Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions & Thoughts

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

Monday, April 25, 2011

Barbara "l'humeur du chef" helwe w morra



I met Jad El Hajj at Tawleh when he worked as a manager there. He helped me to organize a party for my friends that was long overdue. You see I never found a place that I could identify myself to, thus never had a party outside my home in a public place. When Tawleh opened, I called my husband the same day and told him, "I found the place!". Since then, Jad has moved on to fulfill his long life dream of opening his own restaurant. The concept of the restaurant is special as he "the chef" cooks given his mood, changing the menu every day. All the best to you Jad!

Friday, April 22, 2011

ACDI/VOCA Launches First-Ever Lebanese Cheese Festival



I attended this cheese festival a while back, actually as I was watching the video I saw myself walking around for a split second. This event took place in 2007, how time flies. I am starting my new research presently dealing with this exact topic. Usually when you write a book, you spend months trying to find the right cover. So let me tell you ladies and gents, I found it! Does that mean that this book will be easier on me? I hope so, but I really hope that the journey takes me to the root of my secret dream - that of discovering the riches of being a shepherdess. Sound crazy, it's not - just picture it, being in nature seeing your "babies" feed on nature's offerings, milking the herd to make delicious dairy products. A cycle is born instantly, as nature intended... I can't wait to live through this experience - one step at a time.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Always the Sun



Not food related, soul related - a philosophy, sung by someone else that I can relate to. Why? I don't know. We have a "hamseen" today in Lebanon, so this just might be appropriate and related to this hot vague (in my mind)... Enjoy!

Your darkness grows
In fields of loneliness
Every breath
As cold as ice
Where lies are true painted black
Searching for some light to lead you back

Always the sun
After all
Always the sun
Like a wailing wall
Give me hope
Show some meaning

Always the sun
To strike a chord
Always the sun
To turn the world
Always

Your darkness grows
In fields of loneliness
Every breath
As cold as ice
Where lies are true painted black
Searching for some light to lead you back

Always the sun
After all
Always the sun
Like a wailing wall
Give me hope
Show some meaning

Always the sun
To strike a chord
Always the sun
To turn the world
Always

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Orange Blossom Jam in Zakroun




I had such a great time with Joseph and his family! They are one of a kind and I wish them all the happiness. I was very touched by their generosity. The story of Joseph and his jam is included in the Mouneh book.

Striking a pose with Joseph
The beauty of Zakroun untouched by men
Joseph absolutely hates TV interviews
The hospitality of the Menhen family


Meeting my friend, the goat
Notice the beehive next to Dory's head

 Look closely at the beehive

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Onion Bed

Sitting on a bed of onions - on the way to Zahleh

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Magdousheh in the Spring



Text taken from Mouneh - Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry (2010 edition)

In spring time, it is an enriching experience to walk through a grove of orange trees blossoming with white flowers and bursting with fragrance. I’ve had many occasions to experience this romantic stroll throughout my journey. When you see, touch and smell these flowers you have the impression that they are declaring the coming of spring.
 Magdousheh, a small town about 50 km (31 mi) south of Beirut, is reputed for its orange groves and its annual orange blossom water production. It is situated at an altitude of about 300 m (984 ft) above sea level. The town overlooks the Mediterranean Sea with its prominent pilgrimage site—home of the church of Our Lady of Mantara. On one of my visits I was accompanied by Oussama Amioun, a local resident and producer. We walked through the whole town meeting with people and discussing the year’s orange blossom yield.  During the season, villagers scatter through the groves and private gardens working simultaneously to harvest their prized orange blossom flowers. A faint perfume accompanies you as you walk through the streets. There is a certain ambiance unseen elsewhere in Lebanon at that particular moment. The tiny white flowers are laid out, scattered on empty large white bags. Distillers of different sizes and shapes are washed and set up carefully to ensure a proper yearly production. Farmers and producers of Magdousheh pride themselves on a superior quality of distilled orange blossom water. They insist that the trees should not be irrigated during the hot summer months. In fact, it is this hearty resistance which makes the flowers superior, thereby resulting in a higher quality product.  

Traditionally, most households in Lebanon made their annual production of orange blossom water at home using a family alembic. Today, it is not unusual to find families gathered at a town center where the communal karakeh is set up with large bags of orange blossom flowers. Production is mainly reserved to villagers who keep the traditional distillation process alive.  


