Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Simple Thought

Fulfillment comes from improving the lives of others.

Just sayin'!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

‘Mezze’: A comprehensive invitation to try your hand at Lebanese cooking

Here is an article on the Mezze Book, published in the Daily Star.
November 29 2013.
By Beckie Strum
BEIRUT: Barbara Abdeni Massaad took an unorthodox approach to her most recent cookbook, “Mezze: A Labor of Love,” by replacing photographs of the well-known dips, salads and finger foods with colorful illustrations. “If a single image could define our unique culture and heritage,” Massaad writes, “it would certainly depict an over sized table groaning with small, colorful plates of food, surrounded by happy people caught in the act of socializing and sharing a meal.”
Massaad and “Mezze” illustrator Pascale Hares launched the book Thursday evening at Falamanki restaurant in Sodeco, with women lined up from the minute the two sat down to sign copies of the guide to Lebanon’s most iconic foods.

This is Massaad’s third English-language Lebanese cookbook. She’s written on traditional baked goods in “Man’oushe: Inside the Street Corner Lebanese Bakery,” and preserves in “Mouneh: Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry.”
The whimsical illustrations – kibbeh akras with eyelashes and smiles, a young woman sleeping in a pile of okra, silly speech bubbles containing local slang – in a way reflect Massaad’s approach to teaching mezze.

Rather than preach the correct way to make each dish, every recipe comes with a caveat or two: You can replace this for that, she writes; or in the south, they do it this way; and of course, some use pomegranate molasses instead of lemon juice.

The pictures offer abstract representations of the food and the genial spirit in which it’s eaten without obliging readers to duplicate from a photograph. The words together with the pictures accommodate the varying nature of mezze and strip the ego out of Lebanese cooking – the arrogance that proclaims one regional variation to be the real one.

For her fattoush recipe, for example, Massaad says the beauty of the salad is that it can be made from whatever vegetables are available and in season. She invites cooks to fry or bake their Arabic bread for the croutons.

Wherever she can, she offers people options and tries to incorporate as many variations as she can.
The raw meat section contains seven different recipes, all of which she says can be made with lamb, beef or goat. And the topping options on her hummus read like the fine print in a car owner’s manual: beef tenderloin, lamb tenderloin, basterma, sujuk, fried pine nuts, awarma, more chickpeas and on and on.
That’s not to say Massaad doesn’t divulge her favorites. She explains her affinity for muhammara, a red pepper and walnut dip from Aleppo, and her love of kibbeh orfalieh, which originated in Turkey.
And though accommodating of regional tastes, when it comes to flavor she urges readers to heed her advice. For example, she insists eggplant should never be cooked in the oven to make baba ghannouj – chargrill it on the stove top and remove the seeds, which can produce a bitterness.

Mezze also defies the standard recipe design that separates the ingredients from the method in tidy uniform layout. Thus, she puts emphasis on thoroughly reading her words, which are littered with crucial tips that will make the difference between passable and superb mezze.

She predicts the nuanced challenges her readers might face and divulges tips that only seasoned cooks have learned – the kind of advice for which those of us who don’t have Lebanese tetas crave.
So what are some of these secrets? To make hummus smooth, for example, most big producers have heavy machinery to give it that buttery consistency. To do it at home, Massaad suggests pulverizing the chickpeas first in the food processor and then moving them to the blender, where the other ingredients are added.

Similarly, did you know that at Sahyoun, arguably Beirut’s most famous falafel makers, the owners use only fava beans? Massaad offers a recipe that mixes fava beans and chickpeas.

The book is realistic and reflects what one actually finds on the table. She includes Lebanese-style French fries, which are not age-old local fare but are part and parcel of today’s mezze spread. She also incorporates Armenian mezze that were brought to Lebanon relatively recently, but which she says are here to stay.

Massaad gives a nod to chefs that have remained true to their heritage while moving recipes forward. And she presents the lessons she’s learned not as a monologue on mezze done right, but as a dialogue in which she invites readers to participate – readers that she knows will come with their own culinary baggage.

