Lentil Tabbouleh (Tabboolet adass)

salad tbouleh

Enjoy this tabbouleh salad while relaxing on your Fourth of July weekend. This one has the advantage of lentils as one of the components, making it filling as well (if you add a lot of lentils as I did). Today in Lebanon, it is National Tabbouleh Day. 


  • 1 cup green lentils, cooked in 4 cups of water and drained
  • 2 bunches Italian parsley, leaves chopped as fine as possible
  • 1 pound tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 2 large white onions or 3 scallions, chopped fine
  • 1/2 bunch mint, leaves chopped fine
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 large lemons, juiced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (more if needed)
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1. Toss all the ingredients, taste to adjust seasoning and serve at room temperature. 

salade de lentilles


Citrus muffins (Nammoura)

it taste better with orangeThis is one of the most popular Ramadan pastries. I was always critical of the ones sold in stores as being too cloyingly sweet and too dense. Instead, I devised some nammoura bars and a batch of nammoura muffins. The nammouras  are still sweet, but with a soft tender texture and full of tanginess from the lemon (or orange). This dessert is easy to prepare and does not contain eggs. The syrup can be prepared ahead by several days. lemon namura bars INGREDIENTS: 24 bars or muffins

  • 3 cups semolina (if possible, use 1 1/2 cup coarse and 1 1/2 cup fine semolina)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup melted unsalted butter (or oil, I recommend butter)
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar (optional)
  • 2 cups full-fat yogurt (plain)
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water (or other flavoring)
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons oil or tahini to grease the pan 

1. Prepare the syrup, cool and set aside for a while or several days. 


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3 lemons or oranges or a combo, sliced thin (about 1 pound)

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer uncovered and cook about 8 minutes. Add the lemon or orange slices and cook about ten minutes longer over very low heat. If the syrup starts to caramelize, watch it and add a bit of water (1/4 cup) if needed. Cool. Store in the fridge until needed.  2. Make the bars: Place the semolinas and baking soda in a mixer bowl; add the butter then yogurt and mix until the consistency is thicker than pancake dough. Cover and let the dough rest all day. When ready to bake, grease a 9 or 10″ pan, preheat the oven to 350F and bake the nammoura for about 35 minutes until golden brown. Pour the syrup when out of the oven and garnish with the citrus slices if desired. Cool and serve. NOTE: If you have any Seville orange syrup, or Seville orange juice, you can add it to the syrup; it is a good combo of sweet and sour. If making muffins, fill the muffin cups only about 3/4 full and place a candied orange slice (or lemon) on top.  bake for 15 minutes dup nammoura with orn

and Happy Fourth!!!



Green Walnut Preserves (M’rabba al-jowz al-akhdar)

dup mrabba jowz akhdarI noticed a bunch of walnut trees bearing these green fruits  in our mountain town of Deir el-Qamar. I picked a few as I was walking and almost immediately a lady walking  behind me asked if I was going to cook them. We ended-up striking a conversation (found out she was an author, had worked for the UN in Iraq and written a book on the experience). She had never tasted them in a preserve but assumed that they needed to be more mature. Actually, the fruits are best picked when the walnut inside is still chewy, tender and whitish. This green, bitter  fruit morphs into an exquisite  nutty and sweet  confection once candied in syrup.dup green walnutsI had asked friends on Facebook for a recipe. Thank you so much dear Sylva Titizian, who generously came to the rescue with her Armenian grandmother’s recipe! Thank you also to Ivy, with her treasure trove of Cypriot and Greek traditional confections. Not very common  in Lebanon (except with the Armenian community where it is traditional), it is mainly a Greek, Cypriot, and Azerbaijani homestyle sweet.  These are the epitome of slow food. Easy to prepare, they are an unusual dessert jolting conversation when things come to a lull.  prick them NOTE: Most of the recipes call for adding spices such as cloves, cinnamon or even cardamom. Personally, I used none. The sweetness of the syrup and nuttiness of the walnuts enmesh in perfect harmony.   Also, best to wear gloves when handling them as they tend to stain.  dup mrabba jowz

INGREDIENTS: I adapted Sylva’s recipe but will give her original instructions at the bottom.

  • 45 to 50 Green (and soft) walnuts, peeled, tips discarded (early growth, not hard ones)
  • 1 cup pickling lime (aka CAL in Latino markets in the US)
  • 2 pounds white granulated sugar (32 ounces) or up to 4 pounds

1. Place the walnuts in water for about 7 to 10 days, changing the water frequently; they will darken. It is OK. 

2. Pour the lime in a large pot and dissolve in a lot of water (I used 64 ounces). Add the walnuts (water should cover the walnuts) and stir from time to time. Leave for 24 hours then drain and rinse the walnuts thoroughly a few times until no trace of lime remains.

