Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Barbara with Chef Fernando "Helwe Beirut"

Introducing Chef Fernando and delicious Mexican food! This food is MY WEAKNESS!

Chef Fernando and Edid (my love)!
Chef Fernando trying to eat his compadre (Pepito)
Edid always working to make things pretty
Roasting green bell peppers on the saj

Chef Fernando's Mexican recipes:

Guacamole en Molcajete

Chile Paste Ingredients

1 tbs of finely chopped white onion
1 firmly packed tbs chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp finely chopped jalapeno, or more to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or as needed

Additional Ingredients

3 medium ripe but firm Hass avocadoes
3 tbs diced tomato
2 firmly packed tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbs finely chopped white onion
salt to taste
Tortilla chips and / or fresh corn tortilla

Make the chile paste: Grind the onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and salt together in a molcajete until all the ingredients are very finely ground. Alternatively, use a fork to mash all ingredients to a paste in a wide hardwood bowl.

Cut each avocado in half, working the knife blade around the pit. Twist the halves to separate them and flick out the pit with the tip of the knife. Fold a kitchen towel in quarters and hold it in the palm of your "non-knife" hand. Rest an avocado half cut side up in your palm and make 3 or 4 evenly spaced lengthwise cuts through the avocado flesh down to the skin, without cutting through it. Make 4 crosswise cuts in the same way. Scoop the diced avocado flesh into the molcajete. Repeat with the remaining avocado halves.

Makes 4 servings.

Red Pepper Soup

·         4 large red bell peppers
·         1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
·         1 large russet potato, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
·         3 cloves garlic
·         1 quart chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian option)
·         1/4 cup cream or milk
·         3 Tbsp butter
·         Cayenne, salt and pepper to taste


1.      Roast the red bell peppers by placing them over or under an open flame until they blacken on all sides. (You can use a grill, cooktop gas burner, or oven broiler.) Place the blackened peppers in a bag, close the bag and let the peppers steam for 10-15 minutes, or until the skins feel like they can easily be slipped off. Remove the peppers from the bag, peel off the blackened skins, remove the seeds. Chop the peppers roughly.
2.     Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes and cook another 1-2 minutes, then add the garlic and roasted peppers. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes.
3.     Add the stock, stir well and bring to a simmer. Cook over medium heat until potatoes are soft.
4.      Purée the soup in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Fill the blender about halfway with the soup. Start the blender on low and keep your hand on the top, in case the lid wants to pop off from the rising steam. Once everything is well chopped, turn the blender to its highest setting and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. You might need to do this in batches.
5.      Return to a clean pot set over low heat. Add the cream, stir well and taste. Add some cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 servings.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mexican Fiesta at Gou

Gou restaurant is hosting a special week full of surprises in participation with the Embassy of Mexico in Lebanon ! Mexican food will be highlighted for 7 days from the 2nd to the 8th of November. I will be shooting for Helweh Beirut on the first night, the "Day of the Dead" Feast, to learn all the delicious recipes of one of my favorite destinations in the world, Mexico. Chef Fernando and Gou's kitchen crew will be cooking up a storm.
The menu of the first night includes:

Appetizers: guacamole and mango seafood ceviche will be served.  Colorful tamales will be presented as an entree. Main dishes will include chicken leg, mole sauce, rice and jalapeno peppers. Last but not least, the dessert is called Capirotada - banana pudding with coconut ice cream and Cajeta sauce. Yum, sounds sinful! I can't wait really.

Here are some of my food / people photos I took in Mexico last year while visiting the Sanchez family (the best):
Homemade tortilla baked on the comal
A bit of everything served on a wooden board
Insects, you bet with a spicy bite
Pomme d'amour
Woman selling tortilla on the street
A Mexican chicken stew
Hundreds of peppers are available in street markets
Happy in Mexico
Mexican Buffet

Street Foods of Mexico City

Introducing Shahiya.com

Today I received an interesting press release from Shahiya.com, I'd like to share it with you. It is a good initiative taken by food lovers who wanted to document our "Arabic" food heritage. The site lets one interact and share recipes and is designed in a professional and computer-friendly way. I think if someone has time, one can stay for a while browsing and tasting the virtual foods. I have not tried any of the recipes yet, I am very tempted to do so. The site is available for both Arabic and English readers alike.

To visit the website: Shahiya.com

The press release:

The Arab Food Revolution:

 The words “food revolution” might conjure up images of Jamie Oliver, whereas the “Arab revolution” refers more to the recent Arab Spring uprisings.

However, for Hala Labaki, Carole Makhoul Hani and Daniel Neuwirth, the three co-founders of shahiya.com, their “Arab Foodie Revolution” has been quiet, subtle and tasty.

It all started with a simple realization: for all Arab cuisines, finding reliable online sources of recipes was close to impossible. The Arab culinary heritage had been stored forever in family notebooks, lying on the shelves of every grandmother’s kitchen. But most of the time, it was only transmitted to the close family, sometimes even being lost with the departure of the elderly.

“We thought of the idea for this site while studying abroad. We craved Lebanese food, but couldn’t find a single dependable online source for Lebanese recipes, especially in Arabic”, says co-founder Hala Labaki. “We used to call parents and friends, wasting hours in international calls to be able to make this or that dish. But for other cuisines, French, Italian, American or Chinese, reliable recipes were all over the net. This is how we first identified a need.”

When the three friends rejoined in Lebanon, they shared their concern for safeguarding their culinary heritage and their desire to make it more accessible. With the rise of online social platforms, the solution was plain to see, and shahiya.com was born.  

The 100% user generated website aspired to be a platform where home cooks from all over the Arab world could create a free profile and add their own recipes. They would share recipes they had tested and cooked many times - hence offering reliable, feasible and authentic recipes. 