“Food preparation is never about a strict set of rules,” she writes. “Cooking is personal, meaning that the character and personality of the cook should be evident in the final outcome.”

Falamanki Book Launch / Beckie Strum
Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Lifestyle/2013/Nov-29/239443-mezze-a-comprehensive-invitation-to-try-your-hand-at-lebanese-cooking.ashx#ixzz2mOI7KLox
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Le mezzé à la manière de Barbara Abdeni Massaad

 Article of L'Orient le jour, Carla Henoud has captured the essence of my work and of my being. I am very grateful!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mezze: A Labor of Love

The cover of Mezze: A Labor of Love
The new baby is finally out! Delivery was not painful... It has been smooth sailing all along thanks to the team I work with. I'm very grateful for the dedication and hard work. Pascale Hares you did a fine job illustrating my book, you were able to capture what is inside my BRAIN. Scary! Dots, my printing partner makes the dream a reality always... Jill Boutros watches over my writing like a hawk. The list is long, I have written all in the book.

Why a book about Mezze?

Mezze is an obvious choice. It often defines our Lebanese cuisine all over the world and is definitely something to boast about. Julie Andrieu, a French TV host who has traveled all over the world in her famous show "Fourchette et sac a dos" claims that the Lebanese mezze was one of the most interesting food experience she encountered while traveling over 80 countries. It's impressing! But we knew that!

On the 28th of November, at Falamanki in Beirut, we are launching Mezze: A Labor of Love. I want to thank Al Wadi al Akhdar for their support and encouragement to make this project possible. Falamanki has always showed support in my work and my soul lies in their cute "Dekeneh" with all those wonderful village products and artifacts.

There's over +70 recipes with beautiful illustrations. The book will be sold for 35 USD.

I hope that the launching will be success, in spite of the political instability and economical crisis and everything else going on.... God help Lebanon and neighboring countries, spare us from more bloodshed and suffering.

Peace. Let's create beautiful and positive things while we live on this earth.

Here are some exerts:
The Vegetable Basket
Kebbeh Nayeh
Beef Tongue

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chefs of Lebanon, Slow Food Beirut NEEDS YOU!!!

Come join us at the Cooking Festival

I'll let you in on a little secret, I've always wanted to meet all the chefs of Lebanon. Why? because I cherish these men and women who dedicate their lives to feeding others (make sense?)...

I am now heading the Slow Food Beirut Convivia, slowly but surely with the help of a few volunteers. Hopefully this year, if the political situation remains more or less stable (meaning bombs don't fall on our heads), then Slow Food Beirut will host each month an event dealing with food and the people who make it happen...

Our first initiation is at the 2013 Cooking Fair! The good people who also organize Horeca have made this festival a yearly event. It is growing from year to year and people seem to get interested. Last  year I made bread for good folks to show them that it's really not such a big deal. This year because of my new status, I want to focus on spreading the good word of Slow Food.

The talk I am preparing for the festival will introduce chefs and others to the philosophy of Slow Food. That said, we will get memberships and discuss new year strategies. I would like to get each chef involved in an event and try to bring them closer to a farmer, a small scale producer, an artisan. Is it so hard? It might be because knowing the restaurant business (I've had my share), consistency is important. We, as Slow Food Beirut, have to build this trust and create a strong link and relationship.

Tony Ramy, who is quite famous in the Syndicate of Restaurants in Lebanon pointed out to me an example which I will use during my talk. Once he was on an outing in a restaurant with his family in a local village restaurant near St. Charbel... He discovered that all the food he was eating was imported including the potatoes, the meat, even some of the pickles, ... He felt cheated and very frustrated. What has become of our heritage, of our pride goods, of our culinary past???

I suggest we all get our acts together and work on safeguarding our culinary traditions, here and now. (Before IT IS TOO LATE!!!!)...

