Oatmeal cookies

March 30, 2021  •  Category: ,

This time of year, people are busy making maamoul in Lebanon (and outside Lebanon as well if you are Lebanese), the Easter/Eid cookie par excellence; this is a suggested cookie for those of us who are not able to set aside the hours needed to make maamoul ..

The photo was taken in my hometown of Deir el Qamar, in the town square. The town, former capital of Mount Lebanon, has one mosque, twelve churches and one synagogue.

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Kibbeh stuffed with shredded beef

March 2, 2021  •  Category: , ,

This type of kibbeh is called kibbeh sajeeyyeh in Lebanon.  The kibbeh is shaped like a saj , the concave cooking grill shaped like an inverted wok used in almost every corner bakery throughout Lebanon.

Oum Elias using a saj to bake bread in her garden using sticks from pine trees in the picture above.

There are two main advantages to this type of kibbeh; the first advantage is that the kibbeh is baked (after being coated with some oil) and the other advantage is that shaping the kibbeh is a lot easier that the kibbeh balls (which require solid practice and hours of work).

I decided to stuff these kibbeh with shredded beef instead of the usual ground beef or lamb, because I prefer the softer texture of the shredded meat, especially after cooking it in a flavorful broth. In this case, the sky’s the limit, and whatever strikes your creativity is game. Some recipes call for using muhammara as a stuffing, or a combo of this paste with ground meat, previously fried with onions and spices.

The only caveat is that you will need to figure on an extra day to get the meat ready. The ground meat filling can be done just thirty minutes before, so it depends on your time and preferences.

kibbeh sajiyyeh


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Lamb and bean soup (Ab Gusht)

February 24, 2021  •  Category: , ,

This soup is very popular in Iran (from where it originated) as well as in Iraq. I am reminded as I am posting this of my enchanting trip to Shiraz (Iran). The success of the trip I owed in major part to lovely Ava, who conducts food tours and cooking classes in Shiraz. She advised me on the best hotel to stay in, took me to the traditional bazaars and tearooms that I would have never found on my own; in addition, we cooked traditional Persian food in her darling cottage converted into a cooking school and surrounded by a garden. Shiraz was a dream of a city, full of culture, art, music in the streets, great food, history, amazing architecture, but I would not have enjoyed it as much if I had not met Ava and been guided by her.

As for this delicious and hearty soup, in Iran people like to gather the solid ingredients, drain them a bit and mash them, and then eat them in a wonderful flatbread called sangak with pickles, onions, radishes and herbs. The sangak bread is so good, I brought some with me to Beirut and ate it for several days (it’s at least 2 feet long!).

Here is a baker specializing in sangak.

Ava‘s welcoming treats waiting for me in my hotel room.

Iranian family out for ab ghusht or kalam polo in a traditional restaurant aka tearoom in Shiraz.

My wonderful guide for Architectural wonders, Jalali Pezhman.

Ava teaching me how to prepare traditional Persian dishes

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Salmon quiche

February 19, 2021  •  Category: , , ,

I never would have thought of a salmon quiche if it wasn’t for my mother who used to make it fairly regularly when the family lived in France. It is a delicious quiche, much lighter than the original quiche lorraine, but still substantial enough (with the salmon) to be very satisfying as a meal. The salmon is poached or steamed (I like steaming) and the leeks are stir-fried in butter or a light olive oil. I added a touch of curry to the batter and some chopped fresh dill I had growing in a pot on the balcony. I also added a little bit of shredded gruyère to add that cheesy salty flavor. I made the crust from scratch because it takes no time, is easy and makes a world of difference (in my humble opinion).

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