Today, a year and a half after it was launched, shahiya.com is well on the way to fulfilling its initial aim: with more than 25,000 members viewing, reviewing, and trying out the 2,200 recipes shared since on the site, it is quickly becoming a first point of call for authentic and reliable Arab food recipes. Currently more than 60% of visits are from the KSA, making shahiya.com the number one food website visited in the Kingdom. 

What makes this site unique, among other things, is a feature found on no other Arab food site: each published recipe gets its nutrition facts calculated. So if you always wondered how many calories there are in your sayyadieh, now all you have to do is to post the recipe on shahiya.com and when it gets published you’ll find out! This service, along with diet recipes and an online free nutritional profile, is provided under the supervision of Carole Makhoul Hani, an RD.

“Cook Lebanese- 101 recipes” iPhone application

Encouraged by the success of the site, the trio decided to take their idea further; to bring Arab food home to even more people, they launched an iPhone application. “For our first iPhone application we decided to focus on what we know best: Lebanese Cuisine”, says Daniel Neuwirth.

101 quintessentially Lebanese recipes were selected by the Shahiya team. The team then actually cooked, tasted and fine-tuned these recipes. The resulting final, foolproof set of recipes made it into the app. The 101 recipes are divided into nine categories with a vegetarian filter offered for each. The dish pictures are not only beautiful; they genuinely illustrate the expected end result.

The app ‘Cook Lebanese – 101 recipes’ is available in six languages (Arabic, English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese). Conveniently, all the listed ingredients are readily available anywhere in the world, and all recipes can be emailed to friends with a click of a button. In a nutshell, that’s the Lebanese culinary heritage meeting the entire world, 21st century style.

“Food is at the heart of our lives”, says Labaki. “It’s a great vehicle for drawing people together, and introducing them to new experiences and cultures. It is also such a huge part of our heritage, and we hope to keep it alive on the web with shahiya.com.”

Cook Lebanese is available on the iPhone App Store
at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cook-lebanese-101-recipes/id443934198?mt=8&ls=1#

For additional information about Cook Lebanese, including screenshots, a demo video and more, please visit http://shahiya.com/english/app_iphone.aspx or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Z_t61HlEmU

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Introducing Fouad Kassab, the Food Blogger in "Helwe Beirut"

The focus of this segment is to introduce food blogger, Fouad Kassab, writer of the Food blog to the Lebanese. Fouad is especially known in Australia, where he resides with his Australian wife and adorable baby girl. He writes mostly of  regional cuisine, emphasizing the love of ingredients, flavors, and how to put them together to make delicious foods. We met through the great maze of the world wide web. On his summer visit to Lebanon, we met in person and instantly hit it off. We discussed for hours our common passion - food! The Food Blog is an interesting escape for all foodies alike, especially those interested in Middle Eastern foods with an emphasis on Lebanese cuisine. It is very informative and skillfully designed. I invite you to drop in and visit Fouad's world!

To read an interview of his work, click here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Apple Season in Mayrouba

Therese is a special lady! She is a small scale producer from the Souk el Tayeb "family". What I did not know is that she is also a school teacher. She is so proud of her mother's village and really made it a point to show it off. She reminisces of her carefree childhood where her family would live from the harvest of nature. She shared with us her apple jam because it was an important part of the mouneh every year in her home. The village of Mayrouba (38 km from Beirut) is known for its delicious apples, what better way to introduce viewers to this sweet recipe. Thanks Therese!
The jam cooks slowly emitting a delicious aroma
Different flavors add a special touch to the jam
Apple chips drying in the autumn sun

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jibneh baladi "White Cheese"

Jibneh baladi is the cheese made in high mountains all over Lebanon by shepherds and their families. It is very delicious. Often the milk is derived from a mix of goat and sheep milk. The milk of the sheep gives the cheese a stronger taste because of the percentage of fat available in the milk. Charbel Chamoun and his family were so kind to me during our shooting and I felt right at home amidst all these beautiful animals. The technique of production to make the cheese is not so difficult, the result is well worth it. The milk is usually not pasteurized. To prevent any health problems, the animals are kept clean and free from any diseases. This and many other recipes will be included in my next book CHEESE. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

La Pizza a Cheese 2011

The president of the AssociazioneVerace Pizza Napoletana talking about PIZZA

One of the highlights of visiting CHEESE in Bra, Italy this fall was to train (for two hours) with people from the Verace Napoletana Pizza Association. You could say it was a dream come true for me to meet with these fine people. Why, you may ask. I have had a passion for pizza-making for such a long time. Those who know me, know this. In fact, very often I invite my friends and family for pizza because I really enjoy baking and eating pizza. My Man’oushé book started with a dream of going to Italy and doing a thorough study on the pizza. One sees the grass greener on the other side always, yet I was wise enough to carry out this dream in my own country in search of all the baked foods in a typical street corner Lebanese bakery. The Verace chef showed us how to make the pizza according to the standards and regulation set by the association. I met a chef lately in Lebanon, owner of da Giovanni and Marguerita. I told him of my meeting with Verace, he did not believe me at first. Later, he was convinced. We shot a segment for Helweh wa Moora (who's name now has changed to Helweh Beirut) one week later for me to stay in the pizza-making mood. The show focused on how to make the best pizza (straight from a fellow who comes from Napoli), stay tuned... Giovanni and I had so much fun that we both forgot that the LBC crew was there, as we talked and talked and talked...He is special!

I was chosen to try because I asked so many questions
The dough is garnished with canned San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo cheese, fresh basil leaves, with a drizzle of olive oil
Pizza Marinara