveling and cooking for many who are really impressed by his craft. Bravo Joe!  



Friday, June 11, 2010

My Printer's Reaction

He said, "It's 98% perfect! and I don't say this to everyone" So I am going to work on the 2% fallacy, as I am a beast of PERFECTION!!! This motivated me even more ...Now I am in the process of re-reading again and again, so amazing to see the book coming to life. We are testing different types of papers to see which one is best suited. There are so many variables that are taken into consideration when one wants to print a book... If you have a few hours, I'll tell you about them one day over a lavish meal...and a few glasses of red wine... :) OK, back to work...A lot of adrenaline... Keep thinking of Julia Child and her determination, gives me courage...The children are studying today at home, a collective state of mind. Better days ahead!

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
Kahlil Gibran


Watch as a new life blossoms, slowly, naturally - as nature intended.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Next Step to Bringing the Book to Life

Today is the first day of the rest of my life, AGAIN! ... It is indeed a stepping stone for me! I am going to the printers to test papers and to get all the necessary information to advance. I have finished correcting the text of the book (now we have reached 580 pages, without the index). It is starting to look like a Bible... I have made 5 copies and have given them to people I trust to get their input on the material. At a certain point, one can't read one's work anymore. You get a sort of nausea and everything becomes blurry. I know I will read the book over again at least twice, but now I'm giving it a rest. I have put it on the shelf next to me for later viewing. When I go through all the pages of the written text and photos, it's kind of looking through an album (family / food / memoir). I have a file on my computer with the whole book. All I have to do is click a button and the pages unravel before me, it's quite magical. I thank God that I was able to finish and go through with the book, as it has not been an easy process. In this project I've had to be a cook, a photographer, a psychologist, a chemist, a mathematician, and so much more... Am I exaggerating, perhaps but that's how it felt.Many lessons were learned in the process. Of course I learned to produce the Lebanese pantry (MOUNEH) but at the same time I went through experiences which are even more important. I have met and socialized with the people behind the food production process from all regions of the country. I have shared this experience with my children, making them realize that they belong to a greater entity that is wider than the one that they are living in. It has taught them empathy, traditions, and has given them assurance... I know that this will have positive repercussions on their lives in the future.... I am sure! After all, we are all a product of our childhood and our childhood experiences. One friend viewed the book and exclaimed, "What is this a family album?" It is indeed one that I want to share with my fellow Lebanese. It is through the eyes of a photographer and the eyes of a woman like me who cherishes more than anything the livelihood of her children that I invite you to share my experiences to live through the Lebanese mouneh. The mouneh is part of an instinctive maternal characteristic - to nourish one's family and to preserve for times of need. It is imperative that the new generations learn the essentials of harvesting and storing one's abundance for later use. Commercial products will NEVER take the place of home preserved goods.... I am grateful to all those who have become a part of the making of the book. There are so many...

Off I go on my adventure, wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Eat the World in Lebanon

Eat the World
09 Apr 10 - Sloweb
A Portuguese chef-writer couple and friends of Slow Food have embarked on a trip around the world to discover different cultures through the pleasures of the table, and share this knowledge with their home country. In their project Eat the World, Maria and Francisco Martins da Silva will travel through 23 countries in 365 days, living with families and learning recipes and techniques from local people - from housewives to renowned chefs. Their experiences will be documented on their website, a national Portuguese newspaper and a food magazine.

“Our aim is to make Portuguese society know what’s happening in the different countries in the world: what people eat, their traditions, where our food comes from, etc.,” the couple wrote. “We believe that cooking is the extension of our cultural, historical and religious heritage...We want to unveil local gastronomy, discover the world through the kitchen and describe it on paper, revealing it to others. ”

Maria and Francisco also spoke of their commitment to the responsibility tied hand in hand with gastronomy. “We are very in tune with Terra Madre. We’re interested in discovering the deep connection between plate and planet, and focusing on the role people play in eco-gastronomy. It makes us sad to think that there are hundreds of millions of people that do not have enough to eat and hundreds of millions more that overeat. On the one hand, malnutrition and the other, obesity...The choices that we make affect the world of those who aren't given the chance to choose.”

Since departing from Portugal in February, the couple have visited Mozambique, Zanzibar, the UK, Turkey and Syria and will soon head through the Middle East and Asia, North and South America. Their story, photographs and video recipes can be followed on their website Eat the World.

Article taken from the Slow Food Website.

Check out their website at:  Eat the World

This adorable couple came to visit me about a month ago at my home. We sat around drinking beer and spoke for hours about FOOD. I made them mana'ish with an assortment of local cheeses and Lebanese pickles because I thought that would be the appropriate food to serve them (given my background). They are really doing something wonderful. Maria sends me mails every so often telling me of their exciting trip. They have covered a lot of miles and continue to do so, while discovering the food traditions of each country. I envy them, who knows ... !!! I have good news, I have finished my book Mouneh, with the help of many people for whom I am so grateful. I shall site them in the book. Now I am especially grateful to my patient friend Jill Boutros who is editing the text and to Mirna Hamady , the graphic designer who is putting it all together... So much work, but I have faith... I'm almost there ...I want to stop sitting on my computer for more than 12 hours a day...I am going to take a trip to the Bekaa to write the introduction of the book, as I promised myself. I definitely need this closure... kind of like giving birth... can't sleep, I can eat, but too excited...