Mr. Hannah
The pride of a farmer
Let's try!
The smell of orange blossom simply takes you away
Together we stand
In town, flowers for sale
Oussama Amioun
Taking a break
First seller as you enter the town

Saturday, April 9, 2011

International Prize of the Gastronomique Literature



A great evening hosted by the Lebanese Academy of Gastronomy at Chez Sophie.
Here enclosed was the Menu (in French):
Apertitif
Bellini a la pèche blanche
 En Amuse Bouche
Fritos de grenouille / Spuma de pomme de terre / Jus corsé
Vin blanc de Bourgogne
Domaine Chevrot, 2008, Chardonnay, Bio
 En Entrées
Salade d'asperges vertes et blanches / Copeaux de manchego / Jambon Bellot
Vinaigrette à la truffe noire
Ou
Emietté de tourteau aux agrumes / Carpaccio de Saint Jacques
En Primi Piatti
Raviole de joue de boeuf / Foie gras
Vin rouge du Languedoc
Puech Noble, Domaine Puech Noble
Producteur R. Rostaing 2007, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Bio  
En Poisson
Filet de daurade à la vapeur / Pousses d'épinards / Mousseline de topinambours
Crème de palourdes
Ou
En Viande
Souris d'agneau confit / Mousseline de purée de pomme de terre
En Dessert
Café gourmand
Best part of life is sharing happiness with the one you love
The winners!
Friendship!
A snapshot in the kitchen with Sophie

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Goat Song

Animals sense who love them - I love this photo!

4th Day Horeca 2011

Ok, so I have to admit that this was my favorite day! I was so excited that I spoke during the whole evening (in a microphone, in Arabic). Today's guests were Souk el Tayeb's food producers from all over Lebanon. It was amazing because each producer prepared Kebbeh according to the their region. Georgina El Bayeh, from Kferdleos in the North, prepared Kebbeh Erras. They were excellent. She stuffed them with a bit of fat mixed with chopped green pepper, and dried mint. Zeinab Kashmar, from Hallousiyeh, prepared Frakeh which is Kebbeh prepared on a piece of marble. This is raw kebbeh with burghul mixed with Southern spices including cumin, rose petals, marjoram, etc ...(I will develop this story later on my TV show). She beat the raw meat for one hour constantly to show how the Kebbeh was made in yesterdays. It was amazing! And the taste... Sona Takijian, from Borj Hammoud Beirut, prepared Vospov Kefteh. This is Kebbeh made with boiled lentil mixed with burghul. Suzanne Doueihy, from Zgharta in the North, made us her famous Kebbeh Nayeh bil Jorn. I've never tasted a better Kebbeh in my life! She also brought trays of Kebbeh bil Saniyeh: Kebbeh Basaliyeh, Kebbeh bi Zeit, and Kebbeh bi Labneh. Last but not least, Nada Saber, from Kherbet Anafar in the Bekaa made us Kebbet Batata. She also brought with her Kebbet Raheb and Kebbet Lakteen.She gave me some to take home after the show to share with my family. We fed hundreds of people and that is what it's all about. Sharing, feeding, teaching, and making others happy! I was glad that the workshop was a success this year.

Sona feeding everyone her delicious lentil kebbeh.

Suzanne working on her kebbeh bil jurn.

Happiness is sharing food with everyone!

3rd Day Horeca 2011

On the third day, I arrived a bit late because of traffic. It was really exasperating. Our first guest was to be Chef Karim Haidar, apparently he stormed out of the stand because he was not satisfied with the organization. I never got to meet him !!! I was disappointed because I would have liked to hear about his stories concerning  the introduction of Lebanese foods and flavors in Parisian restaurants. Maybe one day!

The day was not a total disappointment, on the contrary.  I met a lovely woman, who is a US-trained chef. Her name is Reem Azoury. She owns a small restaurant in Washington DC. She presented the audience with a conference based on adapting Lebanese Cuisine to International Tastes, mostly American. The presentation was really interesting and made a lot of sense. It brought me back to our family restaurant and how we introduced Lebanese flavors to South Florida. I've asked Reem to send me a copy of her presentation. I will post the highlights when I get it.  

2nd Day Horeca 2011


The focus of the second day of the workshop was on a specific ingredient,tahini. Tahini is a paste of ground sesame seeds. Our sponsor, Al Kanater, offered tahini and halawa to all those passing by. Our first guest was no other than Top Chef host Chef Joe Barza.Joe presented the making of fish kafta. The dish consists of ground fish mixed with spices, parsley, coriander (fresh and dry), diced onions, and salt. The mix was spread on a platter filled with fresh tomato sauce. Slices of potatoes were spread on the fish layer.The whole was topped with a tarrator sauce made with tahini, lemon juice, water, and salt. About 20 minutes later, everyone had a taste of this delicious creation signed Joe Barza.

The second guest was Charles Azar, Lebanon's top pastry chef. He baked "Chocolate Macaroon with Halawa". The taste was out of this world and inspired me a lot. The halawa was mixed in the hot chocolate, melting into a thick paste. With a little imagination, one can do so much to introduce local ingredients to all kinds of recipes. I was certainly impressed.

Next to the Culinary Heritage workshop stand, Horeca introduced this year Librairie Gourmande. I was able to meet Chef Andrew, a Canadian-Egyptian chef, who is redheaded like me and speaks Arabic like me too!!! He signed his new book that day. So funny... I'm sure you all have seen him on Fatafeat.

Two great Lebanese chefs
Chef Andrew