Hope to see many of you there!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Fisherman and the Businessman Sense

I met someone recently who told me about this charming story, it seems so obvious and yet most of us are so blind. Personally I believe in the fisherman's philosophy. Society makes us, almost forces us to become slaves of money... soon later, we loose ourselves. I've never been in love with money, it has never made me a freer person. I'm content with rich experiences more than worldly goods.

And as I get a little older and hopefully wiser I think "less is better".

Thank you Donald for sharing your story...

The Fisherman and the Businessman - a classic Brazilian story.
Pritesh Kalantri

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite a few big fish.
The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?” The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.
“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”
The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman. “I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”
The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

Man'oushe in the USA

After so many years of yearning to have Man'oushe in the USA, the dream is finally becoming a reality
(November 2013). To all my US friends, please make sure you get a copy. This could be an awesome holiday gift for your loved ones! Help me and others perpetuate our rich culinary heritage around the world!

Edition 2013 Interlink Publishers

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Messenger

Today I received this message from Kathy Freston's daily quotes / recipes. I want to share this with you my readers because I've had messengers in my life who have showed me the way a few times... because I was receptive to their message too...I want to thank them.

The Messenger (Kathy Freston)

Every once in a while you come upon someone who says that exact thing that changes the course of your life forever. You don’t know why you listen, or shift, at that moment but you do. It’s something about that person that has you in awe; perhaps it’s an inner strength or conviction you feel in their body language, or maybe it’s a light in their eyes that speaks of a courage you want for yourself. That person you happen to meet or hear or see is the messenger you needed to show you your next step. (This is unbeknownst and unplanned on their part). That person may stay for a while or disappear as quickly as they happened on your path, but if you’re wise, you’ll receive what’s offered. You’ll know this is happening when your imagination gets fired up, when the energy moving through you feels clear and good and creative. You’ll know it’s happening when your mind is suddenly expansive and ideas and meaning begin to flow effortlessly through you. There’s no need to attach yourself to this person, but inwardly thank them for bringing you to your next step. You were ready. You called for it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Do What you Can

photo found in Pinterest
To build or not to build in a country that feels like a dormant volcano waiting to erupt...

I asked my friend and business consultant about this.

He said, "If you are not convinced leave the country forever.  If it's not someone like you who will build in Lebanon— who will?"

That said, I write these words with Israeli planes flying over our heads on a daily basis.

I choose to continue building, until further escalations... day by day...

Trust that little voice that tells you: "It can work, you have to try"

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Becoming a Vegetarian... Becoming a Vegan

I woke up early this morning. It's Sunday ... The man who brings me my brown bread for the children's weekly sandwiches can only come on Sunday morning at 8:00!!! It's hard but what can I do? For now, and for years, this has been my only choice. I do bake bread at home but it's not enough to feed the children the whole week. I take bread very seriously and bread coming from the Bekaa Valley made with wholesome ingredients produced for a good cause (to help needy children) is definitely worthwhile.

So folks, I've decided to become a vegetarian. It's been two weeks that I have not eaten meat or chicken. I feel good about this choice. I have more energy and I feel better as a person.

Looking into the matter carefully. I searched the internet to see the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan.

Here is what I found:

The difference between a vegan and a vegetarian is that vegans eliminate all animal products from their diet, including dairy and eggs. (It will come, I'm sure!)

Those following a vegan lifestyle generally do not wear leather and avoid products made from animals such as wool, silk and down. Vegans' tremendous compassion for animals is an abiding, overriding conviction in their lives. (I never wear leather, and have been sensitive to this issue for a long time).

Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish or poultry but they tend to consume dairy products and eggs. Lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products but not eggs, ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products and lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat eggs as well as dairy products. Vegetarians also do not eat products that contain gelatine or other meat-based products.

The vegan point of view is that animals are not here to be exploited by man, and that commercialization of animals necessarily involves a fundamental, inhumane component and lack of respect for basic life.

From a nutrition standpoint, the only difference is that vegans need to take a B12 and amino acid supplement, since they have no dietary source of these nutrients. You can get all the nutrients you need on a lacto-ovo (eggs and milk) vegetarian diet without supplements.

