Grand opening festivities of the Beirut Souks, starting with an Elie Saab runway fashion show (Lebanese designer of the Hollywoood stars), an exhibit featuring young and hip Lebanese designers and closing tonight with a Jean-Michel Jarre concert. As well as a fireworks extravaganza (we are in Lebanon after all!).
The Beirut Souks and the entire renovation of downtown have been the topic of intense debate. If one forgets that the past ever existed and looks only at the present, downtown Beirut is absolutely beautiful.
The Souks, a contemporary interpretation of the traditional ones, are luxurious, highly secure, flanked by the Mediterranean on one side, renovated Ottoman-era buildings on the other and cupped by a range of mountains. I was able to take my mother shopping there because the Souks have been designed with handicap-access, a rarity here.
Far from upscale retail stores, sourced in rural Lebanon, this meal epitomizes simplicity.
Nutty, wholesome, extremely easy to prepare and refreshing, this is labaniyet al-burghul (from laban meaning yogurt in Arabic), inspired by a recipe in Chef Ramzi’s The Culinary Heritage of Lebanon.
- 1 1/2 cups of coarse bulgur, preferably whole-grain (not bleached)
- 4 cloves of garlic mashed with a dash of salt
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fat-free (or whole) yogurt
- a handful of pine nuts
- olive oil or butter, as needed to fry the pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses (optional)
- 1 chili pepper, diced and seeds mixed with the garlic for extra heat (optional)
- Rinse the bulgur and soak for thirty minutes in about 1 1/2 cups of boiling water; taste to make sure the grains are soft. Drain of any excess water.
- Mash the garlic with a dash of salt in a mortar, adding some chili pepper seeds if you like a little heat. Mix the mashed garlic with the yogurt. Melt some butter in a small skillet and fry the pine nuts till caramel-colored.
- Mix the yogurt mixture with the bulgur, adding some pomegranate molasses if you wish, and sprinkle the fried pine nuts on top. Add some diced peppers to the bulgur if you like as well.