I discovered Bethany’s blog a few years ago and was impressed by the stylish designs and gorgeous photography. This Spring, I even met Beth in person with her team who tagged along; we had lunch in Beirut at one of these Ottoman-era houses converted into a funky coffee shop and talked about her recent Taste of Lebanon food tour which had enthralled David Lebovitz ( I got to find out what Lebanese food specifically the man had fallen for)
Beth’s newly released cookbook is just as stylish as I expected; the photographs and styling are just beautiful. Beth displays a judicious choice of recipes from Persia, Morocco and Lebanon accented with her creative touch. For instance, the famous Syrian kebabs with cherries becomes venison and cherries sitting atop mini-kadaifi nests. This was the first recipe I was dying to try in my kitchen. I loved her version of the okra and lamb shanks homestyle classic; Beth turned it into an oxtail stew, redolent of ginger and cardamom sitting atop couscous. Quinces are stuffed with veal and wheat berries and served with a garlicky yogurt sauce. I was also drawn to a chickpea flour quiche studded with tomatoes and lamb.
All in all, this is a cookbook to savor and to plan parties for; the photography is a visual delight courtesy of food photographer Sarka Babicka. Beth’s recipes are an imaginative and tasty play on classics. If you love her blog, you will love her cookbook.
Here is the recipe I tried (I have adapted it a bit, by omitting the pomegranate molasses in the sauce and the Star anise).
Venison and sour cherry nests
3 oz salted butter
3 1/2 oz kadaifi dough (shredded phyllo)
9 oz minced venison (or lamb or beef)
6 Tbsp kirsch
9 oz Morello cherries in syrup, drained
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
Spices: 1 1/2 tsp grated ginger, 4 garlic cloves, 1 star anise, cracked; pinch of allspice and seven-spice
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt 2 oz of butter in a frying pan, set aside and mix with the strands of kadaifi as thoroughly as possible. Divide into 2 mini-muffin pans and bake for 10 minutes till golden.
2. Mix the meat and spices and shape into mini-meatballs. Brown them in the remaining butter and set aside.Pour the kirsch into the pan, boil for a minute, add the cherries and walnuts and boil till syrupy. Transfer the crisp kadaifi nests on a platter, place a meatball in each and spoon a tiny bit of sauce on top. Serve.