Luckily for me, the Lebanese diet is very vegetarian. In fact, I can eat almost everything without meat, except of course kebbeh made with meat. Vegetarian kebbeh substitutes are as flavorful.

I'm convinced for the animals,  for the planet, for my health, always knew it would made perfect sense...

I read a book which just made everything so right ( Kathy Freston's, Veganist).

It's an important book, everyone should read it.
Lebanese cow in spring....she's a vegetarian and look how strong she looks!

To recap:

Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle whose adherents seek to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Vegans endeavor not to use or consume animal products of any kind. Vegans do not consume meat, eggs, milk or any food that is derived from animals.

Vegetarianism is the practice of a diet that excludes meat (including game and slaughter by-products; fish, shellfish and other sea animals; and poultry). There are several variants of the diet, some of which also exclude eggs. Vegetarians do not eat meat or fish. Some do consume dairy and some vegetarians consume eggs. Lacto-vegetarian: eating dairy products. Ovo-vegetarian: eating eggs. Do not eat gelatin or other animal by products.

Wish me luck on my new diet, a diet for life full of empathy for my fellow friends (animal kingdom) for I know that they feel everything and understand all...

It takes one person at a time to make a difference.

Thank you God for showing me the way...

Thank you mom for leading me there with your books and food philosophy.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Into the Wild Quote

Make a radical change in your lifestyle & begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances & yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, & conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, & hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new & different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security & adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning & its incredible beauty.” — Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Khebz w Meleh ma3 Barbara - Bread & Salt with Barbara

A video clip made by Independent Productions for a new show we are working on called Khebz w Meleh ma3 Barbara (Bread and Salt with Barbara). The basic idea is breaking bread, sharing food and friendship with people from Lebanon from all communities alike, while keeping our Lebanese culinary heritage alive. Toufic Trabulsi, the director of the video, was able to capture the essence of what I cherish the most in an artistic visual that makes me dream. I am very grateful. I hope one day to be able to find a suitable TV station, sponsor who will be interested to pursue this project. This is where my job stops!... too much of a dreamer to think about something called money and sales ...

NB: We borrowed the song from singer Feyrouz (one of the most prominent Lebanese singer), as this is a "pilot". We will not use it on the show, as it is not ours to keep. We will be working on a single later.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Time for Change

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

I'm Ginger

Friday, April 12, 2013

Leaving a Trace

“The only thing of importance, when we depart, will be the traces of love we have left behind.” ~Albert Schweitzer.

Barbara Meats the Fish

Ruby red beetroot infused salmon
A few days ago I was invited by founder of Meat the Fish, Karim Arakji and Reem Azoury (chef consultant) with a very interesting group of people.  Reem and Chef Mohamad Naccache, better known as Chef Mood cooked for us a very delicious meal that I simply could not resist to share with you my beloved readers. Carlos Khachan took care of the wine. We started with a French wine (Saveur de Midi, Corbiere, 2011 made with carignen, and black grenache grapes then we continued with a Lebanese wine (Domaine de Baal) produced in Zahleh from cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah grapes. Last but not least, champagne was served - Charles Weiss. Perfect!
Ruby red, beetroot infused salmon, crudo
Organic salmon sashimi with ginger teriyaki dressing
Mini crab cakes with wasabi mayo
Ginger & garlic stir-fried kale
Oven-roasted brill in wine & lemon Sauce
Squid ink freekeh risotto with mushrooms
Cod fillets, rolled with pine nuts and watercress
Jumbo shrimp, in ginger and peanut sauce over citrus basmati rice
Lemon cauliflower mash
Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Apple Cake

  • 1 Box fresh crab meat 450 Gr. picked free of shells
  • 2 Tbsp. Mayo
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 1 small finely chopped red onion
  • 3 Tbsp. previously sauteed yellow onion, cooled
  • 1/4 cups finely chopped parsley & cilantro
  • Chives, if you find any, add around 4 Tbsp.
  • Panko 1/4 cup
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Canola oil for sauteing

