Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

Lebanese Spices

Stocking up on spices is imperative when you want to cook Lebanese food. I have gathered a list of spices which can be used in the recipes that will follow. Copy the list on your phone and go out there to find the freshest spices available in the market. I usually do this exercise once a year at a local mill in the Bekaa Valley or another one in the Kesserouan. If that's too difficult for you, most supermarkets carry a wide range of spices, carefully wrapped to keep them fresh. I bring them home and put them into clean jars. I label every jar to have them on hand when the pressure is on with my cooking. They have to be easy to find and accessible to you. When using, don't forget to close the lids as soon as possible, very tightly. Use only dry spoons, a slightly wet spoon will infect the spices, also steam. Be careful! 

Keep all spices away from direct sunlight, moisture, and heat. The best place to store your spices in the kitchen is on the right or left of your cooking station. When using, put them on the counter and measure. 

If you have a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee grinder, you can buy most spices whole and grind them  yourself. This will ensure maximum flavors. Old spices should be discarded. I hate throwing spices, especially those I buy on trips around the world BUT there is an expiration date that should be respected. Some spices, which I have never used, I keep for memory sake. So I don't consider them spices anymore but scented souvenirs.

Buying spices at the local mill

The list:

  • Aleppo red pepper ground
  • red pepper mild ground
  • red pepper hot ground 
  • hot chili peppers whole dried
  • cinnamon ground
  • cinnamon sticks
  • bay leaves
  • oregano ground (substitute with zaatar)
  • sweet pepper whole
  • sweet pepper ground / also called in the US Jamaica or allspice
  • white pepper ground
  • black pepper whole (get a pepper mill that you love!)
  • black pepper ground
  • cardamon whole
  • cardamon ground
  • nutmeg whole
  • nutmeg ground
  • cloves whole
  • cloves ground
  • cumin seeds
  • cumin ground
  • ginger ground
  • mint ground dried
  • sumac ground
  • 7-spices ground (or make your own)
  • mahlab whole
  • mahlab ground
  • anis seeds
  • anis seeds ground
  • turmeric
  • mastic
I'm sure I forgot some names of spices, I will add them as I remember them. But, this is certainly a great start! Let me know if you have questions. Next post, I will list the pantry essentials. A favorite topic of mine, as you know. I dedicated a whole book on the subject. Book was published in 2010. Very excited about the new fall release coming out in the USA with Interlink publishers. You can pre-order, if you like. The book was completely out of stock. Not one copy left!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Lebanese Cuisine 101

Are you seriously interested in learning about Lebanese cuisine?

Hummus © BM
I will take you through the process as I go through the repertoire one recipe at a time...

Why? because I intend to do a book on the subject one day. I want to share the ingredients, methods of preparations, and tips as you cook, bake, or mix a fresh salad. I believe we can all go through recipes collections through the internet or by simply buying a cookbook. Yet, we miss out on a very important step — the process and how we feel when we are doing the actual recipe, what we taste, and how we express these happenings. My aim: Out-of-the-box notions to learn a new cuisine, like a new language. You have to live the experience.

A few years ago, I fell in love with the Italian language. Obviously you know why this happened... You don't! Well all my trips to Italy with Slow Food events, meeting so many Italians and falling in love with the food culture of Italy was what triggered my desire. I took a course through a program given by the Italian embassy in Beirut and I can tell you that I failed miserably.  The teacher treated us like kinder garden children, screaming out grammar rules. She completely set my brain into neutral. I am giving you this experience as an example of how learning should not be undertaken if you have a passion for a certain subject.

Conclusion: You have to live the learning process with all your senses. Capiche?

I will try to give you that experience and let you do the rest....

Will also tell you about the wines of Lebanon, as I pair the food with the wine, including Arak of course... I will discuss the ingredients, where I got them, who makes them, etc... Will simultaneously feed the Slow Food Beirut website as I am undertaking this challenge. Oh yes, and the wine tour continues with 209lebanesewine.com to meet these extraordinary people who put Lebanese wine on the wine world map.

Are you ready?