3. Make the syrup; place the sugar and double the amount of water (I used 64 ounces) in a pot and bring to a simmer and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Prick the walnuts with a fork or skewer or cake tester twice. Add the walnuts after the syrup has cooled and let it sit for a day. Remove the walnuts and boil the syrup twice for 1o minutes at 4 hour intervals. Cool, add the walnuts and simmer gently until the syrup thickens. Cool and serve.

The syrup should be thick enough for a drop of syrup to stiffen immediately if dropped on a counter, if not simmer it longer (I went out on an errand and came back to find the syrup simmering and ready, about one hour). Sylva’s grandmother used 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid in the last boil and finally 1 teaspoon cloves and 1 inch cinnamon bark a few minutes before the end of simmering. 

NOTE: I found a green walnut preserve recipe in Barbara Abdeni Massaad’s book Mouneh in which scented geranium leaves are used as well as a flavoring. I added a few notches of gold edible paper on them after my daughter suggested it.   

NOTE: Some recipes I read here and there do not add the pickling lime. 


Foraging with Um Elias

blog hesh mesh

Um Elias and her husband of 50 years, Philippe, are part of a dwindling group of authentic Lebanese farmers. They married when she was 15, an acceptable age to marry off a girl in those days, and have raised six beautiful, intelligent and learned children. Even though Philippe is a sixth-generation Lebanese farmer, none of his offspring had any interest in following in his footsteps. As a farmer, money is tight, government subsidies scant, and regional competition is very stiff. This situation is pretty much the norm in Lebanon, where for the last forty years or more, most young people have either taken up jobs in Beirut or immigrated abroad. This may change at some point, as it has in the wine industry where many Lebanese expats have come back to start successful wineries.

Still, when Um Elias (*named after her first-born son, um is mother in Arabic) decides to bake her bread and turnovers on the saj (old-fashioned oven shaped like an inverted wok), heated with dried pine needles, everybody rushes to be at her side. Um Elias practices rural cooking to a fault, and it has become trendy these days.

I was thrilled when she told me “let’s go foraging!” one bright Saturday morning. I knew I would be learning something new, as is always the case when I hang out with her. She came armed with her sickle, a plastic bag, and of course, her cigarettes (she’s got iron lungs, like most Lebanese mountain folks).

blog Saide w:knifeI had never heard of this wild herb before, which grows all over rural areas in Lebanon, and is called heshé wmeshé. Come to find out, many people from the Bekaa valley all the way to the South remember it prepared by their teta (grandmother). Um Elias gave me her recipe and told me that it constituted the perfect dish for Lent (vegan). I made it that night, it was so easy, rustic, and filling; the heshé wmeshé tasted like scallions or chives, without the peppery bite. It can be replaced by any green available in mainstream supermarkets.

dup Saidé shows me the herbINGREDIENTS:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups heshé wmeshé (substitute with shredded dandelions, kale, Swiss chard, beet greens or baby arugula)
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas or white broad beans (or any beans)
  • Salt, to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper or allspice (or Aleppo red pepper)

1. Heat the oil in a skillet; fry the onion till golden, add the chopped heshé wmeshé (or other greens) and stir briefly until limp. Add the chickpeas or beans, season to taste and serve.

dup stir-fry heshshédup Said.jpge wPhilippe


Carob juice (Sharab al-kharroub)

blog kharoub juice

The Holy Month of Ramadan is just around the corner. Normally during that time, stores in Beirut ( Middle-Eastern ones in the US and Canada) fill-up with traditional juices, such as tamarind, jellab, amardeen (apricot), all known to be hearty and nutritious.

There were a couple of carob trees in the orchard and Salah (gentleman farmer) started telling me how in his native Egypt folks drink carob juice. Not only does it taste good (like drinking cold chocolate), but it has subtantial health benefits: full of fiber, protein, antioxidants, plus it keeps one from getting thirsty or hungry, in short, it is the perfect drink to sustain you for the long hours of fasting. 

In Lebanon, making carob molasses is traditional; I had not seen carob juice anywhere. I had to try to make some juice  out of the big basket of carob pods that we picked (well, mostly Salah) that day. 

Making juice is easy.

If you do not have access to the carob pods, an even easier alternative is to dilute a tablespoon of carob molasses (debs el-kharroub) which is sold in all Middle-Eastern stores and online, add a teaspoon of brown sugar and drink it in the morning. Delicious! (The taste of chocolate, minus the caffeine!)

INGREDIENTS: one quart 

  • 1 lb carob pods, washed and air-dried on a towel
  •  2 cups of brown or raw sugar
  • 8 cups of water

1. Place the carob pods in a large soup pot. Add the water and simmer gently until the pods are malleable, about 45 minutes.

2.Remove them from the pot, break them up and put them back in the pot with the sugar. Bring back to a simmer and let them bubble gently for another 45 minutes.  Strain and cool. Place in the fridge and serve cold. Add more water to the juice if it is too sweet to your taste. 

NOTE: If you can, go ahead and break-up the carob pods first; I was unable to, I guess I need to beef-up my finger muscles. :)

blog carrob juice

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