  1. Pick through crabmeat to make sure all shells are out, and keep refrigerated.
  2. Saute finely diced yellow onion, till deep caramel color is reached, set aside, till cool or at least at room-temperature
  3. Finely chop red onion
  4. Finely chop all herbs you are using
  5.  Whisk egg
  6. Place crabmeat in a bowl, add all ingredients except egg & panko. Mix gently with a fork until well incorporated. Taste and adjust seasoning now. This is how your crabcakes will taste when you cook them.
  7. Add egg & panko, mix well
  8. Have a sheet pan ready, and start shaping them by placing mixture inside ring. You decide whether you want them mini for an appetizer size, or larger for a nice dinner portion.
  9. Place tray covered with plastic in fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight. When you take them out to cook, gently take each crabcake and dust it with extra panko so when you cook them, you develop a nice crust.
  10. When you are ready to cook them, place a large non-stick skillet on the heat and add enough oil to cover the base. Once the oil is hot, slide them gently and make sure not to overcrowd your pan, they should not touch each other. After a couple of minutes, flip them with a narrow steel spatula. Let them cook another minute. You need to cook them on medium heat to get a nice brown crust.
  11. Slide tray into pre- heated oven, let them cook for another 6-8 minutes.

A good way to hold the crabcakes until you are ready to serve them, is to keep them in the oven at the lowest temperature. Do not hold for more than 30 mins. or they risk getting dry.

To serve:

Serve with your favourite greens and a wasabi mayo or, on a soft hamburger bun with MarieRose sauce & lettuce. A good accompaniment is to make cole slaw or a potato salad.

Serving: If you are making mini crab cakes, 1 box will serve 6.
If you are making larger ones, you will get around 4 cakes.
If you are making more than amount provided, double or triple.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Horeca 2013 - Atelier Gourmand

It's that time of year again HORECA 2013. Come and join me at Atelier Gourmand where I will host some amazing people. We'll simply cook, talk and eat!!!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

James Beard on Bread

"If you can read and have an oven and a work space, there is no reason why you can’t make a decent loaf of bread." —James Beard

This is what I have been preaching all along. I would even say you don't need to read. Everything lies in our little brain (stubborn). We have to battle our fears and just try. Success is eminent when you give it a chance and bake until you succeed.

Good luck!

Cooking by the Numbers ... Man'oushe

Looking into the bestselling cookbooks of 2012

One name comes up over and over again in discussions of the future of cookbooks: Ottolenghi. Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem (Ten Speed, 2012) is drawing attention to Middle Eastern cooking both here and in the U.K. (where Ottolenghi has four restaurants).

Kate Heddings, deputy food editor of Food & Wine and executive editor of the magazine’s cookbooks, such as America’s Greatest New Cooks (Feb.), says Middle Eastern seems to be the hot new cuisine. She foresees growing popularity for Jewish and Persian food and points to the success of Clarkson Potter’s The Mile End Cookbook (2012) and anticipation for Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built (Schocken, Mar.) by Mark Russ Federman, former owner of the eponymous appetizer store on New York’s Lower East Side. In May, Interlink hopes to capitalize on the burgeoning Middle Eastern trend with Barbara Abdeni Massaad’s Man’oushé: Inside the Street Corner Lebanese Bakery, about the pizza-like national pie of Lebanon.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Messages from Lebanon: The Food Manifesto

This woman is wonderful. She is preaching the Slow Food philosophy without even knowing about Slow Food. It's common sense. Eat local foods, women cook for your family, preserve traditional recipes.
God bless you ya hajjeh!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Plant seeds folks, that's all we have left!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sheep in Zahleh

Photo copyright Tony Batty

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mashrou' Leila - Lebanese Band and Controversy

Bravo, keep going... continue. We need more like you! The music rocks and the lyrics are authentic, true to the actual culture and ideologies the young are living through. Sometimes that bothers some